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If I have learned anything from my time at Southern Living, it is that one does not show up anywhere without a gift. I have learned the value of a handwritten thank-you, the importance of manners, and the magical power of a well-timed peach cobbler. But, above all, I have learned to never arrive empty-handed. 

This is important in a lot of different situations. If you show up to your new neighbor's house, you should have a welcome gift. If you're going over to a friend's home for dinner, you should bring a hostess gift. And, if you're entering the Southern dating pool and meeting a gentleman's Mama for the first time, you should certainly bring her something to remember you by.

And, Southern Mamas aren't impressed by just any ol' Hallmark figurine. Arguably the largest hurdle in any young relationship, a Southern Mama has (literally) the power to make or break your potential courtship with her son. So, as I dipped my toe into the pool of dating a Southern boy, also came along the creeping feeling that I had better figure out which Mama gift would allow me to put my best foot forward.

I am an amateur baker. Usually, I'm focused on trying out new recipes and new ingredients, but I had a hankering that something a little more classic would be a better fit for meeting Mama P. The gal has lived in Tennessee her entire life, so why would she want floral macarons when she could have buttermilk biscuits? As I flipped through my bookmarked recipes, I found one that I'd made back in college to rave reviews from the girls on my floor: chocolate-chip banana bread. A quick-bread that was hard to mess up? I was sold.

The original recipe that I used was Genius Kitchen's Best Banana Bread Recipe, but I modified it a bit to make it better. It's incredibly simple as long as you can give the bread an hour to bake, and the recipe yields two loaves – because, after smelling banana bread in the oven, you're going to want to keep one for yourself. Here's what you'll need for my variation:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 4 crushed bananas
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla (I've also tried with almond extract, which is a delicious swap!)
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Cream together butter and sugar, then add in eggs, bananas, and vanilla. Whisk together dry ingredients, and gently fold into wet ingredients until batter is just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Do not overmix, or your bread will be too dense! Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans, and bake at 350˚ for about an hour, or until your bread is golden and a toothpick comes out clean. You may need to tent with foil toward the end.

You may also be interested in our best-ever banana bread recipe:

I cannot rave enough about this chocolate-chip banana bread recipe. It is so soft, with just the right amount of sweetness, and a loaf has not lasted longer than six hours in my house due to the unspoken rule that you need to slice off a little piece every time you walk by. It is truly one of the best banana breads I've ever eaten in my life.

If you're invested in my story, you'll be thrilled to know that Mama P did, indeed, approve of my chocolate-chip banana bread. She put it on a platter and sliced it as soon as we came over (which could have been an intimidation tactic, but I took it as a compliment). Her husband, Papa D, told me it was one of the best breads he'd ever eaten.

I found out later that Mama P was more comforted by the fact that I demonstrated the ability to keep her son fed, rather than pitting my baking against her expections. Isn't that something a Southern mother would say? Now, a loaf of banana bread is at the top of my list when I know we're going to see them.