Friday, August 22, 2008

banana bread as redemption

i'm making banana bread today.

it's in the oven right now, with 50 minutes left. every time i make banana bread, i'm reminded of the same thing. namely, expectations.

i've probably made a dozen loaves of banana bread in my lifetime. it's a family recipe, at least in the sense that i get the instructions off of a handwritten notecard that my grandma included in the recipe book she gave my mom of my dad's favorite recipes, just before they got married. which will be funny to any of you who know my mom.

so i mash the bananas, crack the eggs, try to measure shortening properly in spite of its ambiguous consistency, and mix it all together. nonfat no-stick spray on the pan, 300 degrees, one hour, DO NOT open the oven door.

the top of the bread never turns out right. and every time, every single time, i make this damn bread the damn middle falls like a damn sad deflated balloon. i've tried altering certain ingredients; adding or subtracting minuscule amounts of baking powder or soda or flour, like a mad scientist mixing fuming liquids in glass beakers, hoping that this time i'll get it right.
and you know what? i never do.

now, maybe i'm just missing something. maybe it really does all come down to those eighths of a teaspoon, or everywhere i've been baking happens to be at the wrong elevation, or the oven hates me. but in the end, those things don't really matter. because it keeps happening, and i like banana bread a lot so i'm going to keep making it, plus it's a pretty easy recipe and the amount of happiness i get from eating it - well, it's a great ROI as those in the business world might say.

and it all comes down to expectations. with each anticipatory glance through the oven door, each ginger placement of the pan on the lower rack of the oven, i am setting myself up for disappointment. the damn bread always falls in the middle, and as long as i expect the bread to look like a perfect little loaf, i am going to be disappointed. and do you want to know the really weird thing? the part of the banana bread that is the tastiest to me is the fallen middle! i love the mushy part, the part that gets stuck on my fingers when i eat it, the dark and damp hidden interior of an otherwise nice-looking loaf of bread.

so now, with 37 minutes left on the timer, i am trying a little experiment. it's this thing where i don't look in the oven to see how the bread is rising, don't try to shape it specially before it goes into the oven, don't guess how much extra baking soda i should add to make it curve on top. and don't think it isn't killing me. don't think for a second that i don't want to run over there and look up banana-bread-top-tricks on the internet and call my grandma and pray over it. i do. but i'm trying to re-wire a little bit, and i know that you don't do the same things if you are going for different results.

will i still be disappointed if my banana bread doesn't look magazine-worthy? probably. but in a weird way, i will be glad to see that little sunken middle that will most likely greet me. it reminds me that even the most misshapen and odd-looking things can be wonderful in a weird way, and reminds me that only i control my expectations, and how i react to these situations is really the meat of the character of my life. God is in the details, and he is in the banana bread. and that is so good.

on an entirely different subject, today i watched a NEW episode of sex and the city. i have never, ever seen this one before. i thought that these were urban TV legends! i'm sure that God was somewhere in there too.


emilykatz said...

so... how did it turn out?

ps. do you ever put chocolate chips in your banana bread?

Lesley Miller said...

If it did turn out, can you please share your secret this time. Because my bread always turns out hopeless and I'm sorta pissed about it.

(side note: I recently made a goal to stop using the word pissed but forgot. oops)

Anonymous said...

but, but.. 300 is too cool! try this: 375 for first 15 minutes, then 325 for next 30 minutes or until bread feels firm in the centre. NEVER open the oven door until after the 45 minutes. put the bread in the middle of the oven, noot at the bottom or bread bottom will be overdone. hope this works....MairneyB

Bobbi said...

Great personal reflection. I have recently also started to "rewire" my processes, specifically where my thinking is concerned. One thing that has been a saving grace for me, "thinking errors". Therr are many common ones and most if us fall victim to them at some point in our lives. So congrats at taking the step you did. Its often hard at first, but it sounds like you had a really insiteful moment.

BTW Yiu can just do a search on "10 most common thinking error". and explore that further is you have the desire. ;)

Thanks for sharing your experience and keep baking.