Dessert bananas: 1930’s culinary kitsch

When Patti and I were growing up the banana was the ever-present fruit in our house.  It was great on rice cereal and awesome covered in peanut butter.  The banana often popped up in our lunch bags/boxes when our parents packed our lunches, which consequently and unfortunately made everything in our lunch taste like bananas (I got in the habit of checking my lunch for bananas pretty fast to remove them before they made everything else taste horrible.  No one wants to eat a banana and turkey sandwich).  However, our ALL TIME FAVORITE way to eat bananas was banana bread (why do things in bread form taste extra good?!).

In the United States banana bread is completely a child of the 1930’s (keeping the vintage alive and you didn’t even know it) exploding into the American consciousness with the popularization of baking powder and baking soda.  Ok, exploding might be a strong word but due to its super simple nature banana bread became a true hit with the housewife set in the 1960’s.  And unlike Tang (the outer space “breakfast beverage”) banana bread is still a hit today.

Ripe, yellow bananas are often refered to as “dessert” bananas, and the green unripe ones are labeled “cooking” bananas.  I have yet to discover a recipe that calls for green, unripe bananas.  The banana was first domesticated in Southeast Asia, and was relatively unheard of in Europe as far up as the Victorian Era (one wonders how they got their daily potassium intake).  Unfortunately, as many things go, once bananas were valued as a desired/vital North American/European import the banana trade as it occurred throughout the world began to have serious ramifications in the lives of those who worked to harvest the banana and transport it.  If you are someone who likes to buy and eat the banana I suggest reading up a little on the history, as well as current situation, of the ways in which bananas are brought into our country and supermarket, and end up in your banana bread.

BANANA BREAD

* From Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess*

1 c. plus 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
4 small, very ripe bananas, mashed ( I used 3 large ones)
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1 tsp. vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium-sized bowl and using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas.
  4. Then, with your wooden spoon, stir in the walnuts and vanilla extract.
  5. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit.
  6.  Scrape into the loaf pan and make in the middle of the oven for 1 -1 1/4 hours. When its ready an inserted toothpick or knife should come out clean.
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