Life Is More than Food

I value healthy eating, but by the seventh mention of bowel movements, I totally checked out. I’d gone to a baking class to learn about something I considered complicated—making bread. But I got a lot more than that for my eight dollars. In addition to learning about all things yeasty, I was also treated to a dissertation on the evils of pre-packaged foods and forced to listen as the teacher waxed rhapsodic about the unfathomable joy that could be mine if I made everything from scratch. Like buy-grain-in-bulk-and-grind-your-own-flour-in-a-mill-from-scratch.

To quote Hall and Oates, “I can’t go for that. No can do.”

Don’t misread my reticence. I’m not one of those people who eschews anything to do with good nutrition. In fact, I avoid fast food as much as possible, drink plenty of water, and eat my veggies. (Seriously, I actually like Brussell sprouts.) But to spend nearly every waking moment of my life thinking about what I eat and how I should buy, store, and prepare it is beyond my ken. If you’ll forgive me the dead metaphor/bad grammar super combo, it might be some folks’ bread and butter, but it ain’t my cup of tea.

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Hecks to the yes, I value wellness. As a person who’s lived with multiple sclerosis for nearly ten years, I know what it feels like when your body turns traitor and refuses to work the way it should. But expending such an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy in the name of good health makes me wonder if the term “quality of life” has as many shades of meaning as Kool-Aid has uses for Yellow No. 5. To me, a life spent checking labels and prepping food to squirrel away in Tupperware boxes doesn’t make me want to do the Cupid Shuffle or “go tell it on the mountain.” I love to eat delicious, wholesome meals, but if I have to make a choice between spending my life creating them or crafting poetry, the latter will win. Every single time.

In C.S. Lewis’ masterwork, The Screwtape Letters, the title character (who just happens to be a demon) advises his nephew to tempt a person with gluttony. He says, “We can use a human belly and palate to produce querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness, and self-concern” by “concentrating all our efforts on gluttony of Delicacy, not gluttony of Excess.” In other words, Lewis says, the desire for a perfect slice of toast or ideal cup of tea can never be fulfilled, and in searching for it, a person’s stomach “dominates” his/her life to the detriment of everything else.

I still want to learn everything there is to know about baking bread—but not so I can fend off some invisible specter of illness or fear. I want to bake to help feed the hungry, to teach my future children the value of making something with your hands, and to welcome others to my table to fellowship. After all, what good is lifetime spent filling my stomach with good things only to wake up one day and discover my soul is empty and my heart starved?

Om Nom Nom Nanner Bread!

Perhaps it’s because autumn is approaching or I have some inexplicable need to nest now because I feel like Babe, Pig in the Big City. For whatever reason, I’ve felt an unquenchable desire to make tasty baked goods as of late. There’s something about baking that’s so much more gosh darned fun than straight up cooking. I mean, really, there’s nothing nutritional about baking–unless you make flax seed, granola, and wheat germ laden natural goods, but who in her right mind wants to eat THAT?

So, yeah, I’ve been baking. First, it was orange cranberry muffins made with zested orange peel. Then I got crazy and made a two layer chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and a chocolate ganache glaze. The latter of the two was pure sin. Seriously, if I were Catholic, I would have bring it up in confession and say about twelve Hail Marys or Hello Dollys or whatever it is they do for penance.

The problem is that I can’t keep satisfying my need to bake and still fit in my pants if I keep choosing to bake using two sticks of butter and heavy cream in every recipe. Hence, I went looking for something low fat and relatively tasty. I came across a recipe for banana bread and tweaked it a little to make it my own.

Here’s everything you’ll need and a step-by-step photo guide to help you make your own version of this tasty and not-too-terribly-fattening loaf pan o’ heaven.

1. Set your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease a loaf pan.

3. Using a sifter, combine 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour.

4. Add 3/4 cup of white sugar.

5. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder

6. Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

7. Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (get the good stuff!)

8. Sift it like it’s 1999 and set aside.

9. Excess dry ingredients are easily disposed of. Make ’em “sleep with the dishes.” (Pun totally intended!)

10. Select some medium bananas. I like to use three, but two might suffice.

11. Cut ’em up, mush ’em up, waaaayyyy up!

12a. Dispose of banana refuse….

12b. Or use them in a hilarious practical joke on an unsuspecting guest!

13. Select two eggs.

14. Separate out the whites.

15. Dispose of the yolks (or save them to make Creme Brulee).

16. Put smushed nanners in the dry goods.

17. Add egg whites.

18. Add 1/2 cup of applesauce. *The recipe I found called for a 1/4 cup, but my first batch came out a little too dry for my liking, so I added a little more.*

19. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.

20. Add 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts and a 1/3 cup golden raisins.

21. Stir until combined, but don’t go crazy with it.

22. Pour into greased loaf pan.

23. Put in oven.

24. Set timer. (I checked at 45, and it wasn’t done. I ended up baking it for 50 minutes.)

25. Contemplate your place in the universe and/or the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow (African or European).

26. Check it with a toothpick. It should, like Andy Dufresne, “come out clean on the other side.”


27. Defend your delicious creation from your prowling spouse!

28. Have the leftovers from your first attempt nearby to distract him as the delicious cake cools.

What you’ll have is a cake that is fairly good for you and totally ready to…