Thursday, June 10, 2010


Banana bread was my first real success in Bolivia and quickly became a staple in our house.  Every Latin American country has their own version of banana bread, but more than the flavor, what I remember are the women selling it.
The women at Lago Atitlan, Guatemala are hard to forget.  They balanced trays of banana bread on their heads, while relentlessly howling "Pan de Banano" until you, along with your eardrums, had been pounded into submission and bought a piece.  I later lived with the wonderful Emily in Xela, Guatemala, who would call out "Pan de Banano" and other varriations in her scarily accurate impressions.
As for my Bolivian Banana Bread, I can say with confidence that the countless loaves it were better than those of the Mennonite-run Bake Shop in Xela (to my Xela roomates, this is not meant to be a brag, simply the truth.) 
For my bread, I would buy bottles of honey corked with a worn down nub of corncob, and half-rotten bananas stacked up like Lincoln logs on crates.  At home, my cooling rack was a spare refrigerator rack, and I used a serrated knife to grind the nutmeg.  After picking seeds out of my suppodesly seedless rasins, and chopping Brazil nuts (which Bolivians confusingly call almendras) I would follow this well-tested recipe:

1/3 C Vegetable Oil
1/2 C Honey
1t Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
2 C Smashed Banana (I like it with a bit more, or to substitute some of the oil)
1 1/3 C Whole-Wheat Flour
1/2 t Salt
Cinnamon & Nutmeg to taste
1 t Baking Soda
1/4 C Hot Water
1/2 C Chopped Nuts

-Preheat oven to 165° C
-Beat together Oil, Honey, Eggs; then stir in Banana (I mix in the Cinnamon and Nutmeg when I smash the banana) and Vanilla
-Add Flour and Salt
-Add Baking Soda to hot Water and add to batter
-Blend in Nuts
-Bake 50-55 minutes is a greased 5"x9" pan
-Cool 30 minutes before serving

So there you've got it folks, and here's one important note to keep in mind: I strongly believe in eating local and have officially given up bananas since leaving Latin America.  So please think about it before you buy something such as bananas that are grown with pesticides, shipped from so far away, and grown/harvested by underpaid and undersupported workers.  Not to be a downer, but this is important, so maybe hold out for an upcoming carrot or zuchinni bread recipe!

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