phantom flavors

thoughts on the taste of bananas, a recipe, a soup announcement

Over the past decade or so, I’ve been clocking a reoccurring sensation: every so often when I take a bite of something, I get hit with the strange taste of bananas. Kale, avocado, tortillas … At this point, it is almost punishing me, reminding me that I can’t escape it, shaming me for all of the bananas I let rot near fermentation in the wicker basket on my shelf. My recent plum vinegar experimentation has brought wafting smells of distant banana as if its trying to put a spell on me. I’m coining this banana recall a “phantom flavor” experience (if anyone happens to know a technical term for this, please do chime in). The only thing that the internet offered me in trying to diagnose this issue was a message board from 2009, that basically told me I’m either crazy or sick.

I have a complicated relationship with bananas. I’m one of those people who like them green (between a 3 - 4 in the above banana spectrum). Yeah, yeah; I’m envisioning half of you pursing your faces at that declaration, which is the case most of the time I let someone know my true feelings about bananas. The minute the banana starts to ripen, it is game over for me. Therefore, I make a lot of banana bread.

spiced banana bread w/ sesame seeds and honey

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (or, upgrade to brown butter)
1 cup (190 g) dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 medium bananas (about 379 g), mashed
1/3 cup (144 g) plain or Greek yogurt
2 large eggs
2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, plus more for topping
2 1/2 tbsp turbinado sugar (granulated sugar won’t cut it here!)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees°F. Line the bottom of a 9 x 5 loaf pan with parchment paper.

  2. Mix butter with brown sugar by hand or with a stand mixer and a paddle attachment, followed by the honey, eggs, and vanilla.

  3. Add the mashed bananas and yogurt to the wet mixture until combined.

  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Once sifted, add the sesame seeds.

  5. Add the dry mixture into the wet until just combined. Don’t overmix here!

  6. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the top with turbinado sugar, followed by the sesame seeds. Cover the entire surface — this is the best part!

  7. Bake for about 55 minutes. It may take less time in your oven, so check after 50 minutes.

  8. After the bread is done in the oven, let cool completely before eating. Enjoy with some tahini and honey.

I’m compiling an archive of all of my recipes (and potential future recipes that don’t quite make the cut for the newsletter) on my new website designed by my friend Matt!

soup is back?

Earlier this year, I had a small stint of making quarts of soup and selling them to friends. I had to “close up shop” because of COVID, but I’ve been toying around with the idea of bringing it back for the cold weather. Instead of the older model of an Instagram announcement of one soup every other week, I’ll have a few soups of the month and several open days where you can sign up in advance! It was a great experience for me to juggle making soup for 20+ people on the weekends, but this way I can put much more care into each specific order. This time there will be both meat (yeah, I forgot to mention that I eat meat now …) and vegan options, plus whatever add-ons I’m feeling at the moment. I will also have the option to special order! <3 I’ll send out more information on this in an upcoming newsletter.

foot notes

not too much here this week, but wanted to leave a few things …

  • Iteration 1: Alex Jackson cooks Patience Gray in Vittles

    Patience Gray’s Honey from a Weed sits on my desk, accompanying me daily as I work. It’s a really special book — just as much about lifestyle as it is about cooking.

    It’s a book about ”Fasting and Feasting”: a cycle of hardship and plenty that was for millennia familiar to the people of the areas of the Mediterranean she tells us about. Gray writes so terribly well about ‘basic food’, by which I mean recipes that came from real hardship. As she writes of the island of Naxos, “poverty at all times stared one in the face”.

I’m in the process of editing the first Food Notes mini-podcast (calling it mini to relieve pressure off myself) co-hosted by one of my best friends and favorite people to talk food with, Sophie of Daily Enjoy. In our first conversation, we respond to your comments in the last discussion post and forecast future food obsessions with our friend Olivia.

Please comment your preferred banana on the above spectrum. I’m very curious.