“I love to cook comfort food. The ritual of it is fun for me, and the creativity of it.” ~ Reese Witherspoon
I believe we can all agree on something right now: living in a pandemic situation is disconcerting. Being quarantined for weeks at a time is not only isolating but also a bit boring, at times. Because of this boredom, people are now doing more around their homes to pass the time, and that includes cooking. Even novices are trying their hands at baking, which I applaud.
Because of this, banana bread is experiencing a moment of renewed popularity online which is usually reserved for its appearance in autumn. Food is a source of nutrition, obviously, but also of pleasure, and, what we all need right now: comfort. What could be more comforting, culinarily speaking, than a warm loaf of bread, with its sweet scent wafting through the air in your kitchen?
We Southerners have a long-standing tradition of feeding people during times of extreme life-change, such as childbirth, the death of a loved one, and now, pandemic. All of these kinds of occurrences in life bring on the desire for casseroles, cakes, breads, soups and the like. Making and sharing food to comfort others, or ourselves, is truly is a lovely custom. We share this basic need for food, and because we love each other, we want to take care of the people we love by meeting their basic need to eat. If it’s something delicious that may bring some comfort, even for just a few minutes, all the better.
I do hope you’re doing fine during this strange circumstance we find ourselves in. That seems to vary from day to day, doesn’t it? Getting busy in the kitchen may help. If you’re able to, get in there and work on a recipe, like the delicious banana bread below. Turn on some music, say some prayers, dance around the kitchen. Have fun while you're baking!
Perhaps you can make an extra loaf or two, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or foil, and leave one on the doorstep of a friend or neighbor with a note of encouragement. We all like to know that we’re being thought of. Food easily expresses that. Not only is it good for the receiver, it’s good for the giver. Helping others helps us feel better and happier, ourselves.
My favorite quick bread (and a favorite of tens of thousands of my website visitors) is what I I call "perfect banana bread," because it offers the perfect balance of banana flavor and moist texture, and it is quite easy to make. It may be just what you need today! Give it a try, and let me know how it turns out for you by emailing me at Steph@whatsouthernfolkseat.com. I'd love to hear from you.
Perfect banana bread
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 1 1/2 cups plain flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 3)
• 1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, or mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking spray or butter to coat inside of a loaf pan; set aside. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, and beat until well-blended.
2. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add this to the butter mixture, and mix until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream, and vanilla; mix well. Stir in nuts, if using, and pour into prepared pan.
3. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before wrapping in foil or plastic wrap, if that is your intention. It freezes well.
You need not save this recipe only for sharing with others, of course; make a loaf or two for yourself when you have some nice, spotty bananas begging not to be wasted. Enjoy with a tall glass of cold milk or a steaming cup of coffee or tea, and get your day off to a flavorful start. Enjoy!
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is "Mama Steph." She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.
She is married and has three sons who are substantially taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes at WhatSouthernFolksEat.com.