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Not by banana bread alone ...

A recipe to bring generations together

By Andy PottsPublished 4 years ago 3 min read
Applying the finishing touches.

Step one: Take one kitchen, a little boy and his mother. Wait for a rainy afternoon when the weather is too bleak to go outside. Season with the detail that it’s 1980, kids’ TV runs for a couple of hours each day, and there’s a long time to fill between lunch and dinner. Start preparing some pastry.

That was page one of the cookbook of my life. I was a lucky child. Mum was able to stay home during my pre-school years – what’s the point of having kids then giving them to someone else to raise, she reasoned – and I got to see a lot of what she did around the home. And baking days were always special. Stirring the mix, licking the spoon, enjoying the scent of home cooking from the oven.

Step two: Roll out the pastry dough. Shape as required. Hand the off-cuts to the little boy.

If there were pies or quiches on the menu, I got an extra treat. Hot, sticky, kiddie fingers eagerly grabbed any spare pieces of pastry dough. Kneaded, rolled, scrunched back into a ball, rolled out again; repeat until the colour was a uniform, unappetising grey. Then beg a few nuts or raisins and demand that my misshapen lumps of scruffy ‘biscuit’ go into the oven with the real meal. Later, when Daddy comes home, insist that he eats some of these so-called treats.

Step three: Leave to stand for decades. Gradually add a wife, then a child of your own.

Those afternoons of ‘helping’ mummy in the kitchen were half forgotten. By accident or design, I picked up a few handy recipes, a couple of dishes that could be relied upon. Then my own child, aged three at the time, spotted a cooking class at her local soft play. And the memories came back.

Step four: Begin a new recipe. Take one bouncy toddler, one anxious dad, and a room full of people who seem to know far more about what they’re doing.

Stepping into the class for the first time was an anxious moment. My daughter was bubbling with excitement. A soft play area, and within it, a special room where a lady would show us how to bake a cake. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, as far as Dad could see. Flour, water, eggs and an enthusiastic but impetuous toddler. It didn’t take the vision of a van Gogh to imagine a slick of sticky, gooey dough all over wall or floor. Red-faced apologies, prolonged scrubbing, wailing infants and disapproving mums (dads, as everyone knows, don’t take their kids to cookery class; we’re strictly for sports-related activities).

Step five: Separate preconceptions. Set aside half-baked fears.

It was an education for both of us. Alicia started to learn about mixing ingredients, started to understand how following a process can lead to results. Dad learned a valuable lesson about trusting kids with tasks and helping them to achieve what they set out to do. We both learned that Tuesday mornings had changed, and Tiny Tasters was a new fixture in our weekly schedule.

Step six: Simmer a pandemic over a low heat. Adapt to new circumstances. It’s important to do this quickly, for the sake of everyone’s sanity.

Before long, though, coronavirus changed everything. Cooking classes had to stop, baking in the kitchen was the new normal. In those early weeks of lockdown, the recipes we learned were a starting point for new food adventures. Banana bread was not exactly a recipe handed down from my mother, although she did a delicious spicy walnut loaf. We learned it together and it proved endlessly adaptable. Not to mention great fun for a child. Full of good, tactile processes: cream the butter and sugar, beat the egg and stir it in, mash up the banana and stir again. Sprinkle in the spices, carefully fold in the flour (plus cocoa powder, plus chocolate chips) and watch the whole thing turn gloriously gloopy. Spoon it into a cake tin and bake for as long as it takes to wash up.

By Carolien Dekeersmaeker - originally posted to Flickr as Banana Chocolate Chip Bread, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10389686

Step seven: Serve the banana bread warm, ideally with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Use as a gateway to the pleasures of food.

Now baking is a family thing. The hugely indulgent cakes of Mummy’s childhood are show-stoppers. Armenian gata draws on one side of the family heritage – and echoes our wedding day. Starting to grow fruit and veg in the garden meant foraging for a rhubarb crumble, or gathering rosemary and chives to season a casserole. And dad feels a little bit younger, while daughter feels that bit more grown-up.

humanity

About the Creator

Andy Potts

Community focused sports fan from Northeast England. Tends to root for the little guy. Look out for Talking Northeast, my new project coming soon.

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    Andy PottsWritten by Andy Potts

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