Banana-chocolate chip-cranberry sauce cake

Banana cranberry sauce cake

Hello, and welcome to another installment of “Claire clumsily paraphrases wikipedia in an attempt to share an artist that she loves.” David recently purchased a many-volume set of Memphis Minnie CDs. So much good music! She just kills me. She, quite literally, rocks. In the past I haven’t been able to find recordings of all her works, but I’ve read her lyrics like poetry. It’s so wonderful to be able to hear them now. Let me tell you a little something about her… She was born Lizzie Douglas, in 1893. She learned very young to play guitar and banjo, and ran away from home at thirteen to try to support herself as a musician. She landed in Memphis, Tennessee, and played in nightclubs and on the street. She travelled with Ringling Brothers circus for a while, and eventually she married and recorded with Kansas Joe McCoy. In the thirties she moved to Chicago, and formed a band with drum and bass, thus single-handedly inventing rock n roll. (What? what?) She went on to record during the forties, but her popularity and her health failed in the fifties. She died in a nursing home in 1973. Her songs are remarkable. On her gravestone it says, “The hundreds of sides Minnie recorded are the perfect material to teach us about the blues. For the blues are at once general, and particular, speaking for millions, but in a highly singular, individual voice. Listening to Minnie’s songs we hear her fantasies, her dreams, her desires, but we will hear them as if they were our own.” You do feel this way when you hear her songs! Her life was so different from mine – so wild and uncertain and vulnerable – and yet when I hear her songs I often think, “I feel that, way too.” Her words are so human and raw and honest and mysterious, all at the same time. The picture you form of her, from her songs, is of a woman who is strong and funny, empathetic but guarded, and who has been hurt and has known a lot of pain.

Here’s I Hate to See the Evening Sun Go Down,

I hate to see evenin’ sun go down
I hate to see evenin’ sun go down
Cause it makes me think, I’m on my last go-round

Some people take the blues, go jump overboard and drown
Some people take the blues, go jump overboard and drown
But when they gets on me, I’d rather stay ‘n go sit down

I been to the river, looked it up and down
I been to the river, looked it up and down
But when my mind never let me, to jump overboard and drown

There’s such a strange hopefulness in the lyrics, with the very blues that are bringing her down also buoying her up.

She has quite a few songs about prostitution, but I love the odd beautiful detail of Hustlin Woman’s Blues…

I stood on the corner all night long, counting the stars one by one
I stood on the corner all night long, counting the stars one by one
I didn’t make me no money, Bob, and I can’t go back home

New Dirty Dozen is a sassy, funny insult song, based on the game dirty dozens, which involves inventing increasingly hurtful insults about a person’s family, until somebody can’t take it any more and gets angry…

Come all you folks and start to walk, I’m fixing to start my dozen talk
What you’re thinking about ain’t on my mind, that stuff you got is the sorriest kind
Now you’re a sorry mistreater, robber and a cheater
Slip you in the dozens, your papa and your cousin
Your mama do the lordy lord

She has beautiful songs about rambling, about being cold and homeless, with sore feet and not enough to eat, songs about being treated cruelly by policemen and judges and doctors and boyfriends, songs about dirt dauber wasps building nests on her when she was a child, songs about superstition, even a song about President Roosevelt and a mule, she has a lovely song of admiration about Ma Rainey, she has generous songs offering shelter and food to desperate men, she has saucy, sexy songs, songs full of hunger and pain, songs full of warmth and humanity. And she plays guitar like a mother-flipper!

Here’s a small playlist of Memphis Minnie songs.

And here’s a cake that uses up leftover cranberry sauce and bananas that are past their prime. It’s rich and moist and tasty. I added chocolate chips, cause I love them, but you could easily leave them out.

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Banana, lime & coconut bread

Banana, lime, and coconut bread

In which Claire goes on and on about a word she has a crush on.
Today, friends, we’ll be extraordinarily etymological. I love this word: “selah.” It’s a word of ambiguous history and meaning, and the mystery only adds to its beauty. It’s a Hebrew word found frequently in the psalms, but it’s also a word in modern Arabic and Syrian Aramaic, and I’m fascinated by all of the ideas about what it might mean. (I haven’t done very scholarly research on this, but when you’re dealing with ambiguous words, precise meanings and careful citations are not desirable, I think, and in my case, they’re just not possible, because my brain is a vague and muddled place!) The psalms (also a lovely word!) were apparently sung and accompanied by music, and it’s possible that the word “selah” was a notation to the choir master, possibly to take a break in the music, to pause and reflect on what’s been said, to change the rhythm to signal a change in thought or theme. It also means to lift up, or hang, or to measure. So perhaps it means the person singing the psalms should lift up their voice, in pitch or volume. Of course, things were measured by being lifted and weighed against something else, so that’s part of the meaning, as well. (I wish I could express my thoughts more clearly – Isaac is having a distracting and inexplicable melt-down about strawberry chewing gum. He never gets to do what he wants! Never!) Back in the day, when I was in school, I read a lot of feminist film theory, and I found it very thrilling. It was difficult to understand, but it was frequently about language, about the language of film, and the language of vision, as well as the language we speak with. I think the authors used purposely obscure language, but I found this funny, it was a sort of joke, and it was a pleasure trying to decipher their meaning. Many writers spoke of the necessity of using the spaces between words or between shots to tell the story. To inhabit the silent moments to tell a more interesting story than the words or actions could tell. That’s what “selah” reminds me of – at least as I understand it. It’s about the words that have come before – it gives them more meaning and value, because you’re measuring them, and pausing to think about them. But it’s about the pause itself as well. I can picture meaning hanging in the air, floating just above our grasp, before it’s set down again and we can reach it. Apparently in Arabic and Syrian Aramaic, the word means “praise,” and specifically praise beyond expression or understanding. It’s a word to describe what can’t be described in words!!

Of course, I came to the word through The Ethiopians’ song The Selah. Because “selah” is also a word used by rastafarians. It gives weight and importance to the words that have come before, and it “seals them up.” I love the Ethiopians for their sweet voices and sweet melodies, and I love that I can’t always understand what they’re saying, which makes them mysterious and full of meaning. It’s funny how when the meaning is obscure or indefinable, it feels more like somebody is talking to you, or expressing your thoughts. Selah!

If you’re like us, and you’re having a hot patch of summer, all of your fruit is ripening faster than you can eat it. So you have some extra mushy bananas. Here’s a banana bread with tropical overtones for our tropical heat wave. It’s flavored with ginger, lime, and coconut. It’s very subtly sweet, and the ginger and lime add a little zing. Yes, it’s too hot to bake, but we’re baking anyway, because we can’t not!

Here’s The Ethiopians’ The Selah

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Banana bread with chocolate covered cranberries

Banana bread

You could put dark chocolate on just about anything and I’d probably bake with it! As long as it’s vegetarian, of course! I’ve used chocolate covered cherries and chocolate covered ginger. My lastest foray into the chocolate covered world is dried cranberries. Very nice! Tart & sweet, just like you’d want them to be. I decided to bake them into banana bread, because we had some very ripe bananas, and, let’s face it, bananas and cranberries are a perfect combination, aren’t they?

Here’s Calypso Rose with Banana
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