I was scrolling through some older Instagram posts the other day and found a photo of a hazelnut-buckwheat-banana bread that I posted right around inauguration. I remember making the loaf. It was a low time for me, as it was for many of us. I felt anxious, a bit hopeless, and somewhat fearful of what might lie ahead. I needed soothing. I wanted some sweetness in the midst of the anger and pain. So, among other things, I made banana bread. Quick breads like this are simple and don’t require many steps. Perhaps for this reason, they are deeply satisfying to make. You rough up the ingredients with your hands, scoop them into a loaf pan, and get near-instant gratification. In under an hour I had done something I could call productive. I’d occupied my mind and hands and the result was a dense, moist, sweet and savory loaf of bread. Brief as the reprieve was, it helped.
I find myself again in a bit of a low point. I can’t say there’s been a precipitous event. I just have the blues. My profession involves teaching people both how to reframe their mindsets, and also how to accept the reality of whatever is, at any given time, without judgement. Needless to say, these past few weeks have been an un-ignorable opportunity to practice what I preach. It’s also been a reminder for me that, those of us who seek to provide motivation, inspiration and space for others to thrive, sometimes forget the importance of sharing our own vulnerabilities and processes when we ourselves are feeling less than vibrant. It can become rote to toss aphorisms and motivational quotes into the internet world with such casualness that it probably appears that wellness professionals are floating around on a cotton candy cloud of eternally good vibes. Spoiler alert: we aren’t.
I believe in the power of positive thinking. I believe that a practice of recognizing all you have, of giving gratitude for what is going well, does, over time, create a deeper level of satisfaction with your daily life. I believe that, generally speaking, the attitude with which we approach the world is instrumental in how we experience the world. What we put out is what we receive. That said, I also believe, and know, and experience, that sometimes, for no “good reason”, things feel hard. Sometimes faking a good mood until you make a good mood works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you just have to let yourself feel all the uncomfortable feelings and know that, eventually, they will pass. You can’t always muscle your way into a good mood, even with the best intentions to do so. Assuming that you should be able to creates its own kind of pressure, another framework for perceived failure to live “well” or do it “right”. It doesn’t feel good to feel blue. But it isn’t wrong to feel blue. Sometimes the fact of the matter is, you just have to hang out a while in the uncomfortable place, in the low moods, because these parts of you, too, are parts of you. Shadow and light, peaks and valleys, ebb and flow: you don’t get any one without the other.
So, what does one do? I can’t speak for everyone but I can share what works for me. I stick to the practices that are proven to work–I spend time with people I love and with people who make me laugh. I connect with the natural world even if it’s just a small houseplant. I get sun in my eyes and on my skin. I move my body. I write or go to yoga or meditate or do all three because quiet contemplation is where I come to know and form myself. I still do my gratitude practice even though it feels harder. I let myself cry. I try my very best to say the compassionate and kind things to myself that I would say to my best friend if she was in my frame of mind–even if I really want to say the opposite. I give myself a break. And I look for the smallest moments of comfort and joy. I make banana bread. I pour my very best olive oil over it and drizzle it with honey. I sit on the front porch with a slice and savor each sticky bite. I savor that sweetness, and I do my best to trust that more is on the way.
Buckwheat Hazelnut Bread
makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf
Note: I made the loaf pictured here with coconut milk which is much higher in fat than nut milks. The result was slightly denser than I wanted. If I did it again with coconut milk I would probably try increasing the hazelnut flour a bit and reducing the oats to get a softer, moister bread. Let me know what you discover with your versions!
3 medium very ripe bananas (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 cups buckwheat flour
1 1/4 cup hazelnut flour
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
2 T maple syrup (optional–if bananas aren’t that sweet)
3 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t sea salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
3/4 cup nut milk or coconut milk or cow milk
3 T coconut oil or olive oil
1/2 t vanilla extract
-Preheat the oven to 350. Butter or oil a 9 x 5 loaf pan or line with parchment paper and set aside.
-Peel the bananas and break them into pieces into a large bowl. Mash them with the back of a fork. Add the egg, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, sugar & maple syrup if using. Stir to combine.
-Add the flours and oats and stir until well combined.
-Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes, turning once about half way through. Insert a toothpick or a paring knife into the center of the bread to test for doneness. If it comes out sticky, give the bread another couple of minutes in the oven and test again.
-Resist the inevitable temptation to cut into it before it has fully cooled. It will break apart if you try.
Favorite ways to eat this bread:
-re-warmed and slathered with cultured butter
-drizzled with good olive oil, Manuka honey & sprinkled with Maldon salt
-re-warmed & topped with Strauss Greek yogurt & seasonal fruit
-it would likely be delicious warmed with vanilla ice cream on top 🙂