The above photograph was taken on a train ride home from Montreal five years ago. It was in the winter of my last year in high school, and I’d been in serious need of a break from schoolwork, university applications, and the maintenance of that special blend of self-superiority and melodrama I felt was required of me as the only seventeen-year-old in my house.
I’d gone with one of my closest friends, and we spent our days taking copious photographs, eating tons of junk food, and nattering at each other in exaggerated Québécois accents. It had been a perfect trip, and just what I’d needed at the time.
This year, the main reason for my going to Montreal, or so I thought, was to take advantage of the Christmas Day seat sale offered by VIA. I had also wanted very much to visit my friend Emily, whose humour, wit, and honesty had been sorely lacking from my life since she’d moved out there a few months ago.
And this time around, Montreal was just as beautiful, maybe even more so. But the time I’d spent alone wandering around the city also reminded me of the lessons I’d been trying to learn last year, while abroad, and the ways–much more than I’d like to admit–that I was failing them back home.
The past couple of months had been a blur of work and exhaustion, to the point that I sometimes felt as emotionally removed from a gathering of family or friends as I did on my glaze-eyed daily commute to the office. To use a tired phrase for a tired state of mind: I was running on auto-pilot. Nothing–not cooking, not reading, not writing, not photography–was giving me any pleasure. Without even noticing it, at some point, I stopped being grateful, stopped being mindful.
Montreal, thankfully, changed that.
I spent my time there in exceedingly good company (see: the ladies above), in a city so snowed-in and charming, it was impossible not to have a change of heart. My friends and I shared a lot of Indian take-out and wine, stories about our travels and about work. Montreal’s apartments and houses were brick as far as the eye could see, with spiral staircases and little French balconies and lavish gingerbread detailing. A woman snow-shoeing to work grinned at me and I couldn’t resist grinning back. Parents hauled their children to school on toboggans.
The whole thing was almost too Canadian to be believed, as though the whole city had stepped into the CBC Radio feature on extreme winters that had been playing in the background on Christmas Eve while I was at work, yet there it was: forty-five centimetres of snow, and the kind of magical silence that settles over a city in which there are suddenly almost no vehicles on the streets. The kind of silence that makes you realize for the first time how long it had been since you really listened to something.
On the day it snowed the hardest, as fate would have it, I was locked inside. And as I sat at the kitchen table, wondering what on earth I was going to do with the many hours I had before Emily would return from work, my eyes lighted on a trio of lovely, freckled bananas lying fragrant and untouched on the shelf. Banana bread, I thought. Banana bread fit for a blizzard.
And as the windows steamed up and the scent of the bread softened the room, I held onto that little moment, to the snow and the steam, the scent and the light, and remembered a line from a poem I’d read years ago: “This is plenty. This is more than enough.”
- 3 large ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/3 cup canola oil (or melted unsalted butter)
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- Pinch of ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup of flour
- 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In the largest bowl you’ve got, mix the oil into the mashed bananas. Mix in the sugar, eggs, vanilla, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Mix in the oats. Add the flour last, mix until just combined. Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan.
3. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.
Like everything in life, this tastes best with a hearty smear of butter.