I have a go-to banana bread recipe.
It was not passed down to me by a family member, but from the woman I worked for right after college, as a nanny for her children. She also did not receive the recipe from her family.
She received the recipe from “Dr. Bird,” some professor or peer of hers from medical school. Harvard. Medical. School.
The recipe is a little different — in addition to ripe bananas, it calls for crushed pineapple with juice, and oil instead of butter, for example.
I often wonder if Dr. Bird is/was Asian. The woman I worked for is Chinese and explained that her family didn’t use a lot of dairy, including butter. Also, the name of this recipe is “Dr. Bird Cake,” not banana bread. That also strikes me as Asian — calling it cake — but I may be just a stupid racist.
I wrote down this delicious recipe for the first time in probably 1983. I have made this banana bread a ka-jillion times. I have given the bread and recipe as gifts, I have baked it to sooth my little children’s request for Dr. Bird Cake, and my grown children to taste a tangible piece of home.
So, never take the 3×5 recipe card, stained with eggs and vanilla extract, to the store to make sure you pick up all the ingredients. ‘Cause you’ll finally lose it.
The 33-year-old note card is stuck to the grocery belt, or on the floor of the grocery store, or in the parking lot of the store, being trampled by those totally oblivious to Dr. Bird’s contribution to the tapestry of my family’s history. Much like Dr. Bird herself. Himself? I don’t know that for sure either.
But, I had just purchased all the ingredients. If I had only made this recipe once a year at Christmas, and one other time per year, which is a very conservative estimate, I would have followed the recipe 66 times. But it’s WAY more than that, I’m sure.
So, I took out a new note card, and wrote down the recipe as I remembered it, with the measurements I remembered.
And it was…
it’s same fabulous self. It was not lost, just hiding in my head.
And even though my great grandmothers or grandfathers did not pass it down to me, I passed it down to my kids, and now it’s family history, fake or not.
So, thank you Dr. Bird, Asian or not, female or male, peer of someone I worked for, or Harvard professor, or wife or husband of a Harvard professor, whoever and wherever you are. You’ve played a solid, comforting, and irreplaceable part in my family’s life.
You flapped your butterfly wings, and we keep feeling the reverberation, and will, at least into my grandchildren’s lives (when they come).
I wish somehow you could know that.