It’s a guarantee. Life throws curve balls. Life also waits for no man. Commitments, gatherings, appointments, deadlines and dishes. All of it, good stuff. Every day, everyman stuff. The daily stuff of goodness. But when those darn curve balls come at you, they often come in waves, don’t they? It’s a reminder to grab hold of the good stuff. Hold tight. Teens will stay true to their age with an undaunting pursuit of it all. Live big, grab the fun. It’s their badge. They wear it well and deservedly so. Our secret lies in the art of sinking our feet back into a state of balance when the satellites are flying out of orbit. Regaining one’s footing is the tricky bit (it always seems to take me a little while longer than the average Joe.) I’ve noticed over time that my grounding plug-ins repeat themselves, again and again, like a childhood friend who comes calling despite the years apart. I tend to follow the same reassuring paths to find my way back…
1) I rearrange furniture (embarrassing, but true.) Instant gratification with a refreshed living environment.
2) I organize drawers, desks, walls, papers, and anything that clogs my brain with visual clutter.
3) I bake. Good warm satisfying food to satiate a particular craving or curiosity. Works every time.
4) I head out on a trail, away from the fray, with a mission to explore anything at all. In search of elderflowers or a hawk’s feather. Never mind if anything is found. The search is enough.
5) I drive to a favorite plant nursery, pick up something green that promises fruit or precious blooms, and I get dirty. Black soil and terracotta pots. Very grounding!
6) I go in search of salty air, pounding waves and big sky. Ocean Beach and Fort Funston are my hometown sweethearts. The San Francisco city fringes provide a great retreat for fellowship amongst sea dwellers, dogs and humans alike.
So tell me . . how do you reset your compass?
This recipe for Banana Buttermilk Bread comes from Claire Ptak, the owner of Violet, a bakery in London, and author of The Violet Bakery Cookbook. It’s truly remarkable. You can’t go wrong with a former pastry chef for our local food maven, Alice Waters, at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Claire turns ordinary banana bread into something quite extraordinary. With her added dash of dark rum and use of a blow torch, you will delight your fearless teen . . . not necessarily the one living in your house, but the one inside you that still embraces an undaunting pursuit of the good stuff.
Banana Buttermilk Bread
5 large or 6 medium bananas, very ripe
150g (2/3 cup) vegetable oil
200g dark brown sugar (1 cup, loosely packed)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp dark rum
75g cultured buttermilk or plain yogurt (1/3 cup)
210g plain flour (2 cups)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
3 Tbsp caster sugar (granulated)
Heat the oven to 180°C (tad hotter than 350°F.) Butter and line your loaf tin with baking paper.
- 5 large or 6 medium bananas, very ripe
- 150g (2/3 cup) vegetable oil
- 200g dark brown sugar (1 cup, loosely packed)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp dark rum
- 2 eggs
- 75g cultured buttermilk or plain yogurt (1/3 cup)
- 210g plain flour (weigh if you have a scale. otherwise, ~2 cups)
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 3 Tbsp caster sugar (granulated)
- Heat the oven to 180°C (tad hotter than 350°F.) Butter and line your loaf tin with baking paper.
- Mash up well, 4½ to 5½ bananas, reserving half a banana (cut lengthwise) for the top of the cake.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar, vanilla, rum, eggs and buttermilk. Add the mashed banana and set aside.
- In another smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, and salt.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the banana mixture until just combined and pour into your prepared tin. Smooth the top and place the banana half on top. Sprinkle banana with the caster sugar. (It will seem like too much but it should hide your banana.)
- Bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the top has become set and starts to caramelize. Use a kitchen blowtorch to help this along. (My bread took one hour to bake. Every oven is different, so test with a skewer until it comes clean.)