I have several addictions. Too many to count, I only realized recently and came to accept. If you read this blog regularly, then you’ve got to know me quite a bit and are certain that I am obsessed with Cuban coffee. Espresso to be particular. There’s no denying that. No question and so no bother addressing it. But, I’ve never really talked about my other addiction, though I like to refer to it as “love”, to bread. I’m sure this is not uncommon, as man was given manna in early Biblical days to keep him physically and spiritually fed during the Exodus. The people and children where hungry. Exodus 16:, beginning at 4 reads:
“‘Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. 5 And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. 12 I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the Lord your God. 15 So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is the thing which theLord has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.’” (New Kings James Version).
Bread represents(ed) life in the Bible. It fed the hungry and needy. For 40 years, it was was the food of God’s choice for his people. There are mentions of other foods, but the larger and more consistent food served was manna. As such, if analyzing from a spiritual and practical understanding, it’s easy to comprehend the universal and cultural representations and meaning of bread anywhere you go. It’s more than a fluffy, crusty, delicious loaf or slice of tender goodness. It literally feeds the soul and helps keep us alive. I could be stretching, but subscouncioulsy, I’m wondering if my insatiable desire to eat bread whenever I see it, my urge to possibly forgo a decadent meal on its way because the bread is so tantalizing, has anything to do with the original purpose of bread. Of all the foods we eat and joyfully gravitate to, bread is the most meaningful. Without it, imagine where we’d be as a race.
As much as I have a beautiful relationship with bread I’m astonished at my lacking baking skills. Or real noticeable interest in making it. I’ve seldom thrown myself into ratios, kneading, let alone exercising patience in letting it rise. But my 4 hour bread making class at Hot Bread Kitchen in Manhattan two months ago changed that. I left that class with a refreshed appreciation for all that goes into making amazing breads. Interestingly, the breads we made were from the Middle East, exactly where at lot of the Bible stories take place. That’s gotta mean something, right?
I’ve not made any since. In fact, the lovely packets they sent me home with are objects of slight intimidation as I stroll past them in the kitchen everyday. But there is one loaf I’ve been crying to enjoy. Note I didn’t say make. Well, that’s because the idea of waiting for it to rise and bake and cool off is a bit discouraging. It doesn’t make much sense, but it’s simply how my mind processes.
Since the holidays are a most perfect time to throw weariness and setbacks out the window, I took the opportunity to buckle down and make banana nut bread; one of my favorites. After lushing over the apple nut bread I made last year, this close variety been tugging at me. We’ve had almost too-ripe bananas hanging from the fruit hanger which must have known I wanted to infuse them into something. And so it happened that way.
I remembered my brother’s fiancé bakes really well and had recently made something similar for my aunt. I called her, got a lovely hand-written copy of a recipe she doesn’t recall from where it comes. Initially she said some book or magazine. But then recounted making it with her “Granny.” That sounded much better anyway. Anything from an abuelita‘s kitchen is always sealed with love.
It turned out ten times better than these pictures show. Let’s just get that out of the way. It was so moist, I wondered how ripened the bananas really were. It was like biting into a thick, warm piece of fluff. Perfect amounts of crumble settled onto our dessert plates. And of course, the flaky crust was the “icing on the cake” as it set itself up to be a lovely textural contrast to the soft body.
I actually did consider icing it, but that would only take away from its raw goodness. Sometimes really good food just to be left alone at really good food.
This is my new bread of life. It gives me hope. Hope for finding a love for baking and really understanding how it all works. Yes, I know how it works, but I don’t know that I’m confident enough in rolling away for hours at a time to possibly come up short. For now, I’d rather leave that to true bakers and enjoy making creamy batters that turn into delicious breads!
This is simpler than simple. No kneading and all that fancy stuff required, much like what I did in NY. But it’s so good. And on a wet, cold, Wintry day like this, it’s so wonderfully paired with hot apple cider, hot dark chocolate cocoa, or a beautiful cup of white or black tea. That’ll take you into blissdom.
Got really ripened bananas? Make this. And give some away. It’s a gesture of love. God’s ultimate love for us was sacrificing Jesus on the cross, but along the way, He fed us, too!
Bread is life, friends.
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.