Fall is finally here! Or, somewhat so. The supermarket proclaims fall’s arrival with overflowing trays of shiny red apples, cheerful, yellow-orange ripened persimmons, cellophane bags of mikans, and my favorite of all: gorgeous, dusky sweet potatoes. Yet the weather and foliage couldn’t be more late summer. Just yesterday I walked in my front door sweating and haggard from a 7 minute walk home thanks to the 80 degree sunshine. In November. But if the harvest is cooperating at least, my kitchen gives its blessing.
The prolonged wait for fall to truly settle in, however, has made me even more cognizant of the beauty of celebrating food in season. And the bounty associated with harvest, a mere notion for me in years past, has been shared with me by the unbelievable generosity of friends, teachers, and students in the community here. I tried my first chestnut in the office, an oddity to me in its prickly, urchin-esque encasement, brought in by a friendly man in the neighboring cultural division of the city hall. Last weekend on a hike I passed a tray of pomegranates free for the taking, and happily picked one up for snacking later. I’ve been offered more oranges than I can count. And I nearly died of food-induced joy while eating a crispy, freshly baked sweet potato from a street stand in Kyoto. Every moment has been accompanied by a wonderfully unique exchange between myself and the people around me, that beloved quality of food to bring people together and share the love.
But fall also means shorter days, colder nights, and, for a single unit like me, brings an additional chill of loneliness and homesickness. So when faced with the insufferable, I did as we cancer-crabs do best: withdrew to warmth and comfort! Which, in my case, translated to a mug of steaming hot chai and lightly spiced banana bread on a Sunday afternoon. The recipe is a favorite, and frequented so many times that I only get out my recipe book for the simple pleasure in knowing the recipe is from the lovely mother of Mr. Baker, who passed it along to me after I’d been lucky enough to munch on several batches. I think of it as a dream of a recipe–unseemingly simple, efficient (no more mushy brown bananas!), and compatible with whatever baking pan you have available: loaf pan, muffin tin, or, you won’t even believe this, a rice cooker!
The only other ingredients you need beside the ones listed below are a good, chunky sweater and an equally bulky scarf to round out the healthy dose of comfort :)
Banana Bread (or muffins)
1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3 overripe bananas
1/3 Cup oil
1/2 Cup sugar
Preheat oven to 190˚ Celsius /375˚ Fahrenheit.
Mash the three bananas with a fork in a medium bowl. Add oil, sugar, and egg, and stir to combine.
In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Pour in wet mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Butter and line a muffin tin or loaf pan with parchment paper and fill two-thirds full with batter. Bake for 12-15 minutes if using muffin tin, or 40-50 minutes in a loaf pan, or until tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.