July 7, 2010

Memories of Nana

There’s something special about grandmothers. On one hand they are all very much alike: their doting, their worrying, their ability to tell you something without it being a lecture, and lastly, telling you off without holding a grudge (for either party). On the other hand they all have their own personalities and quirks. Mine was no different.

My nana was a fiery little woman and one of the things she is remembered for is her baking. Not just doing it, but having a love for it too. While her children remember her baking mostly out of necessity, the grandchildren remember her for her cookies. My sister and I also remember her for her banana bread. When they returned from many years living in northern Ontario, one couldn’t leave their house without being loaded down with a few bags of chocolate chip cookies, a loaf or two of some kind, and probably some jams or relish depending on the time of year. When I lived overseas for a while, I quickly learnt what to expect in her care packages. My colleagues came to love her cookies as well.

My nana passed away many years ago but her recipes live on in the hearts and memories of her family. She’s also gained a reputation in families that have merged with ours. My Honey’s extended family love her sugar cookies and have learnt that when I say ‘It was my nana’s recipe’ that seconds will be wanting.

Ironically I have learnt many things from her since her passing. The first time I made her sugar cookies I was surprised they didn’t taste the same. Then I realized she always made them with love and I had made them out of necessity. Since then, whenever I bake I make sure I’m doing it with love, even when I’m doing a crazy bake-off. Love is what makes it taste good.

Her banana bread is made often, especially to use up those brownish bananas and it tastes wonderful every time. I usually make it as is, maybe cutting the sugar in half (when I remember), and it doesn’t last long. Most of the time I share it with others; colleagues, students, friends, and I think the reason is because they all enjoy it. It’s so easy to make that I normally make a few at a time; more to go around. My sister and I have never tried to find another recipe for banana bread, nor wanted to. To us this one is perfect. I hope you enjoy it and as you make it, you have memories of your nana.

Nana’s Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf
1 cup sugar
4 tbs melted butter
1 egg, beaten
3 small bananas or 2 large bananas, mashed
1 ½ cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ tsp guar gum
Cream together sugar, egg and butter. Add bananas, then flour, soda and salt. Mix well. Put into a loaf pan and bake for 1 hour at 350˚.

* If you double the recipe, use two separate pans otherwise it won’t cook all the way through.
** Can halve the sugar without consequences.
Bananas are the perfect texture for banana bread when they are frozen when overripe, and then thawed ahead of time for baking. Just make sure to thaw them in a bowl, they tend to leak.

This recipe probably came from my Nana’s Five Roses Cookbook. It’s one of those cookbooks that has become an institution and as I’ve learnt, I’m not the only one who has fond memories of the baking that came out of this book. A cousin recently received one at her bridal shower from her mother, who received her copy from her grandmother (the bride’s great grandmother). Here’s a link I found that gives you an idea how much it’s been a part of Canadian culture, and maybe helped shape us as a people. http://www.kenorapubliclibrary.org/museum/history/social/social.aspx?id=1693&TierSlicer1_TSMenuTargetID=1693&TierSlicer1_TSMenuTargetType=1&TierSlicer1_TSMenuID=445


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