Whether you’re a professional or an amateur, every cook has her one signature dish. For me—as embarrassing as it may be—it’s oatmeal. So pedestrian, right? But given that I prefer to try a new recipe every lunch or dinner, breakfast is the only meal of the day at which I allow myself to be a creature of habit. I’ve gotten my recipe for a single bowl of oatmeal down to a T—the best brand of oatmeal, the timing, the ratio of water to oats, and the tastiest mix-ins, like peanut butter and cocoa powder or Greek yoghurt, dried figs, and honey. I don’t know if I’ll ever tire of the dish, considering I’ve been eating it solidly for breakfast my entire university career.
For Amy Mullin, VP academic and dean, the signature dish is classic banana bread, which she’s modified over time.
“My husband is really the chef in the family, but I regularly make banana bread using a modification of my father’s recipe—he uses walnuts instead of the chocolate chips and also uses sugar,” she says. “I used to use sugar (1/2 cup) but gradually decreased the amount to zero and no one minded.” Her recipe is shockingly simple and even healthy given the reduced sugar and use of whole-wheat flour.
I’d say that a person’s signature dish—no matter how advanced—naturally becomes easier over time and with practice. It becomes second nature. You learn from those terrible mistakes—I’ve had plenty a bowlful of over-boiled oatmeal—and profit from incredible innovations. Mullin has also experimented with the cooking vessel itself for her banana loaf and recommends in place of a loaf pan, putting the batter “into a muffin pan to cook more quickly and have individual portions”.
The best part of finding your own signature dish? The boasting rights. I know my oatmeal is top-notch and no 1,000th-time-tested recipe can compete.
Whether that’s true or not is (potentially) up for debate.
Banana Chocolate Loaf
MAKES 1 LOAF
- 3 or 4 large ripe bananas, mashed
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1½–2 cups whole-wheat flour (depending on the size of the bananas)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup butter or margarine
- Blend everything together.
- Pour into a greased loaf or muffin pan.
- Cook at 350 F for about an hour or until browned.