Sorry, You Didn't Get the Job... But Can I Keep Your Recipe?

Back in college I lived in EAST House (Stanford's East Asian Studies Theme House) for two years. EAST is a self-operative house, which means that they do not have university food service. Students pay their board bills directly to the house and the house hires its own chef to prepare and serve ten meals a week. As a self-op house, residents are also required to spend a few hours a week pitching in to do house chores (like assisting the chef or vacuuming the dining room).

During the 1994-95 school year, the longtime chef at EAST decided to quit during the first week of the fall semester. I don't remember why he quit, but I do remember what a horrible problem this caused. Without university food service, the house had to order (and pay for) take out meals for its 60 or so residents until a permanent chef replacement could be found. We placed an ad in the paper, went through resumes, and brought in several prospects for interviews and tryouts. Each candidate was asked to present two weeks' worth of menus and to prepare a single dinner meal for all of the house residents.

I happened to be on kitchen assistant duty during one of these dinner tryouts. The chef candidate was a tiny Asian woman, who assigned me the task of making banana bread. She handed me a scrap of paper with the following handwritten information:
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup oil
2 1/2 cups mashed bananas
1/4 cup walnuts
4 eggs, beaten
bake @ 350 degrees, 30-45 minutes
That was it. The recipe didn't include any information on what size pan to use, or how much bread the recipe would yield. I mixed up a double batch of the recipe, which I discovered made enough batter to fill four standard-sized loaf pans. I was very pleased that the bread came out very well and several students commented how much they liked it. The little Asian woman didn't get the job, but I did take the liberty of appropriating her recipe.

To this day, I use this recipe as my standard banana bread recipe. I usually have to bake the bread for longer than 45 minutes, but it's still pretty foolproof, so long as you keep an eye on it in the oven and tent the loaf with foil if the crust looks like it's getting too dark. While I wouldn't say this recipe is anything spectacular, it's moist, flavorful, and good comfort food. Plus, you can throw it together in a snap. I made the loaf pictured above last Thursday afternoon while I was on a conference call at home.

Unfortunately, EAST House's chef troubles persisted through that entire school year -- they ended up hiring three more chefs before the year was through. But at least I got a good banana bread recipe out of it!


Karen said…
Yum! I will try it. Jack and Sarah's favorite baking activity is banana bread and I usually use the "Best Recipe" recipe. I will have to forgo the walnuts because of Sarah's allergy, but...