Thursday, December 23, 2010

One Memory Births Another

When I was about 18, the year escapes my memory, my sister and I went on a choir tour with the youth group of our church. We traveled up the east coast and into New Brunswick, Canada where I saw my very first live moose. We stayed in the homes of folks who had agreed to feed and house us along the way. I have sometime vague but fond memories of this trip and some include the food we ate. Food preferences from one region to another differ greatly as I discovered on this trip. We were surprised to find that biscuits and grits were missing from the menu of a restaurant where we stopped for breakfast in New Jersey. The food selections became even more unusual as we traveled into Canada. Our first meal there included German hot potato salad.. a first for this girl raised in the south. Without the benefit of Food Network in the early 70's, we were pretty much in the dark about the variety of ways people prepare and eat their food throughout the United States and around the world. I had minimal instruction at school and only a few experiences through church to learn about the customs and food interests outside the south until this my first traveling experience.

I returned home two weeks later with only one handwritten recipe from a woman who invited us into her home in Connecticut. Her name was Mrs. George Anderson and though I don't remember anything at all about what she or her home looked like (its been 40 years), I do remember being absolutely certain I must ask for the recipe for her home made banana bread which she served warm with a side of cream cheese for a topping. My family had never enjoyed banana bread up to this time so I was excited to bring the idea home to share. I think of my experiences traveling there every time I pull out this recipe and  see “From the kitchen of....Mrs. George Anderson." I have no idea if she is still living nor if she remembers having us in her home that summer. I wish I could tell her how it has come to be one of my favorite Christmas recipes and one my family has enjoyed for nearly half a century. It has also found its way into the homes of new mothers, nursing homes and shut-ins more times than I could count.

I'd like to share a more personal scenario related to my love for this recipe. While visiting yesterday, my granddaughter and I decided we would whip up a recipe of banana bread. She grabbed her little apron and stool for easy access to the counter tops and we began. Her first task was mashing the bananas with the potato masher. She was so excited later when eating her lunch to find that Rachel Ray was using a masher on her show. "Just like the one I use!” she said. I gathered all the other ingredients and prepped the mixer as I watched out of the corner of my eye. I've baked with both my grandchildren and its a real joy to see how seriously they are involved with every part of the process. Finishing up the bananas, her next query as I retrieved the flour from the cabinet was, “Can I do the 'shifting'?” I have a child size sifter that both grandchildren just adore using... and I must confess I've learned to love using myself. “Of course, you can 'shift' the flour,” I said as she climbed up on her stool and the shifting began.

Like the Little Red Hen, my granddaughter likes to do things “all by herself” which can be a challenge when you are teaching a six year old the best way to put the ingredients into the mixer while also keeping in mind the safety of little fingers and mixers, with spatulas and spoons being wielded by those small hands. She is determined to crack the eggs herself and has learned to break them into a separate bowl to be sure no shells make it into the batter. When she was younger she had asked me what the “goopy white stuff “ on the eggs were called. I told her it was the “membrane,” not even sure if that is the correct scientific term. Yesterday she pointed to the egg as it dripped into the mixer, showing off her culinary knowledge by letting me know the “egg-grain” was going into the mix. One by one, we added the dry ingredients and “zhooshed” them around in the mixer. (a new fun word I taught her from Food Network) “Look Neenie! It's a flower!” she shouted.  “Wow!” I said, “It sure is a flower. I've never noticed that before.” I've used this mixer hundreds of times and never seen the flower pattern in the mixing bowl created by the beaters. Who would imagine a batch of banana bread could become a learning experience for the both of us?

I may not remember the details of every experience I have with my grandchildren while cooking or playing a game while they visit. Some things will be easier to hold in my memory because I have photographed the occasion. But, like my vague but special memory of my visit with Mrs. George Anderson, something will remain and be passed along to others. I expect every time I “stir up a pound cake” as my grandmother used to say, I'll see that flower in the batter. It will remind me of a time of my life that I can savor for years to come and hold dear to my heart.

 Every Christmas I expect I'll have banana bread and with it I'll have  a new memory, one of tiny determined hands and eyes filled with wonder. The kind of wonder that sees flowers in cake batter!

Future Rachel Ray?

I caught her doing a taste test of the sugar!
"Shifting the flour

Testing our reading skills... who is Mrs. George Anderson?

Learning to scrape the bowl with the spatula...

My new memory birthed from the old in the mixing bowl!


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