The other day a friend told me she was baking banana bread for a (five person, don't worry) bring a dish. 'That is sooo April 2020,' I joked. Oh how wrong I was.
Think of banana bread and you probably remember the demoralising days of stockpiled flour and Zoom quizzes with friends in the height of lockdown, but the wholesome baking trend is back - just in time for lockdown number two.
According to Google trends, searches for banana bread recipes are reaching levels not seen since mid-July. One banana bread recipe on the BBC had a handful of comments underneath it at the start of the pandemic - now it has thousands.
As we buckle in for tighter restrictions, less socialising and more time at home, it's not surprising we're resorting to our tried and tested coping mechanisms, this time served with a sizeable dollop of déjà vu. But why banana bread?
In April, it became the Instagram post du-coronavirus-jour. You either unashamedly made banana bread or asked fora recipe for banana bread, took the piss out of everyone else making banana bread or sheepishly admitted you’d given in and made a banana bread after taking the piss out of everyone else for making banana bread.
There’s a lot we could be doing: painting, reading, watching Netflix, walking for an hour a day, working, looking after our kids, Zooming friends, staring at a wall and panicking silently inside… There’s so much we don't ever agree on (see: Karens) but baking banana bread just seems to be something we’ve universally agreed on.
But why when banana bread isn’t exactly the chicest of recipes – it’s not usual dinner party show-off fare. You can’t picture Nigella sassily giving everyone a chunk of banana bread for dessert after one of her thrown-together traybakes delights the gang of friends that’ve popped over while she’s filming her TV show. And bananas are quite divisive, aren’t they? Like, I know three people who literally hate bananas so much that they won’t have a banana in their house.
I know it seems like I’ve been thinking about this a lot, but come join me in asking why everyone is making banana bread, not in a jokily, rhetorical way that you can imagine a lame stand-up comic doing in an amirite? tone. But seriously, and genuinely, by asking not one, but two actual experts in human psychology.
It’s fairly straight forward and doesn’t seem too indulgent if you fancy something sweet.
Counsellor, psychotherapist and Counselling Directory member Katerina Georgiou says it’s about a mixture of comfort and control.
‘In uncertain times, many will try and establish some kind of control to cope – food is a common aspect of our lives we take control from,’ she says. ‘The act of baking is a mindful activity that we can focus on and the fact we have to eat gives way to a useful routine to grasp hold of. It also engages our five senses, which is an important part of grounding when feeling anxious to bring us back into the present. In baking, we use our hands, we engage our sense of smell, we feast our eyes, we hear the sounds of the kitchen and ultimately taste the food. The smell of the cooking can also take us back to comforting places of childhood when we were being looked after.’
Meanwhile, counsellor Natasha Crowe suggests that, as well as being a mindful, nurturing process, banana bread itself is the chosen bake because ‘it’s fairly straight forward and doesn’t seem too indulgent if you fancy something sweet.’
She adds: ‘It's wholesome, nourishing and good for the soul; and right now that's just what people need.’
So if you’ve got the urge after reading the words BANANA BREAD 567 times during this article, just remember one thing: buy bananas responsibly… we all saw what happened to the loo rolls…