25 May 2020

Mom's Banana Bread

It's humble. It's a modest housewife's sweet response to the ethos of Mom's Depression Era generation - 'waste not, want not'. It's one of the first baked quick breads that Mom showed me how to make. Granted, Mom came from the generation of bottled lemon juice and walnuts only at Thanksgiving time or for very special baking holidays. She came around in later years ... and now, her legacy lives on and continues to grow in her kids and grands, and great-grands.

Mom passed away last week. Gently. Quietly. After a slow day of sitting in her chair, enjoying a nice dinner, and saying it was time to go to bed.  She made her way down the hall, readied herself for bed and after saying she needed to sit and rest before the walk to the bedroom, she sat down in the bathroom, dropped her chin to her chest and simply ... stopped living. Now, she is solving the great mystery and we are left to contemplate her reunion with loved ones past and the enormous energy of universal love - or whatever label you put on the universal love. I, for one, have spent time this past week laughing with my kids and their dear ones about Mom's foibles, food, and funny sayings.

It seemed only fitting that three brown bananas, past their prime should be mixed with love and a few tears to make Mom's banana bread.

Mom's Banana Bread

Makes: 1 large loaf
Oven: 350 degrees F
Cook Time 1 hour-ish - test with a cake tester after 50 minutes


1 3/4 c. flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
5 tbsp. margarine (butter, please)
2/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice (1 tsp. lemon zest and juice of half a fresh lemon, please)
2 large eggs
3 large very brown bananas
3/4 c. chopped walnuts ( 1/2 c. for the batter, 1/4 c. for the top of the bread)

Making the Bread;

1. Grease a large loaf pan and set it aside.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together in a large measuring cup.

3. Use a hand mixer to beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and bananas and beat until the bananas are smashed, but still have a bit of chunky form to them.

4. Switch to hand mixing and fold in the lemon zest and lemon juice, plus the dry ingredients.

5. Fold in the chopped nuts, turn the batter into the prepped pan, top with the remaining nuts and bake in the center of the pre-heated oven for about an hour. 

6. Cool for ten minutes, then turn out to a pretty platter and cool before cutting.

Notes: This bread is great toasted under the broiler for a bit and buttered. Perfect with a cuppa !

I was given the charge of writing Mom's obituary. Since this is my space to honor home and food and family life, I include it here for any and all to see.

Up then, fair phoenix bride, frustrate the sun;
Thyself from thine affection
Takest warmth enough, and from thine eye
All lesser birds will take their jollity.
Up, up, fair bride, and call
Thy stars from out their several boxes, take
Thy rubies, pearls, and diamonds forth, and make
Thyself a constellation of them all;
And by their blazing signify
That a great princess falls, but doth not die.
Be thou a new star, that to us portends
Ends of much wonder; and be thou those ends.

John Donne

Alma Rosalyn Barnes Miller

February 8, 1925 - May 15, 2020 

Alma Rosalyn Barnes Miller passed away at her home in Ballston Spa on Friday, May 15th, 2020. She had been living quietly with her second son, Tim Miller. Rosalyn is pre-deceased by her husband, Richard W. Miller. She is survived by her children, Richard H. Miller of Ballston Lake, NY, Donna L. Flynn of Stockbridge, MA, Timothy A. Miller of Ballston Spa, NY, Susan J Miller-Lindquist of Fitzwilliam, NH, and James R. Miller of Altamont, NY. Rosalyn, as she was known, was the proud grandmother to 19 grandchildren and the great-grandmother to 39 great-grandchildren.  She has been lovingly teased and called ‘Mother of Thousands’.

Rosalyn was born on February 8th 1925 to Harold and Alma Leonora (Price) Barnes in Binghamton, New York. She grew up in Schoharie County along with her brother Harold Stewart Barnes and Gertrude Mina Barnes. After graduating from high school, she worked as an operator for the New York Telephone Company (A T & T). She was courted by Ensign Richard W. Miller and traveled to Jacksonville, Florida in the spring of 1945 to marry him. Roz and Bing were married on March 9th, 1945. In the years following WWII, they returned to New York state to begin a family. In the early years of their marriage, they set up house in Cobleskill, NY. In 1952, they moved to Massena, NY where they put down roots for close to 30 years. After their children were all grown, they retired to Ballston Spa, New York to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

Rosalyn, ‘Roz’, Mom, Aunt Rosie, Grammy was centered for her whole adult life on her family. She was a dedicated housewife and mother - frugal, creative, wise, and very much home-centered. She was especially close to her sister, Gertrude (Trudy) Gates. The Miller and Gates families shared many a family weekend, during the growing up years of the two sets of kids.  Rosalyn was also very close to her Uncle Winn and Aunt Verna Barnes and visited their Oneonta home many times over the years.

Roz was somewhat of an introvert, careful in choosing her friends and perfectly happy to be at home or in her back yard flower and vegetable garden. She was interested in the history of the Mohawk Valley, central New York, and her family’s place in that history and was keen on keeping family stories alive within the family. She was an avid reader and enjoyed genres with historical overtones - political science, historical fiction, good political intrigue. She was keen on keeping up with the news and enjoyed listening to a good interviewer and political commentator - Thomas Friedman and Charlie Rose were two of her favorites. That being said, she also liked a good Harlequin romance now and then. She was a fan of the daily crossword puzzles in the Schenectady and Syracuse papers. She was smart, but no intellectual snob.

Her children and grandchildren will miss her wise, frank way of judging a situation and giving no nonsense advice that was often dished up with batches of peanut butter cookies, Brownies, chocolate jumbles, or banana bread. Her holiday family table was always plentifully laden with potato salad, pickle and olive platters, hams, turkeys, and all the fixings. She was a provider and she was very good at it. Over the years, Mom Miller knitted countless sweaters, afghans, mitten sets and scarves for kids of all ages and sizes. When her girls were growing up, she sewed school outfits, semi-formal gowns, and special dresses and suits for school and work. 
Later in life, she took great joy in her grandchildren and their exploits, caring for them when they were infants and toddlers, rescuing them on occasion when they needed extra school funds or had car trouble. Grammy and Pop-pop were the center of many a family shin-dig.

Rosalyn always worked hard for her family and the ones she held dear. She was a strong woman who knew her mind, stayed her course, inspired respect in her children, and lived her quiet life with dignity. She will be missed more than she could ever know.

Plans for a memorial service to celebrate the life of Alma Rosalyn Barnes Miller have not been made, during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. In lieu of cards or flowers, please consider making a donation to the friends group at your local public library or dedicate a book donation to the library in the name of Rosalyn Miller.  Another appropriate memorial would be a donation to your local food bank or the Salvation Army, two places that were important causes to Rosalyn.


  1. Susan, I am so sorry to read about your mom's passing. What a beautiful obituary for a woman who has seemed to live a long, full life. Hugs - Thank you for the banana bread recipe, it seems similar to one my late mother made.

    1. Susan @ The Spice Garden25/5/20 7:25 PM

      Thanks so much, Diane. Cooking and writing ... it's so therapeutic. I think banana bread is one of those recipes that we all have had 'handed' to us as we grew into the kitchen. I often wonder how it evolved for us, here in New England. After all, when did bananas become a market staple ? Perhaps their exotic source became the impetus for not ever wasting them ... hence banana bread. Hmm. Food research needed !


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