Anna’s Great-Nana’s Banana Nut Bread

One of my wedding gifts from my Nana (my dad’s mother) was a collection of her favorite recipes to add to my recipe box. They’re not the recipes I make all the time – most of them are desserts and special occasion foods – but some of them are real treasures.

I occasionally, like many people, purchase too many bananas. I eat them frequently, but some weeks I end up forgetting about them until they start to be past their raw-eating-prime. (AKA they turn black and smushy)

Usually when this happens, I make smoothies.

At one point, however, I decided to see if I had a good banana bread recipe around. While digging through my recipe box, I came across one in my Nana’s handwriting, but the recipe isn’t hers. The recipe belonged to her mother in law, my Great-Nana Erma Martoccio, who lived in New York in the early 1900’s. She is largely responsible for my Nana being an amazing cook, since my Nana is a farm girl from rural Tennessee and only comes by her Italian cooking by marriage.

It’s a very simple recipe, with no particularly special ingredients, but the bread is spectacular. (It is neither low fat nor low calorie, but this is special-occasion bread.)

Anna’s Great-Nana’s Banana Nut Bread
Recipe courtesy of Erma Martoccio

Hardware:

  • Two regular loaf pans or three “small” loaf pans
  • A mixer
  • A large bowl, a small bowl, the usual assortment of measuring cups, a spatula

Software:

  • 3/4 c. butter
  • 1 1/2c. sugar
  • 1 1/2c. mashed ripe bananas (3-4 medium)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk, divided
  • 2 c. flour, divided
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Optional: 3/4 c. chopped nuts (I use pecans)
  • Optional: 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

I also usually make this in my stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but you can easily do it with a hand mixer and a spatula.

The Program:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease the bottoms only of your loaf pans with non-stick spray or butter. I use three 1.2 quart Pyrex glass loaf pans (they have red lids, and are, I think, storage dishes, but they bake just fine).
  2. Cream together the butter and the sugar. While the mixer is going, crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat with a fork.
  3. Blend in the mashed bananas, beaten eggs, and vanilla
  4. Add, in order and mixing on low speed in between, 1/4c. buttermilk, 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4c. butter milk and the final cup of flour.
  5. With the spatula, gently mix in the nuts and chocolate chips, if using.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans.
  7. If using two 9×5 loaf pans, bake for 70-75 minutes. If using three smaller loaf pans, bake for 50-55 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean, and the loaves should be golden brown and delicious. The tops of the loaves may crack – that’s OK (even desirable).

This recipe freezes well and will keep in the refrigerator (cooled completely and wrapped well) for at least a week or two… but it never lasts that long in my house. The chocolate chips are my own idea and not in the original recipe, but they are quite a delicious addition, if I do say so myself.

Enjoy!

Dear Food: Please shut up.

I’m really tired of my food telling me why I’m eating it.

Take Cheerios. According to the box, the only reason you are eating Cheerios is a) to lower your cholesterol or b) to lose weight.

Remember that dipshit commercial about Multi Grain Cheerios where the (stereotypical idiot) husband is asking his (stereotypically thin, wearing a grey sweatshirt) wife if she’s eating Multi Grain Cheerios to lose weight? Because obviously the only reason she’d be eating that shit is to lose weight?

Doesn’t that actually do the product a DISSERVICE? I mean, diet food doesn’t exactly have a great history. Loudly proclaiming that the only reason someone must be eating your product is because they’re a slave to the scale doesn’t seem like a particularly positive endorsement.

But then, there it is on the box. Make Multi Grain Cheerios part of your WEIGHT LOSS PLAN. (Whatever this week’s plan is.)

And then? If you want to eat a banana with your Cheerios? THOSE CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT TOO. I bought bananas recently that had a “LOSE WEIGHT WITH BANANAS” sticker on them. It led to a website where you could, purportedly, input your weight loss plan that included eating lots of Brand Name Bananas (I didn’t get that far because the website required email verification). Never mind eating bananas because they’re delicious, or because they have lots of fiber and vitamins, or because they’re easy on your stomach when you have the food poisoning.

BANANAS FOR WEIGHT LOSS.

I have a bag of brown sugar that says “Gluten Free” on it, proudly, in big letters. I’ve bought strawberries that say “Trans-Fat Free!” on the label. Strawberries. Like, whole fresh berries with the leaves still on. Yeah, they’re trans-fat free!

It’s like TJ’s snicker’s bar – why is my food telling me why I’m eating it? I know, I know, it’s because food is an INDUSTRY now. It’s all about advertising and product placement. Eat THESE bananas and not THOSE bananas. See? OUR bananas make you lose weight. OUR cereal makes you skinny.

Doesn’t anyone eat food because it’s good anymore? Or because it has nutrients? Are we so afraid of being/getting/continuing to be “fat” (whatever fat is) that we can’t evaluate our food based on the actual food itself instead of what it’s supposedly going to do for us as a side effect?

Oh – and that’s another rant. Isn’t it a little scary that you can eat a bowl of cereal that has 100% of your day’s vitamins in it? As though you really don’t GET anything from eating all those vegetables. Who needs broccoli and carrots, just eat cereal for breakfast, get all your vitamins, and then eat candy bars and drink soda all day! Vitamins good!

The whole process is just so silly. No wonder so many people have such weird relationships with food, and that the newspaper can tell us that this week pasta is bad, but next week we can have an all pasta weight loss diet. Our food (or rather, the companies marketing it) assume that we’re too stupid to make our own choices about what we like and what’s good for us.

Which, of course, is confounded by the newspaper science thing. High fat, low carb. High carb, low fat. Low fat, whole grain. Cabbage Soup diet. Miracle Vinegar Cleanse. Nobody knows what’s really good for them (at least, nobody that’s actually reading the newspaper pseudo-science and believes it), and in turn, we go looking for the food companies to tell us whether or not we should eat something.

Of course, that’s what nutrition labels are supposed to be for, right? They tell us what’s in the food? Except that the ingredients list is full of (mostly corn and soy derived) chemicals and vitamins disguised by chemical names to the point where that list is basically useless.

How many of those items are just code names for sugar? How many are petroleum derived? What does “0 grams of trans fat” really actually mean? (answer: less than .5 grams. not none.)

I know that packaged food is a good thing. How many of us have been thankful for a can of Campbells soup when we’ve been sick? Packaged, shelf-stable food allows a lot of people to eat who couldn’t normally access that food easily, and that’s a Really Good Thing- especially since I live in a Hurricane prone area!

But really? All this hype? All the uber-marketing research strategies?

It’s well beyond ridiculous, and it gets on my nerves.

Dear Food:

Please shut up.

Love,
Me