Banana Bread

Judith Joy

“Banana bread. Yum!” I could hear the hint, hint behind my college-age daughter’s words at her reply to my comment about rotten bananas on the counter.
“Oh, I can send you some.” Was this reply from my mouth? For you see, Suzy Homemaker I’m not.

It all started innocently enough. After all, millions of Moms send their kids care packages every year. I could do this. How hard could it be? As long as I’m sending banana bread to one daughter, I might as well send some to my other daughter and my niece, all who are away at school. And I can’t leave out the boys. They shouldn’t be punished for still being home.

Let’s see, it’s been awhile, so I probably need flour. I seem to remember it was low the last time I looked. So, it’s off to the store. As long as I’m buying flour, it might as well be organic, after all, I’m going organic with everything else. Why isn’t the organic flour in the baking aisle? It is all the way back at the beginning of the store. There are so many types of flour. “Pure unbleached flour,” I read. That should be good. In my hurry, I neglect to read: “perfect for bread making.”

I might as well pick up some other things while I’m at the store. Only $75 later, I walk out to the car and start to drive away, only to realize I probably don’t have eggs at home. We’ve been eating a lot of them lately. So, I park the car and run inside to buy a dozen eggs, organic of course. Then, it dawns on me. I left the dog in the car – right next to the grocery bag. “Angels, please watch over and protect my groceries,” I pray as I race inside, confident that the angels will help. And they do.

Well that’s enough for one day.

Two days pass. OK, I have two hours until I have to leave. I can do this banana bread. First, I pull out all the ingredients. Oops no baking soda. I wonder why it’s needed anyway. I can always use the air freshener one in the fridge. “No,” I hesitate, “probably not.” If it picks up the bad smells from the fridge, then those smells will transfer to the bread, I reason. So, it’s off to the store again.

I only run in for the baking soda. And some challah, after all, it is Shabbat tonight. And some fish for dinner. Oh and there’s the ice cream. And I might as well get some fresh veggies. All in all, I walk out only $33 lighter. A good deal.

Back at home, I carry the grocery bags in, setting them on the counter; I quickly start the first batch. Each loaf will be prepared separately, to assure that they are all equal in size. After all, a mother has to treat the kids equally.

The first batch is very thick and gooey as it goes into the greased bread pan. Yes, I’m proud of myself, I remembered to grease the pan, unlike the last time. “You know,” I mutter to myself, “this looks awfully thick. Sort of like bread dough.” At this point, I notice the “perfect for bread making” on the organic flour package. But, since banana bread is more like a cake, I figure this is wrong and pull out the old flour. So much for the organic bit. Yep, I was right–only enough for one more loaf. I make it and while it’s baking, I’ll run to the store, yet again.

As I back out of the driveway, I look at the garage freezer and realize that the ice cream is now melting on the counter. After quickly running in and putting the groceries away, I’m on my way. This trip was only $2.39.

But by the time I return, I have enough time to get ready for my doctor’s appointment and pull the two loaves out of the oven. Everything is left on the counter. It’s supposed to be room temperature anyway.

By 4:30, I’m back at it. As the all purpose non-organic flour is sifting with the baking soda, baking powder and salt (did I put in one tablespoon or one teaspoon?) my seventeen year-old son walks in the kitchen.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m making banana bread for the girls.”
“Which girls?”
“Bethany, Shoshi and Chelsey.”
“Because I want to.”
“But you’re not that type of mom.”
“Well, I am today,” I mutter.
I catch the smirk on his face as he turns and rummages in the cabinet for prepackaged junk food. “I have a fresh banana bread here for you.”
“Oh.” He goes back to his rummaging.
In walks my nine-year old. I offer the fresh treat to him, but am turned down because it doesn’t have chocolate chips. “Spoiled kid,” I say under my breath.

After two hours, I’m done. All four loaves are baked, cooled and ready for shrink wrapping. We have one of those machines that vacuums out the air and keeps the food fresh longer. It should be perfect for shipping. The first loaf is wrapped, and shrinks before my eyes, taking the air out of the bread as well and the “bag.” I now have a brick of banana bread. The grease is oozing out the bread into the tiny rivers of air left in the bag. Quickly, I release the bound bread and it puffs up. Surely, there is a better way. After five tries, and a phone call to a friend for advice, I settle on a bag within a bag. This way the air will stay in the bread, but be sucked out surrounding it.

Now, for the wrapping. I’m too lazy to go upstairs for shoe boxes that would be a perfect fit then be wrapped with brown paper grocery bags. So, I sit on the garage floor, where I have empty boxes stored. The boxes are a bit big, but I have plastic peanuts that will take up the space. This should be fine. I have to run upstairs for the box tape, into the kitchen for another marker (the first one dried up), then upstairs for the girls addresses. Finally, the boxes are in my car ready to be shipped out on Saturday. Monday delivery would have to be good enough.

I’d done it. I’d sent a care package. I was so proud of myself.

“What! It’s $180 to send three boxes overnight?” I can’t believe it when my son calls to OK the charge. “Well, what are my options?”
“I don’t know,” he replies as only a teen can.
“Well, if you send it out on Monday and it gets there by Thursday, it will only be $23. Each.”
“But by then, the bread will spoil.” I’m not too confident about the shrink wrapping keeping the bread fresh that long. “Is the problem the size of the box? What if you buy smaller boxes?”
“The lady doesn’t recommend it.”

Needless to say, I now have four loaves of nicely shrink-wrapped banana bread in my freezer. And the girls have an IOU for banana bread.

But I did learn that banana bread is better when made with all purpose flour and chocolate chips. And when all the ingredients are at room temperature. Or maybe it was that everything was at room temperature by the time I finally perfected the process.

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