Recently, I had a conversation with a (newish) friend. She was having a rough day (really rough) and we went to a bar near work for a drink.
We talked about a lot of things, mostly about what had sent her to the bar, to cry into her drink. In trying to pull her out of her misery, in whatever small, pathetic way I could, we veered off onto other topics. We talked, among other things, about her being an only child and her close friend who had just gotten married. We talked about my friend SJ, who is about to have a baby. Somehow, I ended up having one of those moments where a thought forms while you’re saying something out loud. Has this ever happened to you? You don’t really know how you feel and then you just start talking and… boop, there it is. Huh. That is how I feel.
What I had been saying, out loud, to her and to myself, was that there are so many aspects of adult friendship that you’re never really prepared for. There are so many books and movies and television shows about what friendship is like but they’re skewed so young- they talk about what it’s like to have friends when you’re in school and all, and then you get older and suddenly everything about romantic relationships. Everything you see is so narrowly focused on dating and married life, engagements and weddings. Nobody really talks about what happens when you grow up, what happens to your friendships, how they morph and change, the nuances of them.
Specifically, I was talking about how stunned I was to realize how much I already love my friend’s baby, who hasn’t even been born yet. I feel the same way about this as I did when my sisters were expecting their babies- I said it out loud to my friend and suddenly it became true in my mind, “Isn’t it amazing? Even if you’re an only child, you can still be an aunt. If you have a friend who you love and they have a baby, that love for their baby is just as strong. It’s amazing.”
The second novel I wrote touched on this subject a little. It was purely accidental; I hadn’t intended to write about how I felt becoming an aunt for the first time, how stunned and bezonked (that’s the only way to describe it, with a made-up-word) I was to love someone so fully who DID NOT EXIST a minute ago, it just happened. That whole experience just spilled out of me. And now it was happening again, only this time I was having the same realization about my friend, not my sister. I can’t believe I’ve been so lucky to live through this realization twice.
Love is amazing, you guys.
I’m bringing it up because of a weird convergence- that friend who was so sad in the bar is now moving to Chicago and SJ is due any day. I find myself, on the first day of summer, about to leave work and step into the sunshine, thinking about how much I’ll miss her, how much I miss Chicago, and about SJ who is probably at this moment, sitting on the couch and staring at her belly, willing her baby girl to come out and play.
Nicole was inspired to make this dish after having a similar one at the Publican in her neighborhood in Chicago. I miss Chicago terribly, and so much more in the summer when the whole city seems to step out and play and enjoy the sunshine. You should make it. The combination of banana bread and lemony ricotta and walnuts and mint might seem a little strange, but convergence is a funny thing when it works.
Eat delicious things and get out into the sun. Happy first day of summer.
Julia’s Best Banana Bread with Walnuts, Ricotta, Mint & Honey
NOTE: Banana bread can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
For banana bread:
Non-stick vegetable oil spray
1 and 3/4 Cups of all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 Teaspoons of baking soda
3/4 Teaspoon of kosher salt
3 Large eggs
1 and 1/2 Cups of sugar
1 Cup of mashed, ripe bananas (about 2 large)
3/4 Cup of vegetable oil
1/2 Cup of whole milk ricotta
2 Teaspoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Make banana bread:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with vegetable spray.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together.
3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, bananas and oil until smooth.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
5. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.
6. Bake for 60-70 minutes, until tester comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
In a small bowl, combine ricotta with fresh lemon juice.
Dollop lemon ricotta on plate. Slice and lay banana bread on top. Top with sprigs of fresh mint, toasted walnuts and a heavy drizzle of honey.