The Odes and the Recipe
By Robert Kinerk
I love banana bread, and I can never gather the ingredients to make it without being grateful to each of them for its contribution. In their honor, I have written these odes.
You're not safe within
Brown and yellow skin.
I pluck you from
Your fellow fruit.
I strip you of
Your yellow suit.
I place you on
A plate or dish,
And with a fork
I squish and squish.
Once solid, you
End up as goop.
Don't let this make
Your spirits droop.
And on your tombstone,
Engraved or etched,
It will be said.
You made a great
I think it's nice. I think it's neat
That flour started out as wheat.
Each tiny, folded, golden grain
Welcomed sun and welcomed rain.
Their summer days all seemed the same
Till someone on a combine came
And sent them, in perhaps an hour,
On the road to being flour.
We heard no cries. We heard no squeals
As they were fed to grinding wheels,
Emerging, with or without germ,
Too proud to writhe – calm, patient, firm.
Noble flour won't complain,
Despite great agony and pain.
Why – even whitening by acid
Leaves our noble product placid!
I salute, with all my power,
Your calm tranquility, dear flour.
I confuse you with your cousin Soda.
That's a thing for which you're owed a
Serious apology. Soda's a bicarbonate,
A compound I don't celebrate.
When Soda's wet, it tends to fizz.
(One wonders what its thinking is.)
When you get wet there's nothing fizzy.
You keep yourself, however, busy.
Oh Baking Powder – helpful, wise –
It's you that makes the bread dough rise.
When I'm struck by cupid's arrows
My vocabulary narrows.
To all my loved ones I repeat
Words derived from what is sweet.
Such as 'Sugar.' Such as 'Honey.'
Sometimes even 'Honey Bunny.'
I think about this, and I blush.
When I'm in love, why should I gush
In metaphors or similes
As saccharine (and dumb) as these?
Sugar, this is not your fault.
I could call my loved ones 'Salt."
Or 'Vinegar.' Or 'Alkali.'
Though if I did, they'd black my eye.
Oh Egg of perfection,
Now I beg.
How long have you
And several others,
Some your sisters,
Some your brothers,
Your cardboard tray,
This fatal day.
From the tray
In which you're packed
I take you now,
And you'll be cracked,
Your liquid flesh.
I hope you're fresh.)
Of salt I sing the highest praises.
Its constant usefulness amazes.
I keep my household well supplied
To add to scrambled eggs, or fried.
I find it gives my soup a zip.
On ice, it helps me not to slip.
Garden slugs, I'm told, abhor it.
Ruminants and such adore it.
They lap it up whenever able,
In kosher form, or rock, or table.
How sad that fat is out of favor.
It lends to food so much more flavor.
"Give it, though," we're told, "wide berth,
Or you'll add inches to your girth."
How lonely, shortening, you must be.
Take heart! To serve this recipe,
You are uniquely constituted.
You shan't be skipped or substituted.
I dump the jar
Where you've been stored
On my maple
From the drawer
I take the knife
That's doomed to end
Your nutty life.
And though I know
This causes stress,
Don't hop around
And make a mess.
Don't groan. Don't moan.
Don't weep. Don't gripe.
This is the reason
You got ripe.
Face your fate, Oh Nuts, unbowed.
You'll make your former orchard proud.
Banana Bread: the Recipe
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and gather these ingredients before you start:
1 ¾ cup of flour
2 ¼ teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of shortening
2/3 cup of sugar
1 beaten egg
1 cup of ripe mashed bananas
½ cup of chopped walnuts
FIRST: Sift enough flour to make 1 ¾ cups. Add 2 ¼ teaspoons of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt. Sift these three things again into a pretty good-sized bowl. What you get will be very fluffy.
SECOND: First, measure 2/3 cup of sugar. Pour it in a bowl separate from your flour stuff. Next, measure 1/3 cup of shortening. The best way to do this is into a 1/3 measuring cup. It isn't easy. Shortening tends to stick to things and you have to push it around with your finger. Keep a paper towel handy. Now, mix these the shortening and sugar together. The sugar squishes very easily into the shortening. Get it mixed up good.
THIRD: Break an egg into a bowl and stir it up until everything is yellow. Pour this in with the shortening mix and stir it all together.
FOURTH: Peel two or three bananas. Older bananas, the ones with lots of brown freckles, work better than the fresher ones. The older ones are gooier, and when you mash them up you smell them quicker. Mash the bananas with a fork. They ought end up a little runny. If you've got more banana goop than a cup, that's OK. You can use as much as a cup and a quarter. Add the banana goop to the shortening mix and stir everything together.
FIFTH: Now you've got a bowl full of flour stuff and a bowl full of shortening
stuff. If you're like me, you will have mixed your flour in a big bowl and
your shortening in a small bowl. Now you will wish you'd done the opposite
because you have to pour your flour stuff, a little at a time, into the shortening
stuff and mix them both together. Sometimes I get a third bowl, a bigger one,
and pour my shortening stuff into that. This makes for more dishes to wash,
but if I don't do that, and pour lots of flour stuff into the little shortening
bowl instead, I end up with flour all over the place. Which is another clean-up
problem. Actually, whatever you do you're going to have a lot to clean up,
so you might as well go ahead and get the bigger bowl.
OK. Add about one-third of the flour stuff to the shortening stuff, mix it up. Add another third. Mix. Add the last third. Mix.
SIXTH: Now you've got your batter. Dump in your chopped walnuts and mix the whole thing up.
SEVENTH: At this time you will remember you were supposed to pre-heat the oven. If you're like me, you will rush over with your fingers all gooey and turn the oven to 350 degrees. It takes several minutes for the oven to get hot, so now you have time to grease a bread pan. Someone in your family probably knows what a bread pan is. Ask that person. A bread pan is shaped like a rectangle, and they come in several sizes. For this recipe, the smaller size is good. Grease the pan with shortening. Get the shortening in all the corners.
EIGHTH: Pour your batter into the greased pan. Thump the pan on the counter a couple times (gently) to make sure the batter fills the bottom with no air holes. When the oven has reached the right temperature, put the pan on the middle shelf. This is another place where I often make mistakes. I open the oven and find one shelf is way down at the bottom and the other is way up near the top. It's hard to move a shelf when it's hot, so it's good to check on where your shelves are before you turn the oven on. I should have told you this before.
NINTH: Close the oven and notice the time. About one hour has to go by before your banana bread is baked. It doesn't take that long, though, before you start to smell it. The smell is really delicious.
At the end of the hour, or maybe five minutes before if you find it hard to wait, take a toothpick and stick it into the middle of your bread. (Be careful. Everything in your oven is going to be hot.) If the toothpick comes out clean, your bread is done. If there's little flecks of goop sticking to it, the bread needs to cook for a few more minutes.
Go back to whatever you were doing (Hopefully, it will include cleaning up the mess you made. And believe me, YOU WILL MAKE A MESS.) After a few minutes, try your bread again. This time it should be done.
Take the pan out, using potholders. Put it on a wire rack or something else you know can take the heat.
You might have to do a little prying with a knife to get the bread loose from the pan. If part of it falls out and part of it doesn't, don't worry about it. It's still good to eat.
It's best to let it cool before you slice it, but it doesn't have to be completely cool. In fact, it tastes really great when it's still a little warm and some steam comes rising off it as the slice separates from the loaf. It will smell like heaven. And with just a little butter, it tastes like the best thing you have ever eaten.