Grandma Mabel’s Banana Bread

Greg’s grandma Mabel made a mean banana bread.  Which is nothing compared to her accomplishment of raising 5 children to adulthood and only once forgetting a child at a gas station.  But, since I don’t have her recipe for raising children, you’re stuck with banana bread.  Sorry.  I assure you, my disappointment in the trade-off is greater than yours.

Passed from mother-in-law to daughter-in-law for three generations, this, the best banana bread I’ve ever had, is a tried and true recipe.  In fact, my mother-in-law, Judy, and I have only made two improvements in our cumulative 40 years in possession of it.  Improvement #1: omit nuts.  Improvement #2: add chocolate chips.  Now, I enjoy a good banana nut bread as much as the next girl.  But, really, you just can’t beat Mabel’s Old Fashioned (Chocolate Chip / No Nut) Banana Bread for perfection in a pan.

It takes strong women working together to create nutless excellence like this.  You’re welcome.  You’re very welcome.

Yesterday morning, I discovered that my banana bowl was sporting a little more brown than green.

Yesterday morning, I also found my children eating a package of Oreos for breakfast.

In classic 1 + 1 = 2 fashion, I figured I can solve that breakfast problem Mabel-style.

And so I did.

And then I said, “NO ONE IS EATING THAT ‘TIL MAMA HAS SOME COFFEE.”  (Logic and caffeine-withdrawal do not inhabit the same brain, so that made strange and beautiful sense to me at the time.)

And then came a series of “and thens.”

Like this:

And then I made coffee.

And then I opened the fridge.

And then I realized I was out of half and half.

And then I contemplated using nonfat milk in my coffee.

And then I scoffed at that notion as completely unrealistic and, in fact, demeaning to me as a woman and a mother.

And then I knew I had to do something important for women and mothers everywhere.

And then, using the same decaffeinated brain I used to tell the children that they couldn’t eat the warm, fresh-from-the-oven banana bread, I decided that the “something important” I’d do to make the world a better place was to get myself more half and half.  Immediately.

And then, I told the littles to shoe up; we had a trail to blaze and half and half to buy.

And then they shod themselves.

And then we were in the middle of the “Tea, A Drink With” aisle (sidenote: some of you probably call this the Jam and Bread aisle, but only if Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music wasn’t an intricate part of your upbringing… in which case, you have my condolences) when I realized why the other store patrons were looking at us funny.

Geez, peeps.  It’s like you’ve never been in the Tea, A Drink With aisle with a butterfly, a purple-tutu-encased Superdude, and a little man in a fuschia zebra-print dress.

And then I realized that living in Weird Oregon is almost worth the rain.  ‘Cause more of those funny looks resulted in thumbs-up than in tsk-tsk’s.  Which is a balm to a decaffeinated, frazzled mama’s heart.

And then we went home.

And then mama had coffee.

And then we ate, with great delight…

Grandma Mabel’s Old Fashioned
(Chocolate Chip / No Nut)


  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 T. soft shortening or oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup milk with 2 T. vinegar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 ½  tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 scant tsp. salt
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts
  • as many chocolate chips as you can cram in

Directions: Cream shortening, sugar, and egg.  Add bananas and vanilla.  Measure almost 1 cup milk and slowly stir in vinegar.  Alternate dry ingredients and milk, reserving about 2 T. flour.  Toss nuts chocolate chips with reserved flour and add last.  Pour in pans and bake at 350o for one hour.  Makes one 5 X 9 loaf or 2 – 3 small loaves.

It all was, in two words, worth it.

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30 responses to “Grandma Mabel’s Banana Bread”

  1. If I saw you and your kids in the store, I would probably want to hug you. Or at least high5 you. Because, srsly, your kids rock. And so do you, mama. So do you.

  2. Ah, so good. Laughed till I cried & then some. My hubby came in from the other room to find out what was going on too! LOVING you’re blog. You’re funny, but you also write beautifully. You’re making a difference! Thank you!

  3. Just made this completely in the blender (‘cept for the baking, of course) because I hate fresh bananas, and refuse to touch them more than absolutely necessary. In the oven now, so we shall see…

  4. I have about 7 banana’s (hubby was a bit over enthusiastic as the store when buying bananas last week) browning in the bowl at home as we speak and my mombie brain was in despair over what to do with so many brown bananas. TG for your banana bread post 🙂

  5. Fantastic! Love the photos (and the one with a bepillowed twin lurking casually in the background is also excellent) and the story and banana bread. I usually make Nigella’s, but shall next time be trying out Grandma Mabel’s, since it comes so highly recommended. Thank you 😀 x

  6. I must agree that that has been one of the wonderful things we have discovered about living in Oregon. Being slightly off is not a bad thing, in fact, you tend to fit in better that way! (and my bananas, which are also a little more brown than yellow, are thanking you for giving them something to do!)

  7. “And then I realized that living in Weird Oregon is almost worth the rain.” ALMOST being the key word here.

  8. That line “no one is eating until mama has coffee” is almost a daily occurance around our house! 🙂 So glad to have foudn your blog! Love it! I think everyone should shop decked out like those cute little kiddos of yours. 🙂

  9. my favorite trip to the store ever was in April when I took my son to the store in a pirate costume, when I just didn’t have the energy to fight him over what he wore . . . and everyone smiled at him looking so cute. It was at that moment I realized no one judged me by what my child wore, but they simply could enjoy it, too . . . and that I was going to make it thru being a mom . . . no matter what curve ball life was going to throw at me! Amazing, isn’t it, how such a simple thing can seem so huge an ordeal at the time . . . and then now we look back at it and realize . . . it was REALLY not such a big thing after all! And it is in those defining moments, that we are truly made as moms!

  10. Fun Dutch fact: banana bread is actually quite unknown over here! In fact, I’ve only had it once: in the US 🙂
    Bananas turn brownish on a very regular basis in our household, so I guess that as soon as I’ve figured out what the heck ‘shortening’ is (or ‘scant’ for that matter) this mommy’s gonna get crackin’ on this recipe!

  11. Also, my husband when I began by reading the “and then’s” part stopped me and said, “O, NO, please tell me she didn’t put breastmilk in her coffee”. This may have also added to the hilarity of the post for me. (He obviously is less informed and not on your blog constantly, so he was unaware that you are no longer breastfeeding twins)!

  12. Ok, I laughed til I cried at the picture. My husband came from the other room to see what the fuss was about. I love it. We just returned from China and I just reentered my blog roll. I had 12 unread posts from you (YAY!!) and this was the second I read (double YAY!). I SO LOVE your writing (or your life). Thank you!

  13. Melissa made challah bread to go with our soup for dinner. Delicious. We’ve got a lot of brown bananas in the fridge waiting to be baked into banana bread–I need to get on it. Also, zucchini’s waiting to become zucchini bread.

  14. A ha ha ha ha ha! I love that you got all the way to the store and other people noticed your children’s attire before you did!!!
    Bananas never last long enough in our house to get brown sadly. And I only have 2 children…

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