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  • Melissa Orquiza

Brown Butter Bourbon Banana Bread, Happiness Boundaries, Harry Belafonte, Beethoven, & Queen

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Brown Butter Bourbon Banana Bread (Say that 3x fast!)

I love 80’s movies. “Pretty in Pink,”, “Top Gun”, “The Breakfast Club,””Back to the Future”, “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off” - the iconography of high school social circles was clear cut, neat, and almost cartoonish in its ways of viewing the world. Social hierarchies were clearly identified by how people dressed, talked and acted. There were the prepsters, the nerds, the math and science geeks, band nerds, the loners, the outsiders, the druggies, the cheerleaders, the jocks, and the just plain weirdos that didn’t fit neatly into any of these stereotypes. ( I think that was me… but I got along with everyone.) But isn’t humanity just that? The conflation of multiple things? Real life is sick, messy, glorious, and pathetic- disgusting, beautiful, and the antithesis of any 80’s movie. The iconography, as with most mythologies, is simple to understand, to impart a moral tale. (Now that I think about it, many, but not all religions do the same thing… same with Marvel movies.) Are we that damaged that understanding complexity must be an afterthought?

Weeks before the mandatory lock down in LA, I made the agonizing decision to not fly for my brother’s book launch to the East Coast. The morning I was supposed to leave, LAX had identified it’s first confirmed case with a international flight attendant. I instantly thought of my high school statistics class and started to panic. (Yes. I paid attention in class, just not early music history). Well meaning skeptics disagreed with my decision, citing our government agencies and their own personal experiences, as proof of my overreaction. The data didn’t correlate so I thought I was going crazy. My poor husband and I kept discussing the data from multiple angles and came to the conclusion that it was already here, probably arrived months ago, but we couldn’t understand why our community agencies and the government were not telling the public, suppressing the data, or even worse, they didn’t know the extent of the damage. (These were all inferences.) So, I stocked up, voraciously read the news from multiple worldwide outlets, tried to correlate data and started going through contingency plans…. weeks before the state and nationwide lockdowns were declared. No one (in this case) likes to be right. It was a hard to stay happy.

Yay! Brown Butter Bourbon Banana bread slideshow to make you happy.

You're welcome!

Why did I suspect something was wrong? We all instinctually know when our lives evolve into patterns. They could be patterns for routine, normalcy, necessity. Especially now, since we’re working, learning, and living from home, a semblance of a routine makes my life happier and more relaxed. Many people go through their lives, living their pattern and never changing it. Others live their patterned lives changing when necessary, but changing only out of necessity and not necessarily understanding why. Others, live their patterned lives with a subconscious awareness of their motivations, strengths, and weaknesses, and change out of a intrinsic realization of NOW. Just because someone is educated or considered an expert, does not mean that this awareness is within their own lives. Because the main definition of community is usually surrounding yourself with people who think like you, it can essentially be a doomed echo chamber. Experts can be wrong. Herd mentality happens to all groups and not acknowledging a different possibility or outcome because you shoot the messenger out of bias, is hypocritical, shortsighted, and more importantly, a rude awakening to a life of cards. (Look at what happened with Bernie Madoff). If you’re highly educated, an expert, and then someone from outside calls your bluff, everything you know and built your life on, is called into question. It happens to everyone (I’ve had egg on my face) and more importantly, the reaction that it yields tells me more about character, honesty, diligence, and respect.

Anything more wholesome than banana bread?

I’d like to think most artists (or those with an artistic temperament) can trapeze the fine line between reality, motivation, id and NOW succinctly. Musicians are taught from a young age to distinguish patterns. We do it for reading notes, memorization of a piece, improvisation from a lead sheet, and playing with others on the fly. If you don’t know or hear the patterns or identify when the patterns shift quickly, you’ll play a wrong note and suck. You need intense concentration to play your instrument but a conscious transcendence to interpret a piece in an emotive way. If you concentrate on the technique too much, you’ll lose the emotion and humanity. If you concentrate on emoting without technique, you’ll play wrong notes. Art is a balance of technique and the pizazz. The trapeze is set. Add this to the balancing act of making a living and acting “normally”, the patterned life for artistic survival is determined.

Booze & banana bread…. or better yet, booze in banana bread. Artists at heart rejoice!

Boundaries, or the incessant need to categorize, is intrinsic to evolution. Physical boundaries define space, shelter, and safety. Psychological boundaries define what is morally acceptable, defines a community, and constitutes the directional minutiae of social interaction. It’s easy to define what is acceptable and unacceptable, when the person you are scrutinizing looks, thinks, and acts as you do. (Hence, most socialist societies are ethnically and culturally similar). It’s evolution at work to instantly identify the “other” as a threat because it doesn’t tally in the way your community is ordered.

The pandemic has forced us to redefine what are acceptable physical boundaries, but what of the other? Social uprisings, passive aggressive and aggressive behavior on the internet and in real life, are clear indications that physical boundaries, as important as they are to keep us safe, are only part of our pandemic solution. Crisis seem to bring out the best and the worst in people. What constitutes safety? Is it physical? Is it psychological? Is it a combination of both? Depending on the parameters or definition, shouldn’t that be used as defining constructs for social good or social safety? Shouldn’t that be clearly defined for our lawmakers during this pandemic? And, because physical and psychological boundaries are important, should that be taken into consideration when opening up segments of the economy? Where is the balance between physical safety and economic harm, that will in turn cause undue psychological harm? If this is similar to “The Great Depression”, are our lawmakers even considering the psychological results of an economic calamity? Do they even care? Why is it, that employment in the financial sector was the least hit during this economic crisis? Is it truly due to the fact that most businesses were highly leveraged? Wouldn’t that mean that to begin with, the valuations of these companies and hence our world economies were inflated, and hence there wasn’t enough money in the world to account for it? Are our regulators even considering this or keeping it discreet? (We know the banks are considering this.)

Banana bread Jail.

It’s interesting to me that the people who don’t believe in social or psychological boundaries are actually the hardest people to deal with. “What do you mean you don’t want to answer my question? You’re just taking things the wrong way. I know this is a boundary I shouldn’t cross, but I’ll do it anyway. Oh, I’m just concerned for you. There’s something I can’t figure out about that person.” We’ve all done it but the worst are the passive aggressive types who do it for sport. (Wolf in sheep’s clothing.) It’s funny. The harder you enforce the boundaries to the most important things to you, the harder some people try to break it down, because they themselves, don’t have boundaries, know what is important to them, or are unable to comprehend their own motivations to their actions and hurt. They don’t know themselves. (I’d like to think that most people are good and that we all have our awful moments because we’re scared or hurt… but maybe I’ve chosen to be a naive optimist. It also doesn’t mean I’ll compromise my family’s safety due to a person’s inability to control themselves, even if I understand the motivations.)

This fear, the inability to trust ourselves, the inability to trust in institutions, which conversely, can be the fear of the institutions grip, will be the undoing of any ethical compromise, economically or socially. It’s easy to say one country is at fault and we should have reparations, but as with previous World Wars, a country’s policies is not always indicative of its people. Aggression is needed on a multilateral level, but with diplomacy and tact, because like human beings, countries have their own acceptable physical and psychological boundaries- culture.

All problems can be solved with brown butter bourbon banana bread and booze.

So, what is the fine line between health, safety, economic, and most possibly, economically induced psychological harm? Hopefully, our lawmakers will be able to push aside cultural differences to see that unification against another country is only a political farce. What may be seen as right in one country’s eyes may be scene as a hypocritical action in another. The real test is, will the economic policies they institute to assuage a nation, be the socioeconomic anvil to an entire generation? Ironically, it’s the kids that grew up in the 80’s that will be the hardest hit.

I know we’re all trying to laugh, cry, and make it work (hopefully, in this order). If I think about it too much, I get a migraine so I’ll pretend it’s the 80’s, a simpler time in Hollywood movies, and laugh that I was never allowed a high school boyfriend, a junior prom, or luckily, never fit neatly into any of those categories because life without complexity would suck. (BORING!)

Here’s Harry Belafonte’s, “Day-o” (Banana Boat Song), in the incantation scene in “Beetlejuice” (1988). Catharine O’Hara is fabulous, as she is in “Schitt’s Creek”, which I’m dying to finish. Originally a Jamaican work song, its call and response lyrics were sung and improvised upon while working on banana boats. (Distinct vocal boundaries.) It’s like a sonic amalgamation of populist ideas set in the bizarre… kind of like what’s happening now with our pandemic.

Beetlejuice - “Day-o” (Banana Boat Song), Harry Belafonte

Here’s Beethoven’s, Quartet No. 12 in Eb, Op. 127, Mvt 1. The opening is distinct, declamatory, (distinct thematic boundary), like your friends saying ‘Happy Birthday” at the same time, but the quartet breaks off contrapuntally, like a conversation between people and hence, boundaries become blurred. I know it doesn’t look like they’re rocking out, but this is as aggressive as you’ll get in legit classical music. (The Emerson quartet is pretty sick). If you can’t get over the stereotype of the visuals (uptight, boring, “establishment”), please try to play the excerpt while you’re making a pot of tea, petting your pet, putting on makeup, or dreaming of what crazy thing you’ll be doing tonight in quarantine.

Beethoven - Quartet No. 12 in Eb, Op. 127, Mvt. 1: Emerson String Quartet

Here’s the opening to Wayne’s World with “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Released in 1992, (I know, not technically the 80’s but hear me out), the ending of the clip encapsulates knowing yourself. Plus, it’s hilarious viewing just for the hair.

Wayne’s World - "Bohemian Rhapsody"

The original “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which though distinctly different genres with the “Beethoven, String Quartet No. 12 in Eb, Mvt. 1”, plays with the ideas of musical exclamation (boundaries), episodic movements (inferred with counterpoint), and arching thematic storytelling, in a declarative manner in exactly the same way. Same ideals, same well thought out musical material, same storytelling, but different genres and different execution. Like this example, hopefully our world’s different countries will have the same ideals in their pandemic response, with different execution.

Queen- “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Official Video Remastered)

Since banana bread is the poster child for this time (and alcohol, which I can’t touch too much of or I’ll be totally incapable of making a sane decision), I’ve included a favorite recipe that has a hint of bourbon (so you think you’re having a nip but are completely virtuous). It tastes great freshly baked, but even better the next day. The brown butter and bourbon flavor slowly intensifies. Thanks for reading (and listening)! Enjoy!

Brown Butter Bourbon Banana Bread

(from “Homemade with Love” by Jennifer Perillo), as posted by Food52


2 cups flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

8 Tbs butter

3 very ripe bananas

2 large eggs

3/4 cup plus 1 Tbs, brown sugar, divided

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 Tbs bourbon

1/2 cup buttermilk

2/3 cup toasted, chopped pecans


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease only the bottom of a standard size loaf pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium- sized bowl. Set aside.

2. Melt butter over medium heat in a small, heavy- bottomed pot. Cook until it begins to brown, but not burn; it will smell nutty and fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

3. Peel and dice one banana. Mash the remaining two bananas in a small bowl; set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar in a small skillet over medium heat until it begins to melt and turn golden. Add diced banana pieces and saute until well coated and caramelized. Remove from the pan and set aside.

4. Beat eggs on medium speed in a stand mixer. Add the remaining brown sugar and beat until foamy and combined. Add the mashed bananas, cooled browned butter, vanilla, and bourbon; beat until mixed well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again with the rubber spatula.

5. On low speed, pour in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Increase mixer speed to medium and mix until just blended. Pour in 1/3 of buttermilk and beat until just blended. Repeat this process with remaining flour and buttermilk. Fold in pecans and caramelized banana pieces. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Thanks for reading! Here’s to staying happy during this time. Enjoy!

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