On My Shelf: A Homemade Life, Plus Banana Bread

A Homemade Life by Molly WizenbergHappy leap year everyone! How are you enjoying this extra day? I’m sure you are familiar with Orangette, the wildly popular food blog written by the immensely talented Molly Wizenberg. If not, well, you should be. And you should also probably read her book, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2009). It was the selection for this month’s Kitchen Reader Book Club (you should join!), chosen by Jules of Stone Soup and I am so glad I finally got around to reading it.
I knew I would like this book from page one. Wizenberg tells of her family’s daily dinners together, sitting around the table every night to share a meal. “We’d be sitting at the kitchen table, the three of us, eating dinner, when my father would lift his head from a plate and say it: ‘You know, we eat better at home than more people do in restaurants.’ Sometimes, for good measure, he’s slap the table and let loose a long ooooh oh contentment.” This description struck a chord with me because it could easily have described my family. We ate, the four of us, dinner every single night together. And my father frequently commented – rightfully so – that it was better than any restaurant. Much like Wizenberg’s family, this wasn’t because the food was particularly fancy (although we definitely ate well). It was the sense of family, of gathering over food, and of creating a homemade life.

Part memoir and part cookbook, Wizenberg’s book is the kind you’d like to curl up with. It’s inviting and cozy. Her prose is casual but well-crafted, and makes you feel at home. She describes simple and everyday memories with skill, highlighting the beauty of the special, often overlooked moments we share around food. It’s happy and sad, full of all the joy and heartbreak that families the world over share. It’s highly relatable.

Banana Chocolate Ginger Bread

In each section Wizenberg relays a brief chapter or vignette from her life and introduces a recipe, which means that each and every recipe is meaningful in some way. From her late father’s potato salad with ranch dressing, the ultimate buckwheat pancake she spent years trying to recreate, an early recipe she posted on her blog that led fortuitously and circuitously to her meeting her husband. And this banana bread. I was intrigued from the moment I saw the recipe, the inclusion of crystallized ginger tickling my senses. I made the bread the day I came across the recipe, and am thrilled to have this spin on banana bread in my repertoire. (I have to admit, it’s no replacement for my favorite banana bread recipe, but it’s always fun to mix things up.)

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger

I didn’t change a thing when I made the recipe so I’ll have you pop on over to The Wednesday Chef (another great blog) to get it (get the recipe HERE). Tell me – Have you read any great books lately? I’m always on the lookout for recommendations!

Linked up at Tastetastic Thursdays over at A Little Nosh


66 thoughts on “On My Shelf: A Homemade Life, Plus Banana Bread

    • Katherine

      Aw thanks Jenny! Banana bread is so much easier to make than regular bread. It’s a quick bread, which means there’s no yeast or rising – you just mix the ingredients together and bake!

  1. lori

    As usual, your timing is perfect. I have three bananas on the counter and a six-hour drive tomorrow that will start at 6:00 am. I know what I’ll be baking tonight!

  2. Tess

    Who doesn’t love banana bread? I’ll have to grab that recipe because you made it look so very good!!! Have a wonderful Leap Day, Katherine =)

  3. kitchenriffs

    I haven’t baked banana bread in years. Maybe I should again. Nice review of A Homemade Life. A book I highly recommend is A Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon. Originally published in the 1960’s, Amazon has a more recent version available (if you have a Kindle, I’d get that version – there are no pictures in the book). What’s cool about this book is the author takes something like the first third of it to get through the first recipe! Sounds kinda weird, right? No, he keeps getting diverted – and the diversions are entertaining and educational. A fun read – I think you’d enjoy it.

    • Sarah, Simply Cooked

      Oh, Supper of the Lamb is a fantastic book. I also recommend it. Katherine, the recipes in A Homemade Life all looked achievable and tasty. I’m glad you tried the banana bread. I think you were spot on when you said the writing was casual but well-crafted. I aspire to that.

    • Katherine

      I can’t get enough banana bread! It’s so easy and delicious. Thanks so much for the book recommendation – it really does sound right up my alley. I’m off to check it out and add it to my wish list right now!

  4. Tina@flourtrader

    Very familiar with Molly, great writer and great recipes! Glad to get another opinion on this amazing bread, definitely a reminder that I do need to bake some soon. Have a wonderful day!

    • Katherine

      Yes, I’ve been following her blog for some time so it was nice to get a deeper insight into her life and recipes. Definitely give the banana bread a go! The crystallized ginger is an interesting addition.

  5. Island Vittles

    Loved Molly’s book! And the banana bread looks to die for! Since you asked for recommendations, have you read the Outlander Series? I started a new blog, OutlanderKitchen.com a few months ago, based on the food described in this incredible series by Diana Gabaldon…theresa

  6. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    I just made my 2nd banana bread this week. I am going to try yours next – it looks like blogosphere has lots of banana bread recipes going on and it’s fun to try other recipes. I like your nice hard shell outside. It’s my favorite part of the bread (what can I say, I like crispy and crunchier food). 🙂 As for the book, I need to read anything besides reading materials online… =P

    • Katherine

      Oh wow! Yes, I’m of the opinion that you can never have too much banana bread 🙂 The slightly browned, crispy outside is my favorite part too!

  7. balvinder ( Neetu)

    Eating dinner together at home is no doubt better than any restaurant. We have been brought in a family like yours.
    the banana bread with chocolate chips and crystallized ginger is truly unique.

  8. Sofie Dittmann @thegermanfoodie

    I’m always on the hunt for good recipes, especially variations on some tried-an-true ones. This sounds great! As for books I’m reading, I have a couple of gardening books NEXT to my night stand (the pile is too large for it), and I’m also looking at seed starting and cheese making… That’d be about enough, right?!

  9. Biren @Roti n Rice

    Sounds like a good book to read. The banana bread with crystallized ginger looks awesome. I love ginger but I wonder what my boys will think as they are not particularly found of it.

    • Katherine

      It’s a great book to read Biren! My husband wasn’t too nuts about the crystallized ginger, although I loved it. It would be a great normal banana bread recipe without it.

  10. Hotly Spiced

    What a wonderful sounding book. I’ll have to get a copy of it. When we sit up at the table for dinner my husband always says, ‘Why eat out’. It’s always nice for the cook to be appreciated.

    • Katherine

      I hope you do pick up a copy of the book and enjoy it! It’s a quick read, and the recipes are a great bonus. It really is nice for the cook to be appreciated like that 🙂

  11. Ann

    I am SO checking out this recipe…I bought some crystalized ginger on a whim and I’m not sure what to do with it (I ALWAYS shop from a list)

  12. Kim

    I really, really enjoyed this book, too! I went savory and just made the cide-glazed salmon (also good), but next time, I’ll go back and do the banana bread. 🙂 Lovely photos, as well.


  13. Anni

    I agree with what both you & Molly had to say about family dinners. I’m so glad dinnertime together was a part of my life growing up! I definitely think I appreciate sharing food with family & friends because of that tradition.

    Glad to see you made the banana bread! It looks magnificent.

  14. Hannah

    What a terrific review! I’ve read A Homemade Life twice and made many of the recipes – such a heartwarming, delicious book to enjoy. These are gorgeous photos of your banana bread!

  15. Anita at Hungry Couple

    I wanted to thank you for letting me know about Orangette. I hadn’t heard of it but checked it out after reading this post. I was hooked and have been working my way back from the beginning. I’ve got a ways to go and when I’ve caught up, I’ll read the book. Reading a few of those terrific posts and recipes are my late evening treat. 🙂

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