“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the Spider to the Fly,
“’Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.”
I sit here at
the dining room table my desk. I am wearing a down vest and flip-flops. My feet are cold. I need to put on socks. From where I sit I can inconspicuously peer out at the boys playing in the yard. The littlest one is brandishing a light saber, the older one a tree branch. They are fighting off an invisible enemy. I get up to crack the window realizing that I had not done that earlier. Now, I can hear them. “Get ‘em. Knock ‘em down. Look at ‘em. Gross. Mom! Mawwm! Mawwwwwm!” I know. The spiders are back.
I am quite aware that spiders get a bad rap but I feel a certain fondness for them. I find that they are all Charlotte to me. And furthermore, they signal the fact that my favorite season of the year is upon us. They usher in the changing of the leaves. The crispness to the air. The low hanging fog. My “New Year’s Day” is always the first day of autumn. A day that fills me with energy. Excitement. Motivation. All of which has gone into hibernation by the time the real New Year’s Day rolls around.
I get up from “my desk.” Pull open the oven to check the banana bread baking in there. The warm smells from the oven immediately surround my head like a halo. Not quite yet. I stroll to the front door. Open it and step outside, cup of tea in my hands, to check on the boys. “Mom. We’re trying to kill all the spiders.” I gaze up to a big beauty that has spun her work of art overnight out of reach of the “spider killers.” I am awed. The sun reflects off the “spun glass” creating a prism. In the corner, I can see she has trapped a wasp for dinner.
I glance over to the patch of grass where the moles have literally had a field day. Our 17-year old Siamese turned in his Mole Patrol badge last year. Until this fall, we had never had a problem with them. While our neighbor had dug in traps, filled their tunnels with water and let off smoke bombs all to no avail, we had simply let Bruce outside to do his part in assuring the balance of nature is kept. Much like the spiders.
The smell of baking bread wafts through the open window. I stand up from the steps and go back inside to check on my creation. Ahh…perfectly golden on top. Clean toothpick. I pull it from the oven to cool. From the front door, I call the boys in. They throw down their “swords” and run inside. I glance once more up to the lady in the corner and smile at her handiwork before heading inside myself.
Banana Bread with Chocolate and Walnuts
(adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg)
I don’t often make banana bread. I have the good fortune to live in the same city as that of what I consider to be the best banana bread…period. Mary’s banana bread at Sweet Ambrosia is so delicious that I usually take the “Why bother?” approach to my own homemade version; however, should I have a bowl full of brown bananas, this is the recipe I turn to.
6 tbls unsalted butter, melted
2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ c sugar
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips or chopped up dark chocolate bar (I like to use Scharffen Berger 70% cacao dark chocolate or Valrhona.)
½ c chopped walnuts
2 large eggs
1 ½ c mashed banana (about 3 ripe bananas)
¼ c well-stirred plain yogurt (whole, low-fat, non-fat, Greek – whatever you have lying around.)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5 inch (or other standard sized) loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the chocolate chips and walnuts. Stir well to combine. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla and stir to mix well. Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be thick and a bit lumpy but all the flour should be incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 50-60 minutes. The top should be a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean when the bread is done. (If it seems to be browning too quickly, tent the top with aluminum foil.)
Cool the loaf on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then, tip it out onto the rack and let it finish cooling. Slice. Eat. Enjoy.
My daughter and I discovered that, should you have any of this bread left the following day, you can bring it back to it’s “just baked” state by popping your slice in the microwave for 12 seconds. The bread will take on some warmth and the chocolate will just start to melt. Heavenly.
PS: If you have not discovered on your own the delightful Molly Wizenberg, I implore you to check out both her book, A Homemade Life, and her blog, Orangette. Both are well written and highly inspiring.
All original text and photos copyright: Carrie Minns 2009