I’m continually amazed that the 1980s were so terribly long ago. It doesn’t seem more than a handful of years back that I was wearing baggy pinstripe Zenas (!) and listening to the likes of Toni Basil. (For a hysterically funny take on how time flies, Becky’s thoughts on such things is so worth a read.) Children of the ’80s are all grown up by now and have since realized that shoulder pads perhaps weren’t the smartest fashion move (though I think they might be coming back–hoo boy) and big hair was, well, too big. Those who claim the ’80s as their “formative years” now have smart phones, real jobs, families.
Consider Andrew McCarthy, leading man in classic ’80s cinema: Class, Fresh Horses, Weekend at Bernie’s, Mannequin (an underrated movie if there ever was one), Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire. Food for fun won’t focus on the movies (my blogging buddy, amb, can help you there–she’s the best), but rather the fact that Andrew McCarthy is also all grown up now. He’s a food writer!
Imagine my surprise when I first saw McCarthy’s byline in Bon Appetit just a few months back. I quickly looked him up online and besides noting that he has aged very well, I learned he is Editor-at-Large for National Geographic Traveler and has won boatloads of awards for his writing. (Admittedly, he writes more on travel than he does food, but in my world Mr. McCarthy is a Food Writer.)
The March ’13 BA features his tale of traveling twisty and narrow roads in search of the best banana bread on the planet. A land-locked Midwesterner, I hadn’t known that Hawaii is said to be home to the very best of the banana breads and I enjoyed reading McCarthy tell of his visits to a handful of off-the-beaten-path roadside huts known for this all-American quickbread. The recipe for Julia’s Banana Bread was given, citing it as the top banana of the banana bread world.
When sharing this story with a friend, I learned of her trip to Hawaii a few years back when she, too, went on a pilgrimage for this bread, inspired by tales of locals. Hours after setting out, her party finally made it to the tiny hut only to learn Julia’s was out of bread for the day. A downer for sure, but now thanks to the all-grown-up Andrew McCarthy, Julia’s banana bread is available to all.
Calling for the most basic of ingredients (eggs, flour, baking soda, sugar, salt, bananas, oil), it was an easy loaf to whip up. I’ll admit to fighting urges to tweak: oh, how I wanted to add a pinch of cinnamon or ginger, a handful of chocolate chips, sub out half of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat. But I stood strong, if only out of respect for McCarthy and his craft.
Sticking to the formula was worth it. Largely because of the 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup oil, and 3 eggs, it is arguably the best banana bread ever. Sweet, freckled, moist, likely what you’d find if you looked “Perfect Banana Bread” up in the dictionary. To children of the ’80s–or whatever decade you call your own–I strongly advise you to bake up your own loaf of tropical paradise. For those who want a more authentic experience, watch this bizarre YouTube clip just before eating your first slice. This never would have been possible back in the ’80s.