We recently celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary with a four-day trip to Bend, Ore. Our daughter came with us, as she has on most of our anniversary trips, because there’s no better way for me to commemorate the blessed day of our marriage than paddling around a hotel swimming pool with the two people I love most in the world, thinking about the buffet breakfast we’re going to enjoy the next morning and wondering if it will include a waffle-maker or maybe hot oatmeal with all the fixings.
Anyhow, that was the plan for Bend. What actually happened was that when we got to the motel we’d reserved through a booking service, the manager informed us that he only had one room available with one bed.
When we said, “But we booked a room with two beds and we have a confirmation number and everything,” he said, “That’s not my problem. Take it up with your booking service.”
And when we asked him whether he might be able to put a cot in the room for our daughter, he canceled our room and asked us, with a malicious sort of glee, to exit the premises posthaste.
So that was bad. But what was worse was the realization that, en route to another establishment where we planned to beg for a room, we’d left behind our wallet containing all our credit cards and $200 cash. We immediately drove back to the hotel and, although it pained us to speak again with the manager, asked if he’d seen it. He said he hadn’t, with what may or may not have been a knowing gleam in his eye. There are two possibilities here: 1) He did indeed see it and availed himself of the $200 cash before tossing the wallet in the trash. 2) In our flustered state, we put it on the roof of our car and drove off. Either way, the wallet was, to use the vernacular, gonezo.
We filed a missing property report with the Bend police and canceled our credit cards. Fortunately, my husband still had his debit card, and we found a room at a very nice hotel where the manager took pity on us and gave us a steep discount on a beautiful corner room with a fireplace and a view of the Deschutes River. So it ended well, but I feel a stab of loss about my wallet, which I got on our 20th anniversary trip to Victoria, B.C. It sported an octopus design that made me happy every time I looked at it. I was also sick with regret about the cash, which I’d saved over many months and, of course in hindsight, should have deposited in the bank instead of carrying in my wallet. I’ll not be inclined to use a booking service in the future, either, no matter how many chirpy confirmation messages they send me.
We did have a lovely trip overall, but it was shadowed by our awful encounter with the mean hotel manager and compounded by losing the wallet, which I believe would never have happened if the manager had just been kind to us. We’d have been able to keep our wits about us, not to mention our dignity, such as it is. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to apologize to him as we left. Looking back, I’m not sure what I was apologizing for. Inconveniencing him by booking a room at his hotel? Whatever unfortunate thing happened to him that made him so mean? My own inability to charm him? That part is true, at least. I find it galling when people don’t like me because I try so hard to be likeable. Perhaps I should have had the foresight to bring baked goods to use as a persuasive measure.
In any event, baked goods could be used as a comfort measure for ourselves. During our time in Bend, I thought about what I could make when we returned home. It distracted me from unpleasant thoughts and helped me focus on the fact that nothing really was lost. We were all together, we were on vacation and we were celebrating a long and happy marriage with our delightful daughter. Wallet, schmallet. Who cares?
Back in my kitchen, I decided on something chocolatey and pulled out the cocoa powder. Also, we had one mushy black banana that we’d brought with us for snacking in the car but never got around to eating. I figured I could combine the two elements with butter, sugar and flour and come up with just the sweet treat we needed.
There are lots of recipes for chocolate banana bread out there, and I’m not saying that this one is any better, but it is extra-chocolatey. The bread is perhaps tipped a bit more toward chocolate than banana, but it has enough banana flavor to be included in the great pantheon of banana breads.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread butter generously over the bottom and sides of a loaf pan. (You can use oil or spray, but the butter adds a nice flavor.) Mush three large, very ripe bananas. (In addition to my one fresh banana I used two frozen bananas and microwaved them for two minutes to make them squishy, which worked just fine.) Into the bananas, stir ¹/3 cup melted butter, ¾ cup packed brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon vanilla, ½ teaspoon almond extract and 2 eggs. Mix well. I also added, as is my wont, 1 tablespoon fresh ginger paste. If you don’t keep this on hand, I highly recommend it because it offers all the joy of fresh ginger flavor with none of the sorrow of peeling and grating your own ginger roots.
In a separate bowl, sift together 1¼ cups flour, ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then stir in ²/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips. Pour the batter in your buttered loaf pan and sprinkle a few more chocolate chips on top for decoration. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack or plate. Enjoy a slice while it’s still warm. My daughter recommends eating a slice of Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana bread with a scoop of coffee ice cream and I have to say, I think she’s a genius. Next time maybe I’ll put her in charge of vacation planning.