chocolate chunk banana loaf

Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already? The world was not wheeling anymore. It was just very clear and bright and inclined to blur at the edges. ― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

We always thought things would be different. We practiced idealism like sacrament, viewed the road that lay ahead of us as the promise land. A land worth fighting for. That Saturday, when we tossed our black hats up toward the sky we felt bound by nothing. We were jubilant. Let the shackles fall from our ankles. And the stampede! We ran on the hot pavement, away, away, from the flannel shirts, Nirvana, verdant lawns, apathy and dollar drafts. I tell you, it was a thing to see: the motley lot fleeing into the dark forest. We promised we’d hold hands like in grade school, but somewhere along the way, through the thicket, we lost one another. We let go. Don’t look back. Ours was a suspicious generation, one that didn’t care — or so we were always told by the elders — but we would still lay claim to the land. Carve out our place in it. Get the jobs we were meant to have; erect grand houses; have beautiful children. We set our clocks and watched them tick. Some of us respectfully declined wedding invitations. Others took planes across the ocean. Some of us passed away, and a few found it hard to let those four years fade. The sea was red and the sky was grey, wondered how tomorrow could ever follow today. The mountains and the canyons started to tremble and shake, as the children of the sun began to awake.

Graduation, June 1997

I look at this picture — of me holding a film camera, graduating with honors, ready for a job in investment banking — and I sometimes weep. Everything was so tragically clear back then, the world was mine for the taking, and I was ambitious, opinionated, arrogant, kind, loud and passionate. That Saturday I was also still drunk from the night before and reeling from the fact that I told my mother I never wanted to see her again. That I was done. I would spend the next decade recovering from this hurt. I would spend the next decade playing barnacle to a bottle of red wine. Letting some of my friends in this picture fade into film. But on that day I didn’t know any of this. I didn’t know that I’d take one job to leave it for another. Attend graduate school to leave it, cutting lines with my school ID card and flying to California, to the ocean, to take pills, tremble and shake. Back then the sheets bled red wine. My heart was a river and thankfully I was able to pull myself back to shore.

And here I am again. Half a life away from the day I walked onto that campus — the first in my family to attend college — determined to travel far, far away from where I’d come. And then I think about me in the next half life. Hopeful that I will have made a tremendous leap because I’m getting antsy in my own skin. Feeling the tension of being in the betweens, half here, half in the life I want to make for myself. Soon. Don’t look back.

Today I wanted to go back to all that was comforting. A recipe that felt like home, and so I tinkered with my banana loaf, making it a little more delicious with an infusion of dark chocolate to temper the sweetness. The combination of coconut oil and almond milk render a moist bread with an undercurrent of nutty flavor. This loaf was pure perfection and it gave me solace as I started to think about all that lay ahead.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
1 cup coconut oil
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups ripe mashed banana (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup almond milk
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9×5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray; set aside. I opted to use a larger pan and a a muffin tin because I felt a little rebellious today. However, feel free to color in the lines. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and coconut oil on medium-low speed until combined. Beat in the flour mixture, slowly. Add the vanilla, banana and almond milk, and beat just to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes. Since my oven is hot, I tend to start checking at 50 minutes. Call me paranoid.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely. Bread can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic, for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.


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