There is bread I am not fond of. The ryes, the pumpernickels, some sourdoughs – they leave me feeling despondent and disappointed. Especially that one weird rye/pumpernickel hybrid that is swirled like its some kind of delicious marbled bundt cake or something. That is real false advertising. Its not sweet at all and there’s a malt back taste and a bitterness overall that I feel is not appropriate for bread.
I know that these loaves are usually served as a background for lovely corned beef and other fine salty deli meats that overcome the beery anise flavor that the rye imparts, but why not just eat the meat itself and avoid the little seeds in your teeth that drive you crazy all day unless you are smart and thrifty like me and squirrel/ferret away old toothpicks in your car and purse for years at a time?
Challah I love, I am not coming after all the deli breads. Challah I absolutely love. Don’t talk shit about challah. And bagels – well, that is a bread I could eat solely forever and ever. The bagel is the staff of life. I love bagels and I would choose a bagel over a donut, caviar – maybe even chocolate – yes that is my love for bagels. But not blueberry bagels. They have always had a fearsome resemblance to blueberry poptarts, which are not good (although strawberry poptarts are very very very good).
The bread that I love, that I worship, that I give as gifts not only to myself and those I admire, is banana bread. I am not wild about bananas as a fruit. They’re ok I guess, starchy and sweet and bland. They are edible, but they aren’t my favorite. But you mix them into a batter and bake them with nuts – they become something totally different.
The banana bread I love most comes from a lovely café about a mile from my home, and in order for me allow myself to eat it, I must walk the distance there. Of course I never do this, but I tell myself that this is going to happen sometime. I will allow myself that indulgence if I walk there as an aerobic absolution.
The banana bread is baked on site in the silent early morning hours of the baker/pastry chef. They always struck me as the ascetics of the food/wine world. Chefs and bartenders and waitstaff seem to lead the same lives as comedians and musicians. We are night workers. When the rest of the world gets off work, we are just starting so we can serve them. We deal in pleasure, the pleasure of others, and hopefully we take prodigious pleasure in ourselves from our professions.
But the bakers, the pastry chefs, the ones with the exact measurements and the icy hands, they have to get up early and get it going and get the dough rising before the world is rising. They are of the monastic stock that have no part in me, but its ironic because what they bring forth is the most decadent thing I can eat. Bread. I say it and I feel weak. Bread. I eat it and I am immediately guilty. Banana bread, I love you. Bakers and pastry chefs, I salute you. I am going to walk to that café now.
Ps. Pumpkin bread is fucking good shit too.