You could bite your nails right now, you could doomscroll through social media, or you could do what I’ve been doing: stressbake.
Stressbaking isn’t so much a strategy, as it is a state of mind. It’s where your body — your hands, your stomach, your taste buds — jump up into your brain and say: “Halt! No more perseverating. There’s work to be done.” In this case, the work involves taking very ripe bananas off of your counter and turning them into a cake.
My dad has a joke he makes whenever someone his age has a birthday: “Don’t buy any green bananas.”
I buy green bananas every week, but I’m only 41. The thing about buying green bananas is that eventually they become yellow bananas, perfect for snacking or slicing on to your yogurt and granola. And then those yellow bananas become speckled bananas, perfect for making banana bread.
Greetings from Seattle! I’m at a coffee shop staring at Molly Orangette’s back (this is true: after seeing her yesterday, I randomly ran into her again today). I’m here, though, for a very important reason. I’m here to tell you about these banana nut waffles that will be perfect for a holiday breakfast this weekend. Some of you may be celebrating Christmas; and if, after unpacking your stockings, you load up on these before tearing into the presents? You’re bound to be happy even if your significant other gifts you with a poodle sweater.
Inspiration strikes at the strangest moments. Like Newton under the apple tree, you might be daydreaming about “The Golden Girls” episode where Dorothy’s friend has a lesbian crush on Rose and BOOM–you’ve invented gravity!
Such was the case for me, last week, while grading student work in my Gotham Food Writing class: I had the sudden, inexplicable urge to stick a banana in a hot dog bun, schmear it with peanut butter, drizzle on honey and call it “The Elvis Dog.” This was a great moment in human history.
I made the banana cake of my dreams this weekend, a banana cake so good I had to give half of it away because I knew I would eat it all.
What made it so good? It was a homey, cozy, PTA bake sale kind of cake; there was nothing fussy about it, no caramelized bananas between the layers or Marzipan bananas dancing across the top. You just mix a bunch of wet stuff, add a bunch of dry stuff, put it in a pan, bake it, cool it, top it with frosting and you’re done. And the resulting cake is every bit as satisfying as a more elaborate banana cake; perhaps even more satisfying because the flavors are so pure and comforting.
Inspiration strikes me more as a writer, than a cook. “Write a play about a parrot that saves a family from genocide,” says inspiration. “Thanks inspiration,” I say and go on to win five Tonys.
But as a cook? I’m pretty uninspired, I’d have to say. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a happy cook, a passionate cook, I care about the food I make. But am I inspired to tweak that which I am cooking? Rarely, very rarely. Which is why, when making the banana bread from Molly’s “Homemade Life” for the second time (I didn’t blog about it the first time, but it’s a great banana bread made with butter instead of oil that has candied ginger and chocolate chips), I was surprised to hear a voice in my head whisper, like the voice in “Field of Dreams,” “brown the butter.” Brown the butter? You’re supposed to melt the butter, not brown the butter. “Brown the butter,” the voice persisted. I can’t! That’s not what you’re supposed to do. “BROWN THE FRIGGIN’ BUTTER, MORON!” All right! All right! I’ll brown the butter.
When Craig’s parents stayed with us last year for Craig’s graduation, they were very amused to come home one day to find me in the kitchen candying orange peel for no reason. “Do you just do that?” asked Julee, Craig’s mom. “Decide to make something just for the heck of it?”
Pretty much! And that’s precisely what happened last week when Craig left to rehearse a friend’s screenplay reading (a reading that actually features one of my READERS who introduced herself to Craig at the rehearsal; hi Meg!) and I decided to make bananas flambé.