Seeing as I’ve already admitted that I’m kind of a terrible host, I might as well let the confessional continue and tell you that I’m a terrible traveler. Oh, I don’t mean that I kvetch and whine the whole time (though you might want to ask Alex if he agrees, now that we’ve taken six flights and visited five cities in eight days together!), I just mean that I never do any of those really great things those really smart people writing really quite logical articles suggest, like keeping the amount of stuff you bring down so that it will fit in one of those bitty suitcases you can stuff into overhead. I don’t roll my clothing to prevent wrinkles or have my most important items in my carry-on so I won’t be at a loss if my luggage is. I never have one of those scarfy/pashmina things to use as a blanket/pillow/tent of warmth on the plane or train, nor do I remember Vitamin C, hand sanitizer, eye masks, earplugs or to eschew caffeine for purer forms of hydration, like water, and I never, ever remember to pack a wholesome homemade snack.
One of the saddest things you should probably know about me is that I’m a terrible host. I don’t mean to be; in my head, I’m the kind of person who would find out you were coming over, quickly gather some wildflowers from the side of the road, put them in an old Mason jar, pour-over some coffee from a local roaster, steam cream from an upstate dairy in a spouted glass and pull out something warm and enticing from the oven right as you arrived. In my head, I understand that none of these things are terribly difficult to pull off. In reality, were you to come over right now, you’d find a plate of pears (one with a toddler mouth-sized bite removed) and mostly-empty jar of something delicious, but alas, too delicious to have lasted until you arrived, on the table, a colossal explosion of wooden train tracks and fire station parts all over the carpet and a fireman in a time out (“What did he do?” I asked. “He did NOTHING!” I was informed. Well, then…). Also notable is the absent aroma of freshly-brewed coffee. Upon closer inspection, you might see that I don’t actually own any coffee-making apparatus. And not a single warm thing has left the oven this morning; we had stove-top oatmeal for breakfast again.
Something kind of terrifying is going on around here, and it started in the back of the closet. I found shoes there, old shoes, shoes that did not fit. They had to go. Thus far, this is the snoring-est horror story yet, but wait, the discontent simmers: Half the closet followed, all of the plastic hangers that drove me batty were replaced with nonslip ones, sweaters were color-sorted, dresses were arranged by season and my husband’s closet is on notice too.
There are a lot of good reasons to make banana bread: You have a pile of sad bananas on top of your fridge that have reached their life’s expectancy. You like things that are unquestionably delicious. It’s raining and you need something toasty and cake-like to go with your coffee. You’re into recipes you can make with one bowl, and feed a dozen. You’re going to be wildly busy this fall and are hoping to pack your freezer with all sorts of wonders that that can be warmed up whenever the craving strikes, even if you’re not around to enjoy them.
For someone who doesn’t garden, lives pretty far from farms and couldn’t even keep a couple herbs alive on her kitchen windowsill, I take zucchini population control pretty seriously. Sure, I don’t have to lock my car door in August, I don’t have a CSA dumping boxes of it unceremoniously on my porch and then running away like a thief in the night, and it’s been a long time since I lived in a house with bats in the backyard, but I get it. The problem is real. We all must do our part.
I just realized we are almost halfway through with summer and while I should be totally stoked about this — seeing as we’re melting through our fourth heatwave so far this summer in NYC and given what awesome things are in store for the fall — I am spectacularly bummed as I am just getting used to having an avalanche of delicious summer produce at my disposal and haven’t had time to do half of what I wanted to with it yet. Plus, this guy turns three at the end of the summer and I can’t, I won’t accept it. More time, please! For everything.
A few years ago, I conquered one of what has to be one of the seven wonders of my culinary world, chocolate babka. Babka, if you’re new to it, poor you, is a brioche-like sweet yeast cake, usually rolled thin and spiraled around a filling of chocolate, cinnamon, sweet cheese or fruit, and is often studded with streusel. And I know that most people save their gushing prose for lemon meringue pie, 8 inches high, or brownies with swirls of peanut butter, candied bacon and candy bars inside, I know that most people hadn’t heard of babka before it became a punch line, but Alex and I fondly remembering the grocery store chocolate babkas — with endless spirals slicked with bittersweet chocolate — of our childhood and I couldn’t rest until I cracked the code at home.