"There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colours are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again. ~Elizabeth Lawrence
Staring down at the neglected, brown-speckled banana on the worktop I had a sudden brainwave.
I remembered a recipe from three decades ago, one I last attempted in a muddy field in 1979. The Brownies were well known for inventing ‘recipes’ that could utilise the bonfire. Of course there were the obligatory ‘Marshmallows on Sticks’ but our troop was much more creative than that. Necessity is, after all, the Mother of Invention. One bright spark came up with the idea of gripping the edge of an empty apple pie tray with a clothes peg and using this miniature frying pan to cook pancake batter over an open fire. There were a few blistered fingers and tears before we realised it would be better using wooden pegs rather than plastic ones but our injuries never put us off continually striving to find the perfect edible outdoor creation. For us, this came in the form of Baked Chocolate Bananas. A basic recipe, this involved cutting a banana lengthways, slotting in a Cadbury’s Flake then wrapping the whole thing up tightly inside a tinfoil parcel. We’d then chuck these on the fire and wait, making sure not to take our eyes off which particular creation was ours, nestled amongst the other hundreds of silver parcels. The excitement and anticipation was intolerable.
So, keen to relive my youth, I informed Junior that we were going to try the recipe out. He wasn’t convinced when he saw me brandishing the unloved banana but when he heard there was chocolate involved his enthusiasm grew tenfold. We didn’t have a Flake but there was plenty of leftover Easter chocolate so we opted for the next best thing, a Galaxy Ripple.
Now, I’m definitely one for tweaking recipes, forever adding a squirt of this and a pinch of that to the list of standard ingredients, so I decided for this timeless delight a nice addition would be a drizzle of Maple Syrup.
When we'd finished constructing things Junior carefully wrapped the sweet delight inside the foil and I slid it into the hot oven – the closet thing we had to a hand built bonfire. As we waited, I resisted the urge to break into a rendition of Ging Gang Goolie, opting instead to tidy away the breakfast dishes.
As the smell of cooking banana and melting chocolate wafted out from the oven I was transported back to that muddy field, rain tic-ticking off my red cagoule, breath pluming in the cold air, warming stiff fingers near the flames as I willed the chocolate to melt as quickly as it could. I remembered dodging the sparks from the fire as they drifted through the air like fireflies. These are the kind of magical moments I like to share with Junior, who is still unconvinced I had a life before he came along.
I could barely contain my excitement as we sat at the table and carefully unwrapped the hot foil to reveal the treasure inside. Baby, our greedy cat, licked his lips in anticipation. Spoons at the ready we pulled the foil aside and a hot plume of sweet steam escaped. We looked down at the mixture of black banana skin, chocolate and melted syrup. The Ripple had somehow managed to retain its shape, only now it had a glossy sheen to it.
“Ew! It looks like a giant turd swimming in olive oil!” shrieked Junior, his face contorting with disgust.
My heart sank. He was right. This alien object would not have looked out of place in the cat tray. Perhaps the Maple Syrup had been one step too far.
“Oh. It’s not how I remember it,” I said, genuinely saddened.
Baby looked down with pure disgust before skulking away. For a cat that will eat anything, a creature that is partial to licking his bum for long periods of time, this really spoke volumes.
Junior dropped his spoon and folded his arms.
“There is no way I’m eating that.”
I totally agreed but I was not ready to back down. My boy needed to toughen up.
“Listen matey,” I said sternly, “when you’re stuck in a marshy field in the middle of nowhere with the rain pelting down around you, when you’re homesick and smelly and you have wet feet cause your wellies are full of holes, when the wind is blowing your tent away and you’re dreading going to bed because someone has put jelly in your sleeping bag, THIS is heaven!”
Junior looked dubiously at the sticky slop spreading out across the plate.
“I think you had to be there, Mum.”
And you probably did.