I wanted to be a teacher
When I was little, maybe between the ages of five and seven, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I loved my teachers at school, and because of them (or maybe just because of me) I loved school. Also, my mother was a teacher, and I thought she was pretty great, so I would become a teacher, too.
Later, when I was a little older, I wanted to be a veterinarian. We always had lots of animals, mostly cats and a dog or two. The cats lived outside and were called the Outside Cats. I was partial to the cats, and I still am. I used to name them very clever names, like Blackey and Whitey and Pumpkin, based on the color of their coats. There was also Mama Cat, and you can guess why she was named that. The first cat that I considered my own was called Mindy, named after a character on my then-favorite television show, Mork and Mindy.
One day, I went with my mother to take one of the cats to our veterinarian. I don’t recall which one, but I’m certain he or she must have been very ill – regular checkups were not a thing with our family back then (neither for animals or humans). I watched the vet take the cat’s temperature, using a rectal thermometer. I no longer wanted to be a vet.
During my high school and college years, I became convinced that I would be a clinical psychologist. Silence of the Lambs came out in 1991, during my first year of college. I was intrigued by Jodie Foster’s character, and I thought that maybe I would study forensic psychology. I liked the idea of delving into the minds of people who needed help, figuring out why their minds worked that way, and hopefully helping them in some way. I stuck with this plan, and I graduated from college with a B.S. in psychology. I was pleased with myself for knowing what I wanted to do and doing it.
It was only when I was halfway through a Masters-level graduate program in psychology that I realized I really did not want to spend the rest of my working years as a psychologist. I wanted to help people in a different way. I wanted more science and less theory. I wanted to be a medical doctor.
Let’s now flash forward twenty years – wow, that sounds like a long time – and here I am, an academic hematologist-oncologist. Not only do I get to see patients, but I also get to do some research, I get to write (academic stuff, sure, but sometimes it gets published!), and I get to teach the next generation of doctors and oncologists.
I updated my curriculum vitae last week, something I make myself do every few months, and I was reflecting on my career in medicine. My path to becoming an oncologist was winding and long (so long) but I’m incredibly happy with what I’m doing. As cheesy as it sounds, I really love each aspect of my life in academics – the clinical work, the research, and the teaching. It’s that last aspect, the medical education piece, that I’ve been surprisingly delighted with.
And I remembered that, when I was a little girl, so many years ago, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.
* * * * *
The story above has nothing to do with this banana cake with cream cheese frosting, of course. But this is a great cake, ad I wanted you to have it. So consider this recipe a bonus. The icing on the cake, if you will.
Yield: Serves 8-10.
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
The pairing of cream cheese frosting with banana is a favorite of mine. The cake is wonderful without the frosting, but a top coat of frosting really makes it a special dessert.
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/4 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
2/3 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, measured first, then sifted
Prepare and Bake Cake:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle position. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, line with a parchment round, then butter and flour the parchment-lined pan.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together softened butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well blended. Beat in bananas, yogurt, vanilla, and rum (mixture may look curdled).
With mixer at low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.
Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 45 minutes. Cool cake in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely, right side up, before frosting.
Using an electric hand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla extract. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until frosting is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.
When cake is cool to the touch, spread frosting evenly on top of cake.
Note: Can be made one day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate overnight. Let cake stand at room temperature for 2 hours before serving.