It’s Not Really About the Bananas

I’ve spent the majority of my life working in the healthcare field.  In all honesty, from ages 12-46, I worked in healthcare in some capacity.  Many of those years were spent in long term care homes and critical care units in hospitals; and either way you go, both of those types of jobs comes with a lot of loss.

I don’t know if people who gravitate to patient care professions do so as some type of pre-determined pull, or if they fall into it some other way and decide they are suited to it.  Either way, I have never known why I stayed in the field for so many decades, other than I was born to it.

Some one asked me how I did it; how was I able to go to work every day and see these people knowing that many of them would die soon.  And to be honest, I have never had an answer, even for myself.  What I do know, and have said for years, is this:  If, at the end of the day (or shift), just one person was impacted in a positive way by something I did or said, it was a good day.  And that swings both ways.  I have been so blessed by the people who have drifted in–and out– of my life over the years;  I think I have definitely come out better for having met them.

One of the most amazing and special people to have let me call her friend is Mickey.  I first met Mickey working pulmonary rehab in Dr. M’s office in Arizona.    She is the mother-in-law of another physician at the hospital, and he referred her to us for management of her COPD.

Now the main thing about pulmonary rehab, is that if you can’t find some kind of common ground with your “patient”, each session will take forever.  There will be a lot of awkward silence and botched attempts at small talk.  With Mickey there was never any of that.  The first time I met her I knew we were kindred spirits.  She had 3 daughters–I have 3 daughters; She loves to read–I will read the inserts from prescriptions just because they have words.  But it think one of the biggest connections Mickey and I have is cooking.  She has the same type of mindset that I do, We mother with food, we comfort with food, we celebrate with food and we love with food.

From very early on, Mickey would come in to each session with goodies–lemon bars, peanut brittle, toffee and the ABSOLUTE BEST pecanettes ever.  So naturally we started comparing and swapping recipes.  Mickey actually became my first real, repeat customer when I started inKredible edibleS in AZ; ordering cakes for birthdays, showered and graduations.

She taught me how to make tamales and always called me first when her apricot tree was putting out fruit.  For a few years, hubby, kids and I would take laundry baskets to Mickey’s house in mid-late July and harvest apricots.  The only thing she ever asked was for a couple of jars to send to her twin brother Bill.

For close to 5 years, I saw Mickey 2-3 times a week.  To be honest, she was the only person (or thing) that I had a difficult time leaving when I moved from Arizona to Nevada.  We still Facebook stalk each other and I hope to get to go visit her at least one more time.

Mickey will turn 81 on June 23rd this year, and every minute I had with here becomes more special with each passing day.  I have so many cherished memories that I carry with me, but I also have a very tangible part of Mickey with me always.  A few years ago, her youngest daughter put together all of their family recipes, and Mickey gifted me with a copy of these.  It is my most used and most special cookbook out of the scads that I have.

When I was finally able to open my bakery, Lavender Box Bakery, I asked Mickey for her permission to use her carrot cake recipe; and her being the bestest friend I could have, said “Of Course”.  It is the absolute best carrot cake ever.

The other Mickey recipe I use all the time is for her banana bread.  Most families have banana bread recipes, and I have tried dozens over the years.  This recipe is unique in that you don’t have to use ripe bananas.  That’s right, no more setting the bananas out for a few days to get ripe, and then forgetting them and finding a dried up pile of goo a couple of weeks later (not that I have ever had that happen).   I did make one adaptation to this recipe.  Mickey uses shortening and I replaced it with room temp butter.  I can’t help myself, butter is better.

Your can use bananas that you’d eat for this bread recipe.  The secret is to mash the banana and sugar together and let it macerate (sit) while you get all the other ingredients together.  Oh, and to mix the baking soda in with a tablespoon of water.  Mickey and I discussed this at length and decided the dissolved baking soda was key to the success of this bread.

The rest is pretty simple.  Macerate bananas and sugar for about 15 minutes.  Then add in the eggs and butter.  After that is combined, stir in the baking soda/water mix, vanilla and dry ingredients.  As with other quick breads, never over mix the batter or you will have tough bread.  Here’s the link to the recipe:  Banana Bread Recipe

I try to be realistic about it, so I know that I may not actually get to sit in Mickey’s kitchen talking an laughing, and no matter how many times I try to make them, I cannot get her pecanettes to taste right.  But that’s okay, every time I make a carrot cake she’s with me.  And this post was never really about the bananas, it is me coming to peace with the fact that with all the loss I’ve had in my life, there will be more.  There will be the day when I get the news that Mickey has left, and I will know I have lost a truly special friend.  But with that come the joy in having just know her.

Because you see, at the end of the day, she made my life, she made me, better.

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