“Did you know that this is the same recipe my grandmother, your great-grandmother, used to make banana bread. It was passed down to my mother who passed it down to me and now I’m passing it down to you.”
She was just four years old, standing on the stepstool so that she could reach the kitchen counter, big brown eyes looking up at me excitedly because this girl LOVES to bake. We carefully measured each ingredient, but when it came time to add the bananas, she knew what was coming and had the potato masher at the ready. As we squished those bananas through the masher, we squealed, “Ewwww! It’s the banana worms! Banana worms everywhere!” This was our silly tradition when we made banana bread. She had watched her older brother do it and now she was taking over this sacred duty.
And then, in what seemed like no time at all, my girl and I were standing at the kitchen counter side-by-side, now without a stepstool nearby. One day, as we measured and poured and mashed, she said, “Mom, you know what I think? I think this recipe needs a little bit of cinnamon.” I’ll admit that I was caught off guard. Could we do it? Could we mess with a recipe which had stood the test of time and, as far as I knew, had never been altered. “Go for it sweetie!”, I replied. And she did. She added that dash of cinnamon and we baked up that bread and when her brother so graciously offered to be our official taste-tester he declared, “This is the best banana bread you’ve ever made!” And it was. Adding just that little pinch of cinnamon had taken something we already thought was pretty amazing and put it over the top. And we’ve been making it that way ever since.
It’s a tricky thing messing with tradition. Because, I think that what we cherish most about traditions is the continuity they bring to our lives. The…sameness. That invisible thread that links us to our past, present and future and can be relied upon when everything else around us changes so quickly. But, I think my grandmother would have approved of that hint of cinnamon. In fact, I think she would have agreed that it should have been in the recipe all along.
My girl is almost twelve now and a few months ago she informed me that she not only knows the recipe by heart AND that she can bake the bread all by herself. I had been relegated to ‘sous’ chef status.
That day, as I watched her gathering ingredients and hovered nearby ready to assist her, she said to me, “Mom, now that I know this recipe I can make it for my kids someday without having to call you to get it!” She must have noticed the slight grimace on my face as I imagined a life where my daughter doesn’t call me because she quickly followed it with, “but there are SO many other recipes I’ll need to learn so I’m sure I’ll be calling you every day!”
That’s more like it.
And for a split second I could picture standing in her own kitchen with her own kiddos, heads thrown back in laughter as they make ‘banana worms’ with the masher and listening intently as she says to them, “Did you know that this is the same recipe your great-great-grandmother, used to make banana bread. It was passed all the way down to my mother who passed it down to me and now I’m passing it down to you.”
And we wanted to share it with you too.