a spirit-lifting banana bread

We missed a Gator football game last weekend, despite having had season tickets for years and years.  It was a big deal, missing that particular game, the Florida-LSU game.

I’ve been known to skip a game or two – okay, maybe even three – during the college football months. My usual reasons are: (1) work; or (2) the game will be over too late; or (3) it’s too darn hot; or (4) I just want to stay home and bake something and write and sit quietly, in a quiet house, with air conditioning, and access to clean bathrooms. My husband, though, he never skips a home game. Like, ever, in 20-plus years.

Sam injured his back a couple of months ago, during a workout, when he heard and felt a pop during one of the exercises. Over time, his symptoms worsened, an MRI showed a nasty ruptured disc, and he’s now seen an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon. There was an epidural injection last week (fingers-crossed that it was fungus-free), and there may be surgery in the future.

So we stayed home last weekend and skipped the game.

I spent a lot of time trying to write, trying to get words onto screen. But the good words – the right words that turn into great sentences and even better paragraphs – those words just wouldn’t come. Mostly I sat at my computer, watched the blinking cursor, and wrote crappy sentences. Which I would then delete. The sentences I wrote were depressing, accurately reflecting my mood, but not saying what I wanted, what I needed, to say.

Which is, simply, that I have been sad.

Over the past few weeks, I have been sad about Sam’s back and about how it’s affected him, his life, and his outlook on life. I have been sad about how this has affected  our family. Sam has missed family dinners, because he can’t sit on a hard chair at the dinner table. He can’t pick the kids up because of his pain. He can’t walk far and he can’t sit for long – and for these two reasons, we cancelled a meticulously planned trip to New York City that was to be this weekend. And we missed – more importantly, Sam missed – that game last Saturday.

So when the words didn’t come, when I continued to feel down, I did what I usually do next. I turned to food to lift my mood. No, not eating it – though sometimes that does help – but preparing it: chopping, measuring, mixing, stirring, cooking, and baking.

I made a big pot of chicken and sausage jambalaya Saturday evening. It had enough heat in it that we all had runny noses after eating a bowlful. On Sunday, I baked a big batch of chocolate chip cookies, part of my mission to perfect a recipe I’ve been working on. The kids thought they were great, but I was dissatisfied with them.

Truthfully, I was just plain dissatisfied.

After dumping a disappointing pan of cookies into the trashcan, I spied the bunch of brown-spotted bananas we’d bought earlier in the week, sitting forlornly on the counter. I decided to rescue them from our neglect and turn them into banana bread. And, in fact, I turned them into the best banana bread I’ve tasted in a very long time.

It was that banana bread that did the trick. As the bread baked, the heady, faintly sweet aromas filled the kitchen, warm and familiar and cozy, like my son’s beloved red blanket. Before even tasting the banana bread, I felt better, felt my spirits lift.

After tasting it, I knew my life – my attitude – was back on track.

Yield: 1 9-inch loaf

Banana Bread

I believe too many banana breads are ruined by nuts, so there are no nuts in this recipe. Feel free to add them if nuts are your thing. As is, this banana bread is so moist that it's almost creamy in texture, without being actually creamy. It is, simply, a perfect banana bread.


1 cup (4.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2.75 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ripe bananas
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream (light or full-fat)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the middle of oven. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.

Use the back of a fork to mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the melted butter, sugar, beaten egg, vanilla, and sour cream, and mix well. Finally, add in the flour mixture and stir until well-incorporated. Pour batter into the buttered loaf pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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21 Responses to “a spirit-lifting banana bread”

  1. 1
    Elizabeth — October 12, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your husband, and hope he’s on the mend soon. A sudden, dramatic change like that can affect so many things in the workings of a family, and it’s no wonder it had you feeling so off. This banana bread, looks completely amazing. It clearly has some serious powers, and I can’t wait to harness them in my own kitchen.

  2. 2
    Frances — October 12, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

    That banana bread looks wonderful. Wish I could smell it!

    So sorry to hear about your husband’s injury. For your peace of mind re the epidural injection he received, the CDC has information by state of the facilities that received the lots of Methylprednisolone Acetate (PF) recalled from New England Compounding Center on September 26, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/meningitis-facilities-map.html

    Wishing him the best,

    • 2.1
      Merry-Jennifer — October 13, 2012 @ 8:17 am

      Thank you, Frances! Luckily, the facility that he went to was not on that list. We’re very, very thankful.

  3. 3
    Sheri — October 13, 2012 @ 1:28 am

    Baking is a great comfort – I feel so bad for Sam! Back injuries are frustrating and painful! I tore a disc four years ago. Two years of Pilates and physical therapy and three epidurals, I still have to be very careful with my back. I hope he feels better soon.

  4. 4
    Km — October 13, 2012 @ 2:33 am

    Love banana bread! You should trythe one from Cooking Light sometime. I think it is coconut banana bread with lime glaze or something of that nature. Dark rum in the glaze and bread…it never lasts long around here and my kids gobble it up!!

  5. 5
    Km — October 13, 2012 @ 2:36 am

    Oh, and tell Sam I was in his shoes over last Christmas. I feel his pain and agree it sucks to be in pain but even more to have limitations we aren’t used to! All I can say is Cortisone rocks!! I go in for another shot at the end of the month.

  6. 6
    cathy @ Noble Pig — October 13, 2012 @ 10:48 am

    Nothing like a loaf to pick you right up! Yummy!

  7. 7
    Chloe — October 13, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

    My husband had back surgery 3 years ago -it was the only answer, he had broken disc pieces which pinched a nerve causing excruciating pain. His immediate problem was solved by the surgery but the circumstances surrounding such an event are ongoing. In his case it was age related. He’s in his late 60’s. It does change your outlook. I feel very sympathetic to your husband and truly hope that he will become pain- free with proper treatment. Baking is a wonderful solace. I’m glad you have that as it will probably help your whole family. And I want to try your banana bread. I love sour cream!

  8. 8
    Kathryn — October 14, 2012 @ 5:48 am

    I’m so sorry that the two of you have had to miss so many things that you were looking forward to; life has a way of throwing us these curveballs doesn’t it?

    I hope he will soon be on the mend and, in the meantime, you can find some peace in the kitchen.

  9. 9
    Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen — October 14, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about these tough times your little family is going through.. Wishing your husband a speedy recovery. Wonderful banana bread comfort here!!

  10. 10
    Deb — October 15, 2012 @ 11:51 am

    When I am restless, sad or filled with anxiety I find that when I busy my hands creating (just the act of getting started) my mind usually follows and the pattern is broken. I suppose that is why baking is commonly mentioned as therapy. And your Banana Bread certainly is a delicious way to ease into a place of comfort!

  11. 11
    girlnapurpledress@gmail.com — October 15, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

    I simply adore banana cake and must say due to the milk, egg, wheat & soy free type baking that I try to do, I have never tried banana cake with sour cream.. mmm, sounds delicious

  12. 12
    Katie (The Muffin Myth) — October 15, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

    Back injuries are the worst! I’ve had my fair share of back problems over the years, and my mom has now had three reconstructive surgeries on her spine. I know what you mean about how frustrating it is to watch someone in pain and missing out on things they love.

    Glad this banana bread lifted your spirits! It looks great, I especially like that it doesn’t have too much fat or sugar in it, compared to many banana bread recipes. I’ve bookmarked it to give it a try.

  13. 13
    Sheila — October 15, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

    So sorry to hear about your husband. I wish him a speedy recovery. I can relate to how you feel my son had back surgery in February. They put in a prodisc to replace his bad disc
    The banana bread looks wonderful

  14. 14
    Sue Riedl — October 16, 2012 @ 11:37 am

    Thanks for such a heartfelt and candid post. I am going to make your banana bread right now (RIGHT NOW), but the post itself was as inspiring as the recipe. You guys are certainly going through some rough times, I wish you all the best and hope the road back to health is smooth and paved with wonderful cooking.

  15. 15
    autumn — October 17, 2012 @ 6:25 am

    A perfect loaf of banana bread is an important thing! For both culinary and spiritual reasons. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  16. 16
    Gwen @SimplyHealthyFamily — October 22, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

    I’m sorry to hear that I know it’s heartbreaking to watch someone you love suffer.
    If he does have to have surgery I can tell you that it helps quite a bit with the pain (I assist in those surgeries all the time).
    Banana bread is one of my all time fav things, nuts and all 😉

  17. 17
    Kellie G — November 10, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

    Sorry to hear about your husband! Hope he’s doing better now. I have the bread baking in the oven now, though I “veganized” the recipe. Can’t wait til it’s done. The batter alone smells amazing! 🙂

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