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Bananas Are Good…so are birthdays | Manolo for the Big Girl

Bananas Are Good…so are birthdays

A couple days ago, I had a couple pounds of bananas that desperately needed eating. It also happened that my birthday was a couple days ago.

And when I happen to have some good fruit sitting on the edge and something to celebrate, I bake. Yesterday I made my birthday cake. Banana with a bittersweet chocolate sour cream ganache. That was my birthday cake.

One of the best garage sale finds I’ve ever made was a copy of The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, which I picked up for a whopping buck. Her Cordon Rose Banana Cake is amazingly good. I’ve never made a bad cake out of that book, but it’s the banana cake I keep returning to. It’s tasty, not too sweet, a perfect backdrop for the fabulous ganache that’s also featured in the book, and popular with my friends.

Baking is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. It’s something I have a gift for. From earliest childhood, baked goods have done my will with barely any effort from me. Pie crust – that most elusive of culinary accomplishments – turned out flaky and golden on my very first try at the tender age of seven. And so to this day, I usually bake myself a birthday treat. Usually it’s a cake, but pie has been featured more than once, too.

Life has not been the kindest to me and mine over the past year. Money’s always tight, disaster looms over some of the best people I know, good people have battled dread illnesses, and anxiety seems to reign supreme some weeks…but last night in my kitchen there was delicious banana cake, a good friend to share it with, and a hopeful feeling in the air. By the time I headed up to bed, I felt ready to face nearly anything.

Sometimes a good bit of baking can do that.

So what brings hope and relaxation in your world?

12 Responses to “Bananas Are Good…so are birthdays”

  1. QuiteLight September 15, 2007 at 11:58 am #

    Yoga. Cats. Evenings on a patio with my best friends.

  2. Orora September 15, 2007 at 12:26 pm #

    Knitting. Something about making something with my own hands brings a sense of accomplishment, creativity and peace in a world that speeds by too quickly.

  3. JaneC September 15, 2007 at 1:25 pm #

    I love to bake, too, but my passion is cookies, and my favorite are oatmeal-banana-raisin cookies. When I was a little girl, my dad and I used to bake these cookies together often. The taste and smell of those oatmeal cookies bring vivid memories of having to stand on a step stool to reach the counter, wearing my small, frilly apron, Dad handing me the raisins and me putting in too many because I liked them, Mom coming up behind me and tying my hair back so it didn’t end up covered in cookie batter.

    When I went to college, Dad sent me those cookies in care packages every couple of months; the friends that I shared them with asked why it was always oatmeal. Now I bake them myself, when the grown-up world gets to be a bit much for me, and there are overripe bananas on the counter.

  4. Yabby September 15, 2007 at 3:21 pm #

    I’m so glad someone else feels that way about baking too! I bake when I’m happy, stressed, for birthdays orfor “whatever” days. I think ther’s something about sharing something that you make with someone to build friendships or relationships. I’m an Aussie living overseas, so tha last Australia Day, I volunteered to make a Pavlova (sort of a national desert) and ended up making 12 to share for a party with other expat Aussies – I can’t describe the joy of watching people smile as they ate a slice of crunchy and marshmallow-y pavlova with cream and fresh fruits … cured the homesickness for a day!

  5. Leah September 15, 2007 at 11:01 pm #

    In a lot of ways, food is how we love other people when nothing else seems quite right. And that goes not just for other people, but for ourselves. When we don’t know what to do for someone we love that is hurting, or just someone we want to tell we love them, we buckle down and make something with our own to hands to nourish the body and the soul. At least that’s how it is for me and apparently a lot of you as well.

    For me it’s bread. Something in the kneading.

  6. supersam September 16, 2007 at 1:04 am #

    Some cuddling with a cat or dog… or.. a good meal… or..and mainly

    Wearing an outfit that makes me feel fabulous, with my hair under some form of control, and wearing makeup (even if it’s only mascara). It’s especially good when something about my look makes other people take a second look at me – either because I look so stylish and fab, or I have on a beautiful, slightly retro hat, or an egg shaped dress, or a wonderful pair of shoes and large sunglasses…

  7. Twistie September 16, 2007 at 11:11 am #

    QuiteLight: My cat’s a huge stress reliever for me, too. Nothing seems quite so bad when there’s a cat purring in your arms.

    Orora: I never did get into knitting, but bobbin lace is another of my stress reducers…when Mr. Twistie hasn’t covered up my lacing spot with junk. Sigh.

    JaneC: I could almost taste those cookies when I was reading your response. They sound wonderful. I, too, have fond memories of baking cookies with my father. When I miss him the most, I bake cookies, too.

    Yabby: You’re right; there’s something basic and primal and right about feeding the people you love. I think it’s kind of hard-wired into the human race that we express our love through sharing, particularly of food. Oh, and I’ve never had Pavlova, but I’m always up for trying a new culinary treat. I know I must have a recipe somewhere. Maybe I’ll give it a shot sometime.

    Leah: Yes, that’s it. Even when you can’t solve a person’s problems, offering food feels helpful. And it can nourish the soul. There have been a couple times in my life when an offer of even a Coke felt like a blessing…and I don’t even like cola. Home baked bread? That’s wonderful beyond words. And there’s nothing like kneading dough for working out frustrations.

    supersam: Are we twins? Cuddling the cat, good food, or wearing a fabulous hat…these are all well up on my list of ways to feel better about life, the universe, and everything. My purple seude coat is filled with power, and my tapestry boots are made for walking on top of the world.

  8. Sniper September 16, 2007 at 2:18 pm #

    I make baked treats now and then but my real love is Big Cooking – vats of soups, pasta sauces, and stews that can be frozen for use on days when I’m too tired or late to cook. Inner peace comes from knowing that there’s a bowl of lentil soup or French beef stew waitin at home.

    In the summer when it’s too hot to do Big Cooking, I garden, a term which includes both swanning about snipping off the occasional spent bloom and diving headfirst into a bee-covered shrub to yank out some bindweed.

  9. dinazad September 17, 2007 at 4:20 am #

    Baking is the ultimate stress-reliever and anti-depressant. Cooking or a plate of pasta with a glass of red aren’t bad either.
    On the other hand, weaving or making up bracelets from all kinds of found objects is very calming (especially when you’ve stupidly run out of butter or sugar or something vital for you baking project.).

    Belated but nevertheless sincere: Happy Birthday!

  10. pearlandopal September 17, 2007 at 3:25 pm #

    I make jewelry to relax, but since that’s also a side business it’s not always the most relaxing thing to do any more. For the past year or so I’ve been making home spa/aromatherapy stuff, and that’s been a lot of fun and very relaxing. It’s nice to come home from a bad day at work and treat myself to a homemade oatmeal/lavender bath soak or a sugar scrub for my hands.

  11. dangermouse September 17, 2007 at 3:54 pm #

    Twistie: that cake sounds delicious! If you share recipes, I’d love a copy :)

    For relaxation, I bake as well. I also love to work in my yard & attempt french cooking techniques. This week, I’m building a walkway & attempting my first souffle!

  12. Glinda September 18, 2007 at 7:50 pm #

    I find that a good laugh with my son is one of the most relaxing and de-stressing things that can happen to me during the day.

    And, Happy Birthday! Albeit belated!