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Let’s Cook: Back to School with Bananas

This is the time of year when I think back on attending school and all the traditions associated with that time period. Recently, I witnessed a woman cleaning her outside windows and it immediately reminded me of how this fall task was done in our home.

It often happened when one could feel the chill of fall in the air–a signal that soon days would be turning cooler. My mother and her friend, Ida Hoppe, would schedule a day to help each other clean windows. Once my four brothers and I were off to school and dad was at work, Ida pulled into the yard to begin the task of fall window cleaning with mom.

The ladder, step stool, and cleaning elements had been gathered the evening before–that way when morning came, they could begin their routine with coffee first and a tour through the flower garden. After window cleaning, they would thin out the iris beds. Even though it was a busy day of work, they enjoyed the company of one another as they completed two important fall tasks.

Once in high school I had to return home during that day to fetch something, and I had the pleasure of seeing their smooth system of removing screens and replacing them with storm windows. Remember those days before we had the convenience of combination windows? It was like they were at a picnic; they were in total conversation and at ease with one another and often laughing. I stood out of sight so that I could relish more of this contented moment of life being well lived.

They both appreciated many of the same things in life. So, bending down and plucking withered blooms and weeds was enjoyable. Sometimes the purple haze of smoke-filled air, along with a crisp wind called upon them, reminding them that the chilling hand of frost was not far behind. They transplanted yellow and purple irises that would rest in autumn’s sleeping time and awaken in spring’s song of flowers.

Upon arriving home after school their handiwork was complete with shiny storm windows in place, and irises tucked into bed for the winter. It was once again coffee and snack time. My mother’s go-to-after-school snack was banana bread. She had mastered her recipe and once it was spread with butter, we were all content.

Seeing the recent window cleaning has reminded me what a worthwhile contribution Ida and my mother made to our home and also to their own friendship. They demonstrated to me that life’s richest blessings come to those who offer a hand of service to others. When a friend will bend to help with the replanting of irises, you witness their true beauty and appetite for what is possible. It was a friendship that was real, true and well-meaning of the name.

Seeing five boys returning from school through a clear window had to be a satisfying moment for my mom. Knowing that she was our all and all and now to see with the teachers’ help, each son would see the path where he must go. This proves that window cleaning in worth the “pane” and effort.

Here are two banana recipes that we enjoyed as after school treats. The banana pudding has a wonderful custard texture and the evaporated milk certainly gives it a rich taste. Both are easy recipes to use when you want to go bananas in the kitchen.

Banana Pudding

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

2 tablespoons flour

1 can of evaporated milk

3 eggs

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, divided

3-4 bananas

3/4 box vanilla wafers

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Mix 1 cup of sugar and flour in medium saucepan. Separate eggs. Stir egg yolks until blended. Add milk in same cup as egg yolks. Slowly stir mixture into sugar mixture until well blended.

Cook over low heat, stirring often, until a custard forms and thickens. Remove thickened custard from heat, add butter and allow to melt. Cool. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and blend.

Layer wafers and bananas in a baking dish. Pour the custard over wafers and bananas.

Add cream of tartar to egg whites. Using electric mixer, beat until frothy. Continue beating and add ½ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Spread on top. Bake at 375 degrees 10 to 12 minutes, until brown. Cool well. This will serve 6-8.

Banana Nut Bread

1 cup sugar (scant)

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

2 large bananas (mashed)

8 Tablespoons whole milk

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (sifted 3 times)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugar well. Add eggs one at a time. Add mashed bananas, milk and dry ingredients which have been sifted together. Fold in nuts. Pour into 1 large loaf pan or two smaller ones. Bake in 350-degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes.

Banana Tips:

Save banana peelings and place in quart jar and fill with water. After two days this water is excellent for watering houseplants. If water is thick it can be thinned with more water before using. Good bananas are plump and firm. When yellow with green tips, they are ready for cooking or eating raw, although some people prefer them fully ripe with brown flecked skin for eating. After they reach the stage you like, send them to the refrigerator. Once the ripening process has been stopped by the cold, it never starts again. If the skin turns brown under refrigeration, don’t go bananas–the inside will remain attractive!

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