I was four years old when we moved into a brand-new house in South Windsor, Connecticut. One afternoon, my father decided I needed friends and walked me and Norman down to the local playground to meet the neighborhood children. Norman gave me strength. A sweet, fuzzy-headed, thumb-sucking baby monkey doll. To rest, he slipped perfectly inside an 8-inch yellow felt banana-shaped sleeping bag. Norman was my comfort and conversation starter when I met new kids. I can’t decide whether I’ve heard the playground story so many times that I think I remember it, or if I actually do. But the vision of us is seared in my mind. My dear dad and me, hand in hand, me clutching Norman and his banana for dear life, silently walking down the street, both a little fearful about the next steps. Back then, Norman and his banana were my ice-breakers. Now, it’s the banana bread I offer up as I walk into the new and unfamiliar. Neither has ever let me down.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar, and lime zest in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the banana and vanilla and fold in the dates. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 55 to 65 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then flip the loaf out of the pan, turn it right-side up, and let it cool completely.
Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.