Recently I learned how to make the “World’s Easiest Banana Bread.” Then I learned how to make it the hard way:
Let your four-year-old help you.
|(Photo: Steve Hopson, www.stevehopson.com)|
We had three bananas getting brown on the counter, which is a rarity around here. We are serious about our bananas, and they never last long. If my husband or I are at a grocery store—even if the only things on the list are tampons and light bulbs—we will always buy bananas because, well, we always need them or are about to need them.
So. Somehow, these three bananas had been allowed to exist long enough to get a little brown. And the only thing I hate more than mushy bananas is throwing out food, so I decided we would make banana bread. According to the clock we had just under 2 hours until we had to leave for Matthew’s T-ball “practice” (have you ever seen 3- and 4-year-olds play T-ball? If so, you get the need for quotes just there). I figured we had lots of time. No problem, right?
I Googled “banana bread recipe” and got about 1,000 recipes for banana bread that all included goofy ingredients like buttermilk or rum that would require a trip to the store. Taking two kids to the grocery store was NOT what I had in mind when I imagined making banana bread. (Taking two kids to the grocery store is pretty much NEVER what I have in mind. Ever.) So I refined my search to “EASY banana bread recipe,” and I hit the jackpot. The very first hit, from simplyrecipes.com, required only ingredients I already had! I hit “print” and headed for the kitchen.
I gathered my ingredients and my 4-year-old and soon realized how this was going to go. Matthew was interested ONLY in cracking the eggs. As I squinted at the recipe, he badgered me, “NOW do I crack the eggs? NOW? When, Mommy? Mommy, when? Mommy, WHEN DO I GET TO CRACK THE EGGS??”
I thought that smushing up bananas would be a good distraction, so I pulled a dining room chair up to the counter for him to stand on and told him to go for it. This was a special privilege because standing on chairs is usually not allowed. This is a tough rule for Matthew to follow. Pretty much every time I do something like, I don’t know, clean the cat box or go to the bathroom alone, I emerge to find him standing on a dining room chair. Not doing anything, usually, except gleefully breaking the we-do-not-stand-on-chairs rule. But today? Today he was being a stickler for the rules. And he refused to stand on that chair.
So, as Matthew attempted to mush bananas that he could not see because he was kneeling instead of standing on the chair, I got out some yogurt to substitute for the butter in the recipe. Why? I don’t know exactly. Yogurt is not in the original recipe, but someone in the comments had said that if you replace the butter with yogurt, the bread would be “healthier.” And since I had a feeling that I was going to be eating a LOT of this banana bread, I decided to blindly follow that advice. Now, measuring yogurt shouldn’t be hard. But measuring yogurt with a 4-year-old’s help is very hard. First the yogurt has to be spooned from its container into a measuring cup, then dumped from the measuring cup into a bowl. The result? Some yogurt in the bowl and lots of yogurt everywhere else.
A quick check of the clock told me this was taking a bit longer than planned, what with pleading with my kid to break rules and cleaning yogurt off of my shoes, but we should still have plenty of time to finish up and get it baked before T-ball. I mean, how long could making banana bread take?
Next was sugar. Once again, I deviated from the original recipe, cutting the sugar down to ¾ cup and using brown sugar instead of white sugar. I couldn’t begin to tell you the difference between brown and white sugar (other than the obvious), but, again, someone in the recipe’s comments said it was a good idea, and who am I to argue with the internet? Though we still hadn’t cracked any eggs, the sight of sugar caught Matthew’s attention. He finally stood up on the chair and offered to help measure and pour, which went about as well as the yogurt. I turned away to grab a sponge to wipe up, and when I turned back I found Matthew, literally up to his elbows in brown sugar, licking his arm, hand, and fingers like a starving wild animal.
I put a stop to the sugar feast, handed him a wooden spoon, and told him to stir. Matthew went for it with gusto, though his speed at mixing far exceeded his effectiveness. “Look at me! I’m an agitator in a washing machine!” he yelled. Before I could ask him where exactly he learned that, he went on, “I’m a tornado! A mixing tornado!” He paused long enough to grab the second spoon that I was holding, stuck it in the sugary, yogurt-y banana goo and yelled, “DOUBLE AGITATOR!”
Apparently, all that sugar was kicking in.
Finally, FINALLY, it was time to crack the egg. Just one, it turns out, which was lucky because that’s all we had. I gave it to Matthew and stood back. Matthew has a strange method of cracking eggs that absolutely demolishes the egg, but somehow lands very little shell in the bowl. There’s also a whole stab-the-yolk-until-it-“pops” thing that can be kind of disturbing if you think about it too much. Once all that was done, it was back to the agitator-tornado for more stirring, and we moved on through the recipe.
When it was time for the flour, I knew I had to proceed with caution. Flour is a pain in the butt to clean up, and we didn’t have a lot of extra time. But of course it went everywhere, leading Matthew to tell me triumphantly, “Mommy! I have flour on my nipples!” (Yes, he was wearing nothing but underpants, his favorite outfit.) The situation didn’t improve as he began his crazy stirring again, which somehow didn’t incorporate the flour into the batter at all but did manage to incorporate it into his hair.
I looked at the clock with dread. At this point, we would be late to T-ball if the bread took a full hour to cook, so I did some damage control. I gave Matthew a spoon to lick while I quickly mixed in the flour, poured the batter into the pan, and put it into the oven. The kitchen was a mess, and I knew that I should enlist Matthew’s help in cleaning it up—you know, teach him that cleaning up is part of the process of baking and all that—but I still had to get us both dressed and sunscreened and get a snack together. So I did what any parent would do (right? RIGHT?). I turned on “Yo Gabba Gabba.”
And then, as I tried to clean brown sugar and flour out of the fruit bowl, the dish drainer, the silverware drawer (???), I heard a question that I would hear at least 40 more times in the next 50 minutes: “Is the banana bread done yet?”
We were NOT going to make it to T-ball on time.