I am not very good at meeting new people, in fact, I am not really a great verbal communicator at all before you get the chance to know me. I’m just a little on the awkward side of shy. When I was younger I didn’t know how to deal with the way my pulse would thrum against my throat when I met someone for the first time; upon greeting a stranger the flush of blush would begin at my feet and race like wildfire up to my hairline.
I guess some of the awkwardness fell away after I returned from my first overseas trip and realised that I too had stories to tell. When I started working as a wellness research counsellor I had to learn to build rapport with strangers – quickly.
And then I stumbled across the best way to make strangers into new friends, the golden secret that will earn you hugs from those who are only hand-shakers, and invitations to return to your host’s table as soon as you can.
The scent of butter and sugar in their highest forms is like a friendship potion; when the scent of vanilla, almond, and chocolate surrounds you, you carry your own intimacy-evoking elixir. Suddenly, my nerves disappeared whenever I carried something to the table that I had created to share with the gathered company.
To bring something, to provide a small part of the bounty of the table, or just to surprise people with a treat, is to share some small part of yourself. I know that when I turn up with a brown paper package or a plastic container, the barriers that I used to put up are somehow broken down, and I can ease people into my personality, show a little of what I am like, without having to say a word.
The scent of this banana bread will draw people close to you. Share a thick slice of this toasted almond and chocolate chunk laden loaf with a stranger and you won’t stay strangers for long. Let the thickly-woven crumb make you brave enough to share who you really are, and wash away those nerves of first-time meetings.
Tell me, dear readers, do you get nervous when you meet new people? Any tips for me?
Chocolate Chunk and Toasted Almond Banana Bread
Makes two 8 x 5- inch loaf pans: one to keep, one to share.
- 350 grams plain flour
- 150 grams brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 250 grams light ricotta cheese (you could use yoghurt if you don’t have ricotta)
- 3 eggs
- 2 mashed bananas
- 100 grams butter, melted and cooled
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup almonds
- Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line two 8×5 inch loaf pans with baking paper. Spread almonds out on an unlined cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Once they are done chop roughly and set aside to cool.
- Weigh plain flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon into a large bowl and whisk to aerate and combine.
- In a separate bowl beat together ricotta, eggs, mashed bananas, butter, and vanilla. Mix until very well combined.
- Add banana mixture to flour mix and stir until almost completely combined. Then add chocolate chips and half a cup of the chopped toasted almonds and stir until distributed throughout batter.
- Divide mixture between pans and scatter the tops with the remaining almonds.
- Bake loaves in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. You may need to cover the cakes with aluminium foil towards the end of baking if the tops are browning too quickly.
- Remove loaves from oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tins. Then, turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.