Gimbling in the Wabe – The Right Idea

by Sharon Browning


From the Smitten Kitchen

From the Smitten Kitchen

Sometimes, the hardest thing about writing a weekly column is coming up with a good idea.Often for me, ideas seem to appear just in the nick of time – ta dah! – giving me just enough slack to delve into the topic but not enough time to allow it to get too complicated, or too diluted (since there is scant time to tinker it to distraction).  Other weeks, I harbor an idea for a few days, letting it gel or germinate, until it bursts full flower from my fingertips the day it’s due.  (Really!)

Then there are weeks like this one, where I have plenty of ideas, just none that are workable.  Or rather, I have ideas, but not enough time to do them justice.  For instance, I debated writing about SJWs – Social Justice Warriors – and the #gamergate controversy with its thinly veiled misogyny, even though that’s not really a literary topic; it’s still something that is grabbing a lot of attention from my head and my heart lately.  But I don’t want to simply react to the subject, I want to express myself in a thoughtful, respectful, “get to the heart of it” way, and that’s going to take more than a few days to develop.  Subjects that elicit such a strong emotional response need time to be approached and realized carefully.  And that ties into something I’ve been ruminating on for a few weeks now, something that I’ve wanted to explore more concretely:  the idea of “stepping back” in order to get a better view of what’s occurring around us, to put things into a better or more inclusive or less intensive or less personal or more honest perspective – or a perspective less apt to manipulation.  But yeah – that’s an even bigger endeavor to capture in an essay.   I’m not quite up to that today.

I’ve been mulling over another idea, too.  I want to do something on China Miéville, an author I greatly admire, and I thought October would be a perfect month to do so seeing that his works are usually kinda creepy  in a way unlike anyone else’s (plus, there seems to be a lot of buzz about him all of a sudden, so it might be a timely thing to do) but once again, that would take more research (= effort) than I have time for right now, because although I’ve read quite a few of his books, the details of each (as is my modus operandi) are a little hazy; I’d need to reacquaint myself with his works before attempting an essay on him – I don’t want to merely produce fluff, I want something a bit more substantial for you guys.  So I think that might be next week’s Gimbling, if I manage to do the footwork soon.  Maybe the week after.

I mentioned this morning at the dog park that I was struggling to find a topic for a column, and Karen, the owner of a couple of gorgeous and good natured Bernese Mountain Dogs (and who is herself a writer) brought up something she had read recently, about how the City of Boston had finally erected a statue of Edgar Allen Poe, which led to a discussion on how Poe really loathed Boston (where he was born) and how Boston kind of disowned him (he and the other Bostonian literary elites of the day had a mutual dislike of each other), which led to sharing gems of information about Edgar Allan, such as how the Baltimore Ravens professional football team was named after his famous poem, “The Raven” (Baltimore is where his family was from, and where he is buried).  I thought for a while about expanding that idea – the statue is very well conceived and executed  – but on one hand, that felt more like an article than an essay, and on the other hand, although I know OF Poe and his works, I don’t really KNOW Poe and his works, so basing a somewhat personal essay on this felt a little, well, disingenuous in reverse.  I still may write an article on it – I love that idea – but it’s not really a good topic to Gimble upon.

So what to do, what to do?

In answer to that, I did what I often do when I can.  I poured myself a hot cup of coffee and went out to sit on my front porch, to alternately read and ponder the world.  It’s been an absolutely gorgeous fall day here in Minneapolis, with the trees a mass of colors, reds and yellows and oranges and even still some greens here and there contrasting against dark bark, leaves falling in the warm breeze against a backdrop of bright blue sky – they almost looks like falling snowflakes, only larger and warmer and prettier.  Even essays due the next day can wait in lieu of such a lovely tableau.

Out there on the porch, it came to me.  What it was that I wanted to share with you this week.  Something warm and fun, and something wonderful.

Jacked Up Banana Bread.Jacked up banana bread2

What better fall treat than the absolute best banana bread ever, warm from the oven, moist and dense and possibly slathered with butter?  I found this recipe on what has come to be my very favorite culinary website:  The Smitten Kitchen.  If you enjoy cooking in even the smallest degree (and especially if you love cooking), bookmark this site, or follow it on Facebook.  It (and its owner, Deb Perelman) is informative, witty, personable, and the recipes are absolutely divine, even for someone not blessed with a single cooking gene, such as myself.  And this banana bread?  Simply the best I’ve ever tasted.  It’s become a favorite in our household.  So for this week’s Gimbling in the Wabe, I’d love to share this cherished recipe with you.

Jacked Up Banana Bread


  • 3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup melted salted butter
  • 3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar (depending on the level of sweetness you prefer)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon (optional – I don’t use it)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Up to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups flour


Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla (and bourbon, if using), then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

So there you have it.  My gift to you, this lovely fall day.  Seems to me like this was the absolute perfect idea to share this week!


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