Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread (vegan!)
In our home, bedtime is one of the most treasured times of day. I’ve never once heard the E’s cry about “Brush teeth - time for bed!” and usually they beat us up to the Birdsnest - their hidden room at the top of the secret staircase with the birdseye view of our backyard. By the time Bad*ss Bassman and I climb up the narrow stairs (followed sometimes by Squigs and MeowMeow), the girls are either already curled up with books or Little E is rolling around in a gigglefest while Big E knots up her hair for morning curls.
Almost every night is the same. The girls wrestle a bit, get the last of the giggles out and then settle on their respective beds. I pull out the book. Right now we’re on the fifth in the Little House On The Prairie series. We read a chapter a night - sometimes two - and then Bad*ss Bassman turns out the lights, puts on the same sleepytime lullaby they’ve heard since babyhood, and we each give the girls plenty of snuggles. After that, Bad*ss Bassman goes downstairs and I sit with the girls chatting for a few minutes while we admire the moon.
About a month ago, after Bassman went downstairs, the E’s started asking me for tales of my childhood. First they wanted to know about my 5th grade fashion, so I told them about ’80s stirrup pants and oversized button down shirts. Then they wanted to know if I ever made mudpies, so I told them about the Indian clay in the ditch by my childhood house. Last week they wanted to know about my best day EVER (!), so I told them about the day I spent with my grandparents on the Florida panhandle, and how the next day my new little brother was born.
The past few nights the E’s have been asking about my saddest memories. I told them about the very last time I sat on my great-grandfather Papa’s knee, just before he died. The next night I told them about my first turtle, Sammy Green, and how he slowly stopped moving until the day we buried him. Last night I told them about how my gumsole shoes tripped me up on the driveway a few weeks before elementary school began, and that one of the school boys teased me about the scabs on my face from the fall. They loved that one, and shared their own woeful tales of falls and scabs.
It’s been difficult to reach back in time for these stories, especially to find them in words, not just collages of imagery. I’ve got to find a way to translate pictures and emotions of my past into words that can be told, stories that can be understood. The E’s questions are a gift to me. I am remembering. I am fashioning the collages into stories. And joyfully, the E’s are sharing their own stories.
The E’s aren’t yet interested in my teenage years - perhaps by the time they get to that age themselves they will have lost interest in hearing my stories anyway. But last week I caught a glance of myself in the mirror just as Bassman and I were bundling up for a chilly Sunday evening stroll. Funny thing - it turns out I’m still wearing the same scarf I’ve worn since high school. I’d found it back sometime Freshman or Sophomore year on a day of rummaging through my parents’ old things in the attic. And I’m still wearing - now only on rare wintery days - a long black coat.
So strange to realize…
Back in high school the long black coat was unfashionable in an artsy sort of way, a bit goth, a bit Pretty In Pink. In my 20’s a different-yet-similar coat was professional for my first office jobs. Now in SoCal this coat - frayed at the bottom edge, seams taken in, buttons resewn, - is just practical since I haven’t bought a new coat in the five years I’ve been in LA.
Catching that glimpse of myself, in light of all these childhood stories of the past, was a bit of a treasure. I remembered something.
Yes, this is who you are, who you have always been.
I was in high school during the Exxon Valdez disaster. That may have been the first time I was truly struck by the dichotomy of rejoicing in the life this planet holds and the ecological disasters we humans create in search of wealth. That crime against nature sparked a passion in me. In those years my family lived in a house in the woods on the edge of a lake, with deer and birds, tall birch trees, blackberries in the spring, chipmunks. As little as I felt in the world, I wanted to do my part. Author Anne Lamott would say that I took it Bird By Bird.
It’s more like I took it Can by Can.
I started picking up cans. Recycling them. Passionately cleaning up my high school grounds, putting trash and recyclables in their place. I tried not to consume any food that came individually wrapped. I became vegetarian, argued with my dad about the pros/cons of nuclear power, channeled what I thought was the spirit of the ’60s, tried to step as kindly as I could. My compassion for the prosperity of nature without the touch of mankind (manunkind, I wondered) was sprouting.
So here we are now. Cloth napkins. CSA subscription. Vegan blog.
But the thing is, I am not always “good”. I’ve struggled with this part. Where does compassion for the world I live in meet compassion for my own human inconsistencies? My tastes and curiosity get the better of me. When times are stressful I forget to compost. I take long showers. I strive towards a vegan diet, and then sometimes am seduced by a farmer’s market cheese stand sampling. And, despite all controversies that have somewhat limited my consumption of them, I have a weakness for bananas.
So, here is my guilty pleasure and I want to share it with you, in full awareness. It’s rare these days that we have excess bananas laying around, over-ripe and ready for baking, but perhaps sometime in the coming months it will happen for you or me. And perhaps you will, instead of tossing them out, discover some chocolate in the cabinet. Perhaps you will have a picnic upcoming, or a neighbor who needs a pick-me-up, or you simply have a cup of warm beverage that needs a nibble of banana and chocolate for utter, guiltless, completion.
CHOCOLATE CHUNK BANANA BREAD (Vegan!)
Makes 2 loaves
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour (I always recommend King Arthur’s unbleached AP)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar (I use unbleached organic)
1 cup Earth Balance butter substitute (or, use 1/2 cup Earth Balance and 1/3 cup applesauce)
6 ripe bananas
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk + 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of 2 loaf pans (8 x 4 or 9 x 5) and set aside.
In a small bowl, stir the soy milk and cider vinegar together. Let sit while you do the rest.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the first five ingredients in list (flours, baking soda, salt, spice). Whisk together so they’re nicely combined.
In a separate bowl, cream together both sugars and Earth Balance (or Earth balance + applesauce). Add the bananas, soy milk mixture and vanilla. Mix well. Don’t worry if this wet mixture, once combined, is not emulsified - it will all come together just fine.
Add the dry ingredients into the wet. Mix well until uniform (careful not to overmix!) and then fold in the chopped chocolate.
Pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350 F for 60-75 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick - when inserted in the center, it should pull out clean.
Enjoy, dear readers. Do let me know if you try this one out!