The Child informs me she has discovered punk music; Green Day is now the soundtrack of choice for our morning drive to school. My own punk music – the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones – isn’t relevant, she says. I can kind of see her point: She never lived in Margaret Thatcher’s England or Reagan’s America, what do those bands have to say to her?
It makes me a little sad, but I guess I can’t expect her to rebel to the same music I did, and I’ll take Green Day over Taylor Swift any day.
In fact, I’ll take Green Day over Taylor Swift every day; music is the only bright spot of our daily forty-minute slog through Seattle’s dark, early morning mist. February in particular is dark and rainy, the time of year that reminds me that it truly is always darkest before the dawn. You would think that Seattle drivers are pros at this kind of weather, but they aren’t – whenever the sun comes out, now matter how briefly, they forget how to drive in the rain. When the rain inevitably begins again, usually just a few moments later, they have to re-learn the skills needed to drive in it, and as they do, they forget other useful driving skills, like signaling for lane changes or which foot pedal does what.
Most days, I simply swear a lot, but one particularly grim day, I start singing along to Jesus of Suburbia, using my own, made-up-on-the-spot lyrics about Seattle’s Bad Drivers of Suburbia.
My musical effort is received with stunned silence, then outraged sputtering.
OMG, Mom. No. You do not parody Green Day. Mom. WTF.
I burst out laughing, as her indignance continues.
Hashtag: The struggle is real.
I’m still laughing.
Hashtag: First world problems, I reply. I’m fluent in Hashtag.
You know my friends at school all think you’re the Crazy Jewish Mom, right?
She’s told me this before, but today she expounds on the subject at great length, and the thing in particular that she dwells on – the thing that gets all her school friends laughing about Crazy Jewish Mom – is my cooking, specifically, The Awful Fish Thing.
The Awful Fish Thing came from Marie Simmons’ cookbook The Good Egg. The recipe was called Scrambled Eggs with Crispy Potatoes and Salt Cod, and it sounded so good (eggs! crispy potatoes!). I made it for dinner exactly once, and I’m still wondering where I went wrong: There was barely enough egg to hold the other ingredients together, the potatoes didn’t crisp up at all, and the whole mess was woefully underseasoned.
It was, in a word, beige.
I presented it to The Child with this ringing endorsement: It isn’t quite what I expected, but I think it’s edible. If you don’t like it, there are chicken nuggets in the freezer.
I’ve been wary of that cookbook ever since, but in spite of this, I’ve not been forgiven for it.
It’s not the only thing I’ve ever cooked, I point out, and she eventually concedes that yes, the other kids do like my Eggnog Cookies and Fruity Pebble Cookies. The banana cake was popular, too: They divided up the piece that went to school in her lunch bag, and everyone liked it.
The banana cake was a wonderful discovery I made one weekend morning, when I found that, yet again, we could not eat a bunch of bananas faster than they could turn brown. I was in the mood for something that wasn’t my usual standby, Fannie Farmer’s Banana Bread, so I rifled through Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, which I’ve owned since it was published in 1988 – the same year The Ramones’ Mania was released – and never ever used.
Yes, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself: The recipe for a banana cake that is nothing short of Nirvana sat on my shelf, undiscovered, for two decades. Finding it was a bit like finding money in the pocket of a coat you haven’t worn for a really, really long time.
The cake lacks the heaviness of the usual banana bread – it is all lightness, with a very fine crumb; dusted with powdered sugar, as I made it, it is a perfect tea cake, though it could also be frosted, as Beranbaum suggests, with a chocolate ganache, and would make a lovely birthday cake.
I set it out on the table and it disappeared speedily. Happily, the bananas continue to turn brown faster than we can eat them, and it’s delightfully simple to make.
- 2 large, very ripe bananas (about 1 cup, mashed)
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp grated lemon zest (from about 1 1/ 2 lemons)
- 1½ tsp vanilla
- 2 cups cake flour
- ¾ cup + 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 10 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Prepare a 9-inch springform pan: line the bottom with parchment, butter and flour the parchment and pan sides.
- In a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, blitz the banana and sour cream until smooth. Add the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla, and process just until blended.
- Add the softened butter and half the banana mixture to the flour, and mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for 1-2 minutes; scrape down sides. Gradually add the remaining banana mixture in two batches, incorporating each addition for about 30 seconds before adding the next.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the center springs back when pressed lightly.
- Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then loosen the sides and finish cooling on a rack. Dust the top with powdered sugar.