February 23 is National Banana Bread Day!
Bananas were first introduced to the United States in the 1870s, and of course, the rest, as they say, is history. So many good things to make: banana cream pie, frozen bananas, banana pudding, banana chips, banana smoothies—the list goes on. However, one of the most comforting and easy things to make is banana bread. Now, there’s a little inside story that goes along with banana bread among the participants at the Conference on Poetry and Teaching. When we are able to be in-person for the Conference, I always make several banana breads to share. There we all are, crowded into the tiny kitchen at The Frost Place, chatting and pouring coffee and tea, and munching on banana bread. Sometimes there’s additions to the bread: dried cranberries, chocolate chips, even fresh blueberries (try it, you’ll love it). Either way, we manage to go through at least four loaves in the week. Because the Conference will be virtual again this year, perhaps the tradition will have to wait. (The faculty for the 2021 CPT is amazing– head to the website and check them out!)
Now, you’re thinking, this is a poetry and literature-related blog, right? Well, one of my favorite and fun poetry exercises to do with students is to take a recipe and, using the language of food and cooking, develop a poem from the recipe. It’s surprising how good those poems turn out, even in first drafts. There’s just something about using the particular vocabulary that is associated with a specific task or type of work that makes for a really decent poem.
To that end, then, here is the recipe I have always used for my banana bread. It is not a huge family secret at all. I use the one in the old Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School cookbook, one that I found at a yard sale for 50 cents years ago. I bake mine at 350, though, and I have found that bananas that have been kept in the freezer make for a slightly sweeter version of the bread. Maybe you can try to write a short little poem from this recipe –if you do, send it along!
Banana Bread by Fannie Farmer
3 ripe bananas
¾ cup of sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup nut meats, chopped (opt.)
Crush bananas with silver fork. Add eggs, beaten light, sugar, flour sifted with salt and soda, and nut meats. Bake 1 hour in moderately slow oven (325 F). Makes one loaf 5 x 9 inches.