Real Cooking

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
“Oh, where is that stupid thing!”


I was trying to find the copy of my favorite recipe for banana bread and it was no where to be found.


Years ago, I had torn the recipe from an issue of Bon Appetit magazine and now that little raggedy and stained piece of paper wasn’t turning up anywhere I looked.


It wasn’t in my kitchen junk drawer, it wasn’t stuck in my desk and I couldn’t find it tucked between the pages of any one of my countless cookbooks.


This was frustrating. I had rotting bananas starting to ferment in the refrigerator and any good cook knows that when you have black bananas, you make banana bread.


But where was my recipe? I could recall the ingredients: eggs, buttermilk, flour, sugar…. But I was unsure of the measurements.


“If I were just more organized, I would be able to put my hands on that recipe,” I chided myself. “This is just crazy. If I have the organizational skills to coordinate a banquet for 300 people to come off without a hitch, then I should be able to put my recipes in some sort of orderly file.”


And I should be able to get the photos that fill a drawer in my bedroom cabinet into those Creative Memory albums I had purchased at someone’s house party. (Just who was the hostess for that party? It’s been so long ago, I couldn’t even remember.)


If, I reasoned, I have had the discipline to stay up half the night baking bread or peeling spuds for potato salad in order to feed a multitude, then why don’t I have the fortitude to pick up the dirty clothes that presently drape from every chair, dresser and chest in my bedroom?


Probably because I’ve been so tired from staying up half the night cooking.


But now with my catering days (sort of) behind me, I’m on a new schedule. And, in time, I hope to be able to catch up on all of those things that have piled up awaiting my attention. Things like wallpapering the bathroom and trimming the bushes that encircle our house.


And transferring all of my collected recipes that are written on the backs of envelopes or torn haphazardly from the pages of a magazine or newspaper into some sort of catalog that I can find without searching through half of the house.


Pipe dreams, maybe. But one can hope.


I do find-now that I’m on a regular schedule-that some things are getting done faster than when I was “at home.” Maybe it’s because I know that my time at home is limited and if we want clean clothes or the carpets vacuumed, then it’s got to be done now and not put off until tomorrow.


Or maybe it’s because now that I have a “real job,” my family has been pitching in a great deal more than before. I really hope this “helping Mom” thing isn’t just a temporary impulse that will ebb once the novelty wears off.


I mean, really folks. My son actually scrubbed a toilet the other day. I couldn’t believe my eyes…just stood there in the doorway with my mouth open. So what if he used half a bottle of Clorox Cleanup. He cleaned the entire bathroom-including the toilet-without me asking him to.


Maybe he was high on the cleanser’s fumes. It was pretty thick in there. But when he finished, the porcelain was sparkling.


And Meghan has decided she should do more of the cooking, which is great. But since I’ve quit cooking in quantity, I’ve actually begun to enjoy preparing meals for my family again.


It’s been our tradition that on the first day back to school, the kids get to choose that evening’s supper menu and, whether it’s Mom’s fried chicken or McDonald’s quarter pounders, Keith and I honor their requests. So, I was all prepared to come home from work that afternoon and get busy in the kitchen.


“What specialty would you like for supper tonight?” I asked the kids as they came through the door. I was eager to get started. “Steaks out on the grill, perhaps? Chicken Cordon Bleu? Pork chops and applesauce?”


“Can we have Hamburger Helper?” came the unanimous reply.


Hamburger Helper? Once when I was in the grocery store, a woman who knew me as a cook came over and peered into my cart and said something like: “Oh no, you’ve just ruined my image of you. Surely you don’t use Hamburger Helper.”


“Uh…yeah. My kids really like the stuff.”


So it was Hamburger Helper for our celebratory supper. Cheesy Hashbrowns, to be exact. I did make a nice green salad to accompany our “haute cuisine” and a peach upside down cake for dessert. I felt like I had to do something to make our meal special.


Because meals taken together are one thing I want my kids to remember of their time spent at home; even if it’s just Hamburger Helper. And I will find the time and the energy to organize things so this happens on a regular basis.


Now, if I could only find that banana bread recipe.


* * *


Guess what? Here it is. I finally found it on a recipe file on my computer. This bread can get a little dark, so you might want to cover it with foil during the last 20 minutes of baking. Also, don’t try doubling the recipe. It doesn’t work. Trust me.




Best Ever Banana Bread


2 eggs, beaten


1/3 cup buttermilk


1/2 cup vegetable oil


11/2 cup sugar


1 cup mashed bananas


13/4 cup flour


1 tsp. baking soda


1/2 tsp. salt


1 tsp. vanilla


1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)




Blend together the eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, oil and bananas. Add the soda and salt, stir and then add flour and sugar. Stir in nuts. Mix well and pour into a greased 9×5-inch loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour and 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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