Old things fascinate me. So when my husband and I spent last weekend in Amish country we took some time walking around, perusing antiques and other old things that were for sale. I could spend hours in antique shops—not buying, just looking. Looking, and wondering. Who hand-stitched that lace doily with such skill? Did they wear that necklace at their wedding? Why is that old bottle of Pepsi still full—never opened? All kinds of questions about the stories behind each item. While I don’t usually buy at antiques stores, I do have a few items in my home that are old and full of stories.
One of my favorites is a stuffed bear of my grandma’s. This is an old bear, and there’s none like it in the world. My grandmother’s fur coat that became too worn to wear, so she had it made into stuffed toys. After she passed away, I received one of them—the bear. It’s a plain, brown bear. Nothing extraordinary about it. It’s old, and the head falls forward a little. There are a couple holes in the legs. But I know its story. I can press my face into it and still smell my grandma’s basement. It’s a musty smell, but it brings with it memories of summer vacation at my grandma’s house. Sleeping in the basement. Fascinated by the stand alone wardrobe and the old console radio. Finding crickets in the bed sheets—we always checked for crickets at grandmas. Memories of games, laughter, and family.
In the kitchen I have my mom’s potato masher. It’s a simple, hand held masher, still in perfect condition. They really don’t make things like they used to. I can see my mom working hard, using it to mash potatoes for holiday dinners, or lunch for all the neighboring farmers who helped at harvest time. If anything needed to be mashed, it was there. It may not get the food completely smooth, like a blender, but that’s OK. I always liked my mom’s slightly lumpy, but tasty, mashed potatoes. With bananas it may leave a couple little chunks—chunks that end up in banana bread and say this is homemade with real bananas. Yes, it’s old. But it works and has fond stories and memories attached to it.
When I use it for banana bread, I let the bananas get nice and brown so I can mash them almost completely smooth. And I think of my mom and family as I make it. My kids and husband call this recipe the Best Banana Bread. I’ve changed it up a bit and made it a little healthier. The banana flavor is best when the bread is lukewarm and fresh. This recipe makes one tall loaf so it takes awhile to bake. But it is wonderful for breakfast, snacks, lunch, or dinner. True yumminess. Enjoy! And while you’re baking, take a look at the old things you have in your home and think of the stories and memories they bring to mind. What are your favorites?
Best Banana Bread
¾ c. granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. honey
¾ c. skim milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 ½ c. mashed banana (about 3 medium bananas)
2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat, or white whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ c. walnuts, finely chopped
½ c. chocolate chips (if desired)
In a separate large bowl, combine all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Chop walnuts till they are fine – unless you like bigger chunks in your bread. I don’t so I chop the walnuts as small as I can get them. They add a nice flavor to the bread. Add walnuts to the dry mix and mix well.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour liquid mixture in the well. Stir gently till moistened, leaving only small lumps in the batter. Fold in chocolate chips.
Prepare bread pan by greasing and flouring bottom and sides. Pour batter into pan and let sit while oven heats up. Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean and not sticky. Cool for 5 minutes, and then remove from pan. Enjoy!