Monday, July 8, 2013

Banana Walnut Muffins #MuffinMonday

With apologies to David Attenborough and the BBC Natural History Unit

(Cue hushed voice)  If we observe closely, we can witness a natural phenomenon of the expat life.  Preparations for the Great Expat Migration, likened only to the circular migration of the wildebeests through the Serengeti for sheer volume of participants, begin in March or April with bookings on public conveyances.   Historically, this meant ships, but now, more likely, airplanes.  In the Northern Hemisphere the actual migration begins in early June, as formal institutes of learning close for an extended period through the heat of the summer months. 

We can observe the migrants in various states of readiness.  The elder females clear out stockpiles of clothing that no longer fit their young and make donations to the local community.  Farewell rituals are observed with parting gifts and potlucks.  Graduates are feted.  Tears are shed and bags, one inside another, are packed with skeleton wardrobes:  a few pairs of shorts, shirts and underwear, plus a possible indigenous hostess gift or two, because supplies can and will be purchased along the circular migratory path.  

Migrants en route are readily apparent by the almost complete lack of male adults on the initial leg of the journey, as mothers and their young board airplanes to reconnect with their original countrymen and home cultures for the duration of the summer season.  We follow the migratory path for the next two months as these wanderers traverse borders, staying a few days or a few weeks at a time with obliging relations and friends, gorging on favorite foods and imbibing excessive libations of a celebratory nature, and, most essentially, stocking up on necessary supplies for the return journey and the nine months before the next migration.  

Old friendships are reaffirmed and local dialects are used again.  Bewildered offspring are immersed in the culture of their parents’ heritage, which often includes being obliged to kiss aged relations in the matriarchal or patriarchal line and permit the pinching of young cheeks.  These family rituals are an attempt to transmit family values, history and culture from one generation to the next.  Male adult members often join the migration at some point, upon which the ritual or tradition called Family Holiday (BritE) or Family Vacation (AmE) ensues.  This is met by much jubilance among the youngsters and relief from the older females.  Varying from family to family, seasonal migration traditions may also include family reunions, with inexplicable matching t-shirts for all participants, adults and children alike. (Which would make a whole 'nother post.)

St. George's Island, Florida, circa 2002

First cousins

Then finally, with suitcases at capacity and appetites sated, more tears are shed and farewells are exchanged as our travelers complete the migratory circle, returning to their expat homes just in time for the start of the new school year.  

According to a United Nations projection, there might well be over 200 million expats in this big world, depending on your exact definition of expat.  How many are in the migration circle, even as I type?  Are you?  Leave me a comment!  I finished my circle early this year and Dubai is feeling pretty empty. 

But enough fun with social anthropology.  Since it’s Monday, you know I’ve got a muffin for you.  

2 cups or 250g flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5oz or 140g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/3 cup or 80ml canola
1/2 cup or 120ml milk
2 large, ripe bananas
About 3/4 cup or 75g walnuts
12 walnut halves and powdered sugar (optional for decorating)

Preheat your oven to 375F° or 190°C and prepare your 12-cup muffin pan by greasing or lining with paper muffin cups. 

In a large bowl mix together your flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar.  

In a smaller bowl, whisk your milk, canola oil and eggs, along with the two ripe bananas.  

Chop your walnuts.  

Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  

Now fold in the chopped nuts. 

Evenly distribute the batter among the muffin cups.  

Top with one walnut half per muffin, if desired. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Remove the muffins from the muffin pan and finish cooling on a rack.  

Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar – optional, but look how pretty! 



  1. lol!! I loved the anthropology lesson ;) And I love how simple and tasty these muffins are!

  2. Oh, this is great - perfectly accurate! And we have done t-shirts many,many times! Our migration begins late this year since I just finished school a week ago and am in desperate need of some post-school 'down' time - and, besides, #1 is here for 3 more weeks finishing up a summer internship! #2 is safely settled in at his summer program in Seattle, and I have my empty bags ready to go!

  3. Love, love this post! The other day evidently the headlines in Al Ahram were about dozens leaving Egypt.....I wrote on the wall of the person who posted - "This is a normal summer in Cairo! It's called Expat life" Have to share this one.

  4. Thanks, Kayle! It's the story of my life, except I usually don't stay away the whole summer. I feel bad leaving my poor husband and the hound for that long.

  5. Thanks, Carolyne! I was hoping some of my fellow expats would weigh in. I have friends that leave on the last day of school but I usually wait a few weeks to have some downtime and come back early for the same reason. Now the school year doesn't matter as much but, of course, we had Victoria's graduation on 1 June so we went early. Now we are back for the heat of Dubai's summer. Oy.

  6. Thanks for sharing, Marilyn! It's hard for folks who haven't seen it to understand the scale of the mass exodus.

  7. This is beautifully written, Stacy! Living in Mexico City now, it seems strange to only haul back Crystal Light, PB2 and a couple of nut butters (which you can now get here). We are also lucky that we get more visitors than in Malaysia or, I don't know, um..Sudan. lol :)

  8. Thanks, Cindy. We haul way less than before to Dubai too. My suitcase this summer had mostly clothes and smoked sausage. Pork is available but not good smoked sausage. I'm shocked that you didn't get many visitors in Sudan! Shocked. I figured you and Mark would be a good draw, no matter where you live.

  9. I almost read that in Marlin Perkin's voice. Well payed, Stacy. Well payed! And I can smell the muffins....really smell them.

  10. Wow - I can only imagine! We lived for 6 years in Phoenix and I thought that was pretty extreme. However, I guess you get used to it like anything else, and have strategies for dealing with it! I don't like to leave my husband for the summer, either - especially since he is gone part of the week every week now. Last summer I went for 6 weeks and that was a bit too long. This summer I'll be gone for just over 3 and I think that is a bit too short. Next summer I guess I'll shoot for 4 and see how that goes over!

  11. According to the internet, it was 117°F today with 23 percent humidity. All I know is that it felt like an oven when I walked outside with the hound. I guess Arizona is like this but with no humidity. My overriding strategy right now is to stay in the house with the air on. After all, I need to turn the inside oven on. :)

    Three may be too short but see how you feel. As nice as it is visiting all the folks, I am always glad to get home again.

  12. What terrific looking muffins! And thanks for sharing this part of your life with us all...

  13. Thank you, Liz! It was fun to write. :)


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