Banana Bread for Naeem

I have one of those faces.

You know or knew someone who looks just.like.me, and when you spot me from across the room, you start to stare: studying my mannerisms, trying to place how and from where you know me.

Because I look like someone you know, you’ll almost feel as though we’re already friends, so if we’re standing in line at the grocery store, in line anywhere really, or sitting in an airport lounge or hanging at a Starbucks, you’ll strike up a conversation with me, telling me all about that person who looks or acts or talks just like me. Or you’ll want to talk about the weather or your kids or just about your day. And I’ll smile and let you, because the attention that used to make me so very uncomfortable when I was younger I now see as a gift.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? How lovely to have someone feel comfortable enough with you to share a part of himself or herself with you. That’s not to say that I don’t get a little jumpy from time-to-time when you folks come in hot. I’m only human. But for the most part I really do love when people look up from their phones long enough to connect with another person in real time and, um,.. in person. How is this becoming a lost art?


Making banana bread today. I found a new recipe that’s not overly ambitious, not even seasonal really, but today I have some overripe bananas and the need to create something. What I didn’t have is enough nuts, so I popped into the local market to pick some up. 

While I was standing in line, the very nice lady behind me asked me if I soaked my grains and nuts before eating them. See what I mean? They’re easier to digest and are more nutritious if you soak them ahead of time, she told me, and will make for a crunchier nut in baking. I’m totally game for all of the above, so this time I did.

Early last month Bon Iver dropped a new album and I’m totally obsessed with the song Naeem. I had the song on repeat for this morning’s run, and through my AirPods, Justin Vernon serenaded me all through this recipe. The line, “All along me, I can hear you” is particularly poignant to me right now as I’ve been thinking more and more about family and friends and how they become such a part of us and we them.

They say we’re each the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time, so it makes sense that we’d want to surround ourselves with the most positive people we can. Those people who challenge me to be better while making me still feel accepted and loved are the ones with whom I try to spend my time and energy.

I’ve had people in my life, though – I think we all have had this – and found that it’s better for them or for me or for both of us that we’re not in each other’s lives. That can be a hard thing to accept, but sometimes the very best way you can love someone is to not be in his or her life. Especially if the relationship isn’t benefitting either of you. Harder still to be the one to make the decision to step away when that’s not what you want. Especially when it’s not what you want. That’s the loneliest form of love, isn’t it?

I fully believe, though, that some people come into your life and their purpose is to teach you something or move you to the next place in your life, to the place you’re meant to be. They’re not supposed to be with you forever. They’re just meant to touch your life or you theirs. It doesn’t mean they’re not wonderful people who bring value to the world. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about them. It doesn’t mean they’re not significant to you or to your life.

In some ways they are the most.

Banana Bread

2 cups flour (I use equal parts cake and all-purpose flours for quick bread recipes)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown or coconut sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup yogurt or sour cream
2 cups mashed bananas                  
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios (or any nuts really)

ADJUST the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare your baking tin. I’m old school and smear the sides and bottom with butter and then dust the insides with cake flour. 

WHISK the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a large bowl.

CREAM the butter and brown sugar together. 

ADD eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

BEAT in the yogurt, mashed bananas, and vanilla extract until combined. 

MIX the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. 

FOLD in the nuts, if using.

SPOON the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 60-65 minutes. After about 30 minutes you’ll want to cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil to avoid scorching the top and sides. 

REMOVE from the oven and allow the bread to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.

COVER and store banana bread at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer (wrapped well) for up to three months. 

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