My mother made one banana bread recipe my whole life. She learned it from her mother, who got it from the 4-H cookbook that was printed in the 1950s sometime. It requires Crisco, 4 ripe bananas, 4 eggs, sugar, less flour than you’d expect, a pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla. It makes a wet dough, and 2 solid loaves that need more than the 1 hour baking time listed, unless you like it a little raw in the middle. There are no nuts in this bread, and my grandmother forbade ever doubling any recipe, even this one. “If it doesn’t work you’ve wasted twice as much” she’d say.
My mom and her 6 siblings ate a lot of banana bread growing up, not just because of the great 4-H recipe. My grandfather owned a small grocery store, and whenever bananas got too ripe to sell, he’d bring them home to feed his brood. Even after her 70th birthday, my mother gagged when I offered her a fully ripe banana: “If it’s not green, I don’t want it,” she’d say. “Make banana bread.”
The day she died I came home to 4 overripe bananas on my counter, and I dug out the recipe, copied from the 4-H cookbook in Myra’s best (still nearly illegible) handwriting. I was exhausted, but wanted something to do. So I made two heavy loaves, baked an hour and 20 minutes to cook them through. A gift she gave me, in this recipe, fed me and my family in those first terrible days.
I was grateful for it.