4th of July. Independence day here in the United States, day of siege for those of us who happen to live anywhere within a few blocks radius of the Bay. For it is the day hordes of people descend upon the city. Some are tourists involved in long weekend travelling, others just live around the city and decide that is the day they want to visit. It’s the day when city inhabitants head out while the ones from without try to get in.
Amey and I learnt our lesson about this day the year we first moved to our apartment. We had flown out of the country and hit upon the brilliant plan of arriving back on 4th of July. The airport was like a circus with none of the fun and excitement. Getting a cab was next to impossible; the moment they heard our address, cab drivers suddenly dug their tires into the tarmac and refused to budge. As we threatened to melt into sad little puddles in the July heat, a tough old lady with green hair and a moustache took pity on our wilting forms with matching duct taped luggage and decided to drive us home, with dire warnings about how much this was going to cost us with the traffic. We could see the fog slowly inching into the city over the western hills as the cab slowly headed north at about the same pace.
An hour later we were still five blocks away. As the fireworks lit up the twilit sky, jet lag was starting to hit us both badly. But every car in front of us, behind us, next to us, was frozen in place while idiots scrambled with their cameras trying to photograph flashes of light created by distant firecrackers. As the driver’s yelled profanities reached levels that were starting to shock even my well-seasoned husband, we decided the best course of action was to get out and start to walk before some of surrounded ‘happy’ people started to hurl beer bottles at us. Just as the last firecracker lit the sky, we grabbed our luggage out of the trunk, took a deep breath and headed homeward, only to find ourselves thoroughly thwarted. From the swells that flooded towards us, it seemed like all of humanity was in San Francisco watching the fireworks. I was walked into, trod upon, and thoroughly bruised. A guy in green shorts and very questionable breath nearly shattered my eardrum with a ‘Merry Cracker day’. Amey was nearly strangled when he was given a bear hug by some girl wearing star spangled tights and a neon green tank top. We nearly lost an arm several times when out-of-breath and judgment impaired morons kept mistaking our bags for ‘something to sit on’. Bruised, bloody and heartily sorry to be alive, we finally made it to our building thirty minutes later. Amey was missing a contact lens, I was missing a slipper and my mind, at least two-and-a-half handles were broken. But-we-made-it-home, ostensibly all together. As we fell asleep on the carpet, we could hear the people and traffic outside and swore we’d never be out on July 4 as long as we lived in this apartment.
A few years later and July 4th comes around last weekend. The traffic started building up with bumper-to-bumper vehicles by 3 pm. Mothers yelled. Kids cried. Cars blared Michael Jackson through the stereo, loud enough to make the glass in my windows look like jelly. I looked out (at a safe distance from the glass of course) at the sea of people and was fervently grateful for not having left home. The fog meant it was a cool day so Amey and I celebrated in the warm embrace of an enchanting banana bread.
This is the kind of bread that is so comforting, it is magic. It can make all your woes disappear. First there is the fact that it smells like heaven when it is baking in the oven. Seriously, if Napolean or Hitler had a whiff of this bread in their day, they may have given up all ideas of world domination. This bread could bring about world peace. In the very least it brought our neighbours who we barely know knocking on our door. It smells like your favourite childhood bed is ready and waiting. It smells of misty dreams. And then, there is the way it tastes. Of bananas and fresh cinnamon, of cheery comfort. I’m sure it would bring searing warmth to cold days. It bought us an hour and a half of reigning peace, divorced from blaring car horns and yelling tourists. It brought us freedom from care.
Cinnamon-Banana bread with walnuts, raisins & butterscotch chips
adapted from a recipe via Everybody likes Sandwiches
Makes one medium loaf
Bananas – 3, very ripe.
Eggs – 2
Unbleached all-purpose flour – 1 ½ cups
Agave Nectar – 3/4 cup
Baking Soda – 1 tsp
Cinnamon – 2 tsp, ground
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Butterscotch chips – 1/2 cup
Walnuts – 1/2 cup, broken into pieces
Raisins – 1/2 cup
About a 1/4 tsp of sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon for sprinkling over
– Preheat your oven to 375°F and lightly butter a loaf pan.
– Mash the bananas well. Add eggs and stir in briskly to combine with the mashed banana.
– Add flour, agave nectar, baking soda, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir well to combine.
– Fold in the butterscotch chips, walnut pieces and most of the raisins, reserving a few
– Pour the mixture into the prepped loaf pan.
– Top with an even sprinkling of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and the saved raisins.
– Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.
I love nuts in sweets, and bananas and walnuts are a match made in my dream paradise. In fact, this is what they would serve there on demand all day. I was curious about the recipe having no fat of any kind whatsoever but there was no cause for concern. The bread turned out rich and delicious. It has a dense, soft crumb that breaks apart with the slightest pressure and fills you with a warm and fuzzy feeling all over. The warming tones of the cinnamon weave themselves through the other ingredients to create a richly spiced, out-of-this-world bread. I replaced the sugar with agave nectar and butterscotch chips for the chocolate the original recipe calls for. I didn’t miss the sugar at all and the butterscotch chips simply disappeared into the cake, leaving behind their caramelly hints. The whole thing comes together in ten or fifteen minutes and after that the oven does the work. Bake this on a weary day and you will feel your spirits rise with the bread. It gave us our Independence Day.