Today I argued with my husband over bananas. “Rotten,” he said, attempting to toss them on the compost. “Ripe,” I retorted, tussling with him to retrieve them, “perfect for banana bread.”
And they were perfect: skin blackened, flesh soft and ripe and sweet. Just right to mash and blend with not-too-much sugar and eggs and flour and toasted walnuts to make a perfectly textured bread that was delicious warm and even better a few days later toasted.
It got me thinking about how many recipes must have originated with a “waste not, want not” imperative. Thrifty ways to make use of over-ripe fruit, stale bread, leftover rice, vegetable plot gluts (hello, 101 Ways to Cook Zucchini!), egg whites and ham bones that became family favorite soups, desserts and preserves.
And it made me wonder how in these tough times more of us will be hanging on to those squishy old bananas to make our own banana bread rather than paying upward of $3 a slice to takeout with our coffee.
WHAT I’M READING: The Lily Wallace New American Cook Book circa 1943.
I give my heroine Maddy Cartwright in Love Is A Four-Legged word a copy of this vintage cook book, she has it sitting on her coffee table. Of course I own it too, handed down from my mother. My copy is ancient, yellowing and falling apart. It has smears and stains and annotated notes through it, not only from my mother but also from myself starting from about age 11. I loved cooking and used to read this old book as avidly as a novel. I still go back to it for inspiration – and a recipe for banana bread.