Wednesday, 23 August 2017 14:20

Defining banana bread a bitter swallow sometimes

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In a doctor’s exam room, in which seven framed credentials hang askew on a wall, I sit and wait.

Opposite the degrees and certifications, there’s a list of common wait times for various imaging services. It’s not much in the way of reading material, but there are no National Geographics laying about. And, because a rush to leave the house earlier today also means I missed reading my morning cereal box, the list will have to do.
I’ve read down to MRI three times by the time my stomach begins to gurgle and squeak and remind me of breakfast.
I’m about to unzip a sandwich baggie containing a slice of chocolate banana bread when the door opens and a neat-as-a-pin man, with a soft-voiced, Eastern European accent comes in.
Following a cursory exam, where I bend this way and that, he sits down and picks up a clipboard.
“What is your work?” he asks as he raises a gold pen.
“I write,” I reply. “I’m a writer.”
There’s a moment of silence.
“And this is something you make money at?” he asks, seeming to decide whether to take me seriously or, like others before him, not.
“Usually,” I say.
“So you are a housewife,” he says. A statement rather than a question.
“Other than the writing?” I ask, simultaneously thinking about a year’s worth of deadlines that sit upon my undusted desk, and how last night’s dinner dishes are still soaking in the kitchen sink.
“I work from home. I write fiction and I’m a food columnist,” I offer, wondering whether he’d ask a man claiming to be a writer the same thing.
“So you’re a cook,” he says.
“Yes. For work. After I write.”
“At home,” he adds.
He returns to his clipboard and mutters “Housewife” as he writes down the same.
By his demeanor, I understand that we’re meant, now, to move on.
Later, when I return home to my office, the word “Housewife” has worked its way into my craw.
I am a wife. I have a house, but even if I didn’t also write, the term would stick there in my throat, like a fishbone that can only be dislodged with a swallow of bread. A fishbone that’s been whittled down to the sum of my marital and residential status.
Nearly always spoken with some measure of dismissal, Housewife, in the current culture, seems to mean one of two things:
1) A woman who “gets to” stay home while everyone else goes to their “real jobs.” (Incidentally, so-called Housewives are among the busiest and most emotionally taxed people I know.)
2) A new-moneyed trophy wife whose plastic surgeries are filmed for reality TV.
In the first case, Housewife has unfairly become a shortened version of Just-a-Housewife.
The second deserves no more mention.
I, however, am neither. I write more than I launder, mop and scrub. And if working from home also means I’m sometimes able to wash dishes in the middle of the afternoon, it’s not the dishes that define my day or my work.
At this point, however, there’s nothing for it except a swallow of bread.
I fish the banana loaf from my purse, take it to my desk, and wait for my throat to relax, and the fishbone in it begin to go down.
Chocolate Banana Bread
1/2 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk or buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 2/3 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
1 cup milk chocolate chips

In the bowl of a large electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar and cocoa powder. Mix in eggs, vanilla and milk.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add to butter mixture, a little at a time, and beat just until smooth. Fold in bananas and chocolate chips.
Butter and flour a loaf pan. Scrape batter into pan. Sprinkle with a little more sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Place on a rack to cool for 15 minutes before turning out to cool completely.

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