To write the title I had to look up the word “fastidious”. Other options were “finicky” and “particular”. “Particular” is a word I know and use often, so I threw it out as not sophisticated enough. “Finicky”, on the other hand, I like very much, but mostly because it makes me giggle. In Russian “finick” means “date” (as in a sweet fruit, not a romantic encounter) which makes me assume (wrongly) that somebody finicky should in some way resemble a “finick”. Whether it’s appearance-wise which would be a disaster of a wrinkled human being or nature-wise which would actually be a good thing, meaning the person is very sweet, “finicky” has too many connotations in my mind. In the end I was left with “fastidious”.
If you are wondering how one can be fastidious about bananas, you should meet my husband. You won’t notice it right away just like I didn’t when we met. It takes time and attention. It takes grocery-shopping together.
While I might be responsible for choosing 99.9% of ingredients on the shopping list, I am not trusted with picking bananas. I am able to read nutrition labels, memorize 25 different names for sugar on ingredients’ lists and avoid them, find the freshest veggies and non-organic yogurt that is healthier than its organic counterparts, but no matter how intently I look for imperfections on banana peel and how vigorously I squeeze and poke them in search of soft spots, I never seem to choose a bunch that would satisfy my husband.
On those first trips to supermarket when I was still naïve, hopeful and bold enough to think I can do it, my carefully chosen bunch of bananas was always mercifully replaced with a better yellower (if that’s even a word) spotless bunch picked by my husband with a look on his face that said: “It’s ok, you’ll get there!” But I know I won’t so I left this privilege to him.
The fact that that beautiful bunch of bananas found its way to our home doesn’t mean the audition is over. Every morning my husband picks the most perfect banana out of the perfect bunch of bananas he personally chose in supermarket which is like choosing the most beautiful Bond girl out of all Bond girls. They are all pretty, it doesn’t get any better than that!
The perfect banana from the perfect bunch of bananas still has imperfections – not visible to the eye of an ordinary human being, but only to the eye of my husband. And those imperfections are in the ends which are always left behind. Sometimes I pick up the peel with that tiny banana piece left inside and look at it, then I look at my husband, then at the peel again, but I don’t see it. I fail to understand what’s wrong with that banana piece.
Over the past years I learned to accept it. Or so I thought until I came home a few days ago to find two 1-inch unpeeled banana ends (of course), but on top of that there were two peeled half-an-inch pieces of banana, which means my husband cut off the ends of a banana before peeling it, then peeled the middle part and ate only the middle part of the middle part that he cut off. Do I even make sense anymore? That was the moment when I decided to write about it.
In my husband’s defense I should mention that he is from Sri Lanka and bananas for Sri Lankans are like cheese for French or vodka for Russians: you have easy access to the world’s most perfect varieties at any given moment.
When three days after grocery shopping bananas get black spots on the peel, they turn from perfect to inedible in the eyes of my husband. Then I wait a few more days and bake banana bread. To make this meaningless post at least a tiny bit useful, here is the recipe!
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 5 small very ripe bananas
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup walnuts
Take butter and eggs out of the fridge about 20 minutes prior to cooking. Eggs should reach room temperature. Butter should be soft, but not melted.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan with butter and set aside.
Combine slightly softened butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with mixer for about 3-4 minutes until you get smooth texture.
Add eggs one at a time and keep beating the mixture for about 1-2 minutes.
Mash bananas in a separate bowl. Add mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla extract to the batter and beat together for a minute.
Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Add to the batter and fold carefully using a rubber or wooden spatula. Don't use mixer at this step.
Toast walnuts on a hot pan for a few minutes. It will help to bring out the nutty flavor and keep them from getting soggy. Chop walnuts roughly, add to the batter and mix them in with a spatula.
Transfer batter from the bowl to the greased pan. Set on the middle rack of the oven and set timer for 60 minutes.
Baking time depends on the moisture content of the bananas you use. To be on the safe side, set the timer for 60 minutes first. The top of the bread should be golden brown and slightly cracked. Check readiness by inserting a toothpick in the middle, it should come out clean. Although most recipes call for 1 hour in the oven, in my experience it takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes for the bread to fully bake. If after 60 minutes the bread is not ready, leave it in the oven and check back every 5 minutes.
Take the pan out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. Transfer bread from the pan to the cooling rack and leave for another 10-15 minutes. If you start slicing the bread while it's still warm, it might fall apart. But warm fresh out of the oven banana bread is the best, so if you don't care about presentation, go for it! If you let it cool completely it will be easier to slice it.