The Yiddish Banana Policemen’s Butterscotch Union Muffins

or, two reviews – one post.

A-hem.

Banana Butterscotch Muffines – from Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast

Nothing stresses S. out like when I buy bananas. For some reason he sees four or five or six green-tinged bananas fresh home from the grocery store and he feels the need to remind me that we never, ever manage to finish all the bananas I buy EVER and even though I always claim I will make banana something or other I never actually do, and so why do I insist on buying bananas? My answer? Because I like them. But I will go on record as admitting that I have never actually finished an entire banana, being the sort who likes about, say, half a banana. In our normal world, when S. and I live together, I almost always offer him the other half of my banana and, because he is already stressed about the very fact of the bananas in the house, he usually accepts. In this way I also get him to eat grapefruit and avocado. He is not always so good with the fresh fruits and veggies, but he can’t abide waste.

The first time I grocery shopped here in Pittsburgh, I bought a bunch of bananas and I have to say while I miss my husband terribly, I did not miss his woeful glance at the bunch on the counter and stern talking-to about how I need to finish them all myself.  Several days later, I found myself with three extraordinarily ripe bananas (oh, did I mention, if a banana has even a hint of brown on the peel, I won’t eat it? Yuck, no. I like them practically green), and decided for the first time in my banana-buying adult life to actually make a banana baked good. I decided to try Nigella Lawson’s Banana Butterscotch Muffins, but replacing the butterscotch (per one of her suggestions) with chocolate chips.

So, without much ado, I will say they turned out beautifully! Lawson says the mufins’ “resilient squidginess makes them very good travelers” and this is true – these are dense muffins that, like Hillary Clinton, can take a punch. I will definitely be making these again, although next time I may reduce the sugar just a tiny bit. Note, I used three bananas and they took 22 minutes to cook, instead of the noted 20 below.  If you like banana chip bread, I think you will like this recipe.

Banana Butterscotch Muffins

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 2/3 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2-3 ripe bananas

1 cup butterscotch (or chocolate) chips

Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Measure the oil into a large glass measuring cup and beat in the eggs.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl and mix in the liquid ingredients, followed by the mashed bananas.

Fold in the chips, then divide equal quantities into the waiting muffin pan and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Makes 12.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon

This book, this book. What can I say? I closed the cover with very mixed emotions. First of all, let me just say, this is not an ideal read when you are moving. I should have chosen something lighter and easier to follow.  Anyway, I have admired Chabon for a long time. The stripped down sensibility of Mysteries of Pittsburgh moved me, and The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay astounded me. And there is much, much to love about this book, as well. It is both romance and mystery, and the premise…that “For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendents have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a ‘temporary’ safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel” intrigued me from the beginning. The plot is incredibly crafted and invites the kind of page-turning urgency of a mystery novel, while the characters possess literary-fiction sensibility. But the writing itself, while absolutely amazing, for me detracted from the story. When the book first came out, much was made of Chabon’s use of simile and metaphor, and I found this device to overpower everything else about the book.  Often his comparisons didn’t work for me at all, and at other times they came too quickly, too close together. Everything is like or as something else…nothing is ever itself. As I write this, I realize this probably lends itself well to the imaginary situation, itself, but I found it eventually diminished my delight in an otherwise amazing book. Now, as my graduate school teachers were so fond of encouraging, let’s turn to the text for some freakin’ proof:

Her right arm is raised, index finger extended toward the trash bins, like a painting of the angel Michael casting Adam and Even from the Garden (p. 53)

Landsman uncaps the bottle of vodka ad takes a long stiff pull. It burns like a compound of solvent and lye (p. 74)

My ass is like a topographical map.”

And on and and on and on like that, on nearly every page, every paragraph. In the end, I left Chabon’s book dazzled by the plot, carrying his characters within me, and cognizant of the fact that there is such a thing as too much description.  I read recently this book will soon become a movie, and I actually look forward to that…both the story and the characters lend themselves beautifully to a screenplay, and then there won’t be all of these comparisons, all of the time.

So, there you go. The Yiddish Banana Policemen’s Butterscotch Union Muffins. Hazaah.

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11 Responses to The Yiddish Banana Policemen’s Butterscotch Union Muffins

  1. I get S’s banana thing. I don’t think my family of five has ever finished a bunch of bananas. At least one goes brown and squidgy, and since I’m the only who will contemplate eating banana bread or muffins, I have to throw it away. Such a pity.

    As for the Michael Chabon, I’ve been keen to read it, but am having a phase of not wanting to read contemporary fiction, so will put it on my imaginary on hold pile.

  2. Katie says:

    Yum, I love butterscotch so I might try it the recipe as written. By the way, I laughed out loud at this line: “…these are dense muffins that, like Hillary Clinton, can take a punch.” You are too funny.

  3. yogamum says:

    You don’t have to throw away overripe bananas! You can peel them and throw them into a ziploc bag in the freezer, then use them for baking or smoothies whenever you’re ready!

    Try the banana cake I mentioned on my blog yesterday! SOOOOO good.

  4. Andi says:

    Mmm. The muffins sound amazing! The book, not so much. Overdone similies and metaphors make me crazy. CRA-ZY. Just reading those three made the topographical map of my butt pucker.

  5. Emily Barton says:

    Does it surprise you that I’m the same way about bananas and that I know exactly what it’s like to be married to a man who worries about waste (luckily, he loves bananas, even bananas with tons of brown spots on them). The recipe sounds delicious. But then, it’s Nigella: it’s got to be good! I have yet to read Chabon, although everyone’s told me to read CAVALIER AND CLAY (yes, really, EVERYone :-)!).

  6. musingsfromthesofa says:

    I am also the same way about bananas. There is about a 37 minute period when they are at the perfect stage of ripeness, and it always happens when I am at not there to see it. But, you can throw them in the freezer and then dig them out for banana muffins or banana walnut cake. And really, if one must eat fruit, what better way than in cake?

    Michael Chabon – eh. I don’t get him.

  7. Litlove says:

    I love it: the Hilary Clinton of muffins – how I wish Nigella could hear that comparison because I bet she’d really appreciate it. And come to think of it, Michael Chabon might be able to learn a thing or two about metaphor usage as well! Yes, The Adventures had passages where the metaphor thing went a bit wild, so I can imagine that a whole book like that would be somewhat indigestible.

  8. Courtney says:

    Charlotte, I actually froze these muffins individually and have been taking one out about every other day and warming it up, but I doubt I will make them again until I have some more muffin-eaters around.

    Katie – I like butterscotch too but for some reason the butterscotch/banana combo doesn’t appeal to me – let me know how it is! Also, the “punch” comment came from Hillary herself yesterday.

    Yogamum – I just hopped over. Oh my goodness. That looks amazing.

    Andi – the book literally OVERFLOWS with these metaphors – it distracted me so much from the otherwise well-executedness I almost stopped reading.

    Emily – Sigh. Another sign of our long lost sisterhood! And actually, Cavalier and Clay IS good!

    Musings – LOL – you are right! There really is only about 37 minutes where they are perfect!

    LItlove – you know, I didn’t notice this metaphor situation as much in Cavalier, but in this book it continually dragged me away from the plot and characters. As I noted above, I almost stopped reading because I found the overusage so frustrating, all the more so because the plot and characters charmed me so much.

  9. stu says:

    I suspect the banana thing may well be universal. The trouble is, you then get the feeling of ‘I’ve got to eat these before they go off’ which inevitably puts you off eating the things.

  10. Cam says:

    My husband always buys exactly four bananas and this was what was on the list this week when I, uncharacteristically, did the grocery shopping. I had a dilemma: I need more potassium and thought I might want some bananas too, but the bunches were too big. I figured I could just throw them away if they ripened too quickly. What does husband say when he sees eight bananas on the counter (I had already had 1!): “You have to eat four bananas before they go bad. Can you eat that many? Why did you buy so many?”

    “Because that was the size of the bunch”, I said. “I’ll probably have two.”

    “Why didn’t you just pull two off the bunch before you bought them?”, he said.

    Never occurred to me before. Isn’t that some sort of grocery shop crime? Just seems wrong to me. Throwing them away isn’t that big of a deal.

    Uncharacteristically, I ate the fourth banana this morning. I think I’ve had my quota of bananas for the next several months. Hope my potassium levels are back in sync soon.

  11. Returning to the topic of similes, I’ve just read on a literary agent’s blog that two per book is the most he can stomach. I’ve been mentally counting the similes in my book so far and there are many more than two!

    Thanks for the banana tip, Yogamum, I’d not thought of that. My problem is my miniscule freezer.

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