Everything you need to make banana bread is most likely already in your kitchen.
Banana bread. Picture: iStock
Banana bread has become the unofficial food of the coronavirus pandemic.
Everyone around the world seems to be making it in lockdown, and Google searches for the term “banana bread” in South Africa rapidly increased from 15 March – the day President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation.
In March, US model Chrissy Teigan made headlines when she traded homemade banana bread for romaine lettuce after discovering grocery stores in Los Angeles were sold out.
Irish actress Nicola Coughlan, best known for her role in Derry Girls, also jumped on the bandwagon.
“I, like many others, at this difficult time, have made banana bread,” she tweeted.
Pretty Little Liars actress Lucy Hale also tried her hand at baking a loaf, which went hilariously wrong.
But why did banana bread of all things gain popularity and make a comeback?
Chef Tjaart Walraven, best known as a judge on The Great South African Bake Off, believes it all comes down to nostalgia experienced by all generations.
Chef Tjaart Walraven. Picture: Facebook / cheftjaart
Both old and young have either baked banana bread, bought a loaf from the bakery or ordered a slice at a coffee shop, he says.
“With the current pandemic, it has taken most of us back to a slower pace of life – a life of living around the kitchen table.
Walraven explains that the pandemic has changed the way we interact, causing people to converse with one another again instead of burying their faces in cell phones.
“I think we have had enough of social media and Covid news. So it has got us thinking about what can we do, and what can we do together? Well, the humble banana bread resonates with everyone.”
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Another reason for the rise in popularity could be attributed to zero-waste.
The chef suggests that overripe bananas combined with the dreaded idea of going to the store led to people realising they can’t waste food.
“So we had to entertain ourselves and be resourceful.
“At the end of the day, the pandemic reconnected families, slowed the pace of life, and filled our moments with tea and freshly baked banana bread – made with love, together,” says Walraven.
For an absolute game-changer, he recommends adding a handful of chopped pecans or chocolate chips to the bread batter.
Chocolate chip banana bread. Picture: iStock
Food author Heilie Pienaar revealed that she baked and froze three loaves before lockdown was implemented in South Africa to avoid going grocery shopping.
Pienaar has worked with brands such as Pick and Pay, Woolworths, Snowflake and Spur. She has also written nine successful cookbooks, including The Ultimate Book of Baking, Too Fresh to Flop, Sugar & Spice, and Recipes from the Royal Kitchen.
“Bananas turn ripe quickly and because I knew we would not have fresh bananas all the time, I baked these loaves ahead.
“I normally eat a banana every day due to the good benefits. When taking one slice out and enjoying, it still gives me that feeling that I’m including banana in my diet.”
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The wide availability of bananas coupled with the fact that the bread is easy to make and enjoyed by the entire family are just some of the reasons for the latest baking trend, says the food stylist.
“Bananas are the one fruit that’s always available and food stores have no problem keeping sufficient stock. With lockdown, most people bought bananas ahead before realising they go ripe within a day or two.”
Banana bread slices. Picture: Heilie Pienaar
So why not opt for something comforting like chocolate cake during these trying times? Because everything you need to make banana bread is most likely already in your kitchen.
“The best way to use overripe bananas is in a loaf because most of the ingredients are readily available at home. People don’t always like buying specific ingredients.”
Pienaar explains that banana bread is quick and easy to make, requiring almost no skills. Even the most inexperienced baker need only combine all the ingredients and pop it into the oven for relatively flop-proof results. It also remains moist and fresh for a couple of days.
“Most of us also grew up with mom making banana loaf. During lockdown we all had more time on our hands to revisit familiar baked goods – which is comforting, nostalgic and reminds us of home.
“Initially I think it was to escape the stress. Banana loaf is basically combining fruit and indulging in something sweet that could be eaten over a few days. As the lockdown progressed and people had more time, they started exploring more recipes and trying new techniques and skills,” she concludes.
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