Friday, April 25, 2014

Yes, we have no bananas today

Bananas…How to Serve Them
Fruit Dispatch Company 1940

While I focus on cookbooks, I do have a few pamphlets as well. I once met a collector who specialized in pamphlets and I can see why: the visuals are profuse, especially when compared to mid-century cookbooks, the corporate copy is usually amusing at this remove, and they are just fun, kind of the comic books of the cookbook collector's world.

This pamphlet was produced by a subsidiary of the United Fruit Company, the same people who brought us the original banana republics. But first they had to teach Americans how to eat, cook, and desire bananas. A precursor to this pamphlet is one made in 1924, but until I can see that one, this one will have to do.

The inside front cover begins with the injunction "suit the color to the use." That is, it describes green, yellow, and flecked bananas and how to use them. The inside back cover pages give tips on how to buy, slice, ripen, mash and cool bananas. It's hard to take such instructions seriously when you know that a 3-year-old can handle most banana operations. The back cover page also touts the advantages of bananas for all types of people, including babies, children, teens, athletes, and "old folks" who find bananas "easy to chew, easy to digest."

And the recipes! Of course there are many traditional uses--banana bread, bananas in Jell-O (yes, once we needed a recipe for that dish), and banana desserts. But what about entrées with bananas? Don't you think your bananas need some savory treatments? How about:

Ham Banana Rolls Bananas wrapped in ham, baked with mustard and then topped with cheese sauce.

Banana Salmon Salad Bananas, pineapple, flaked salmon, celery, pickles, mayonnaise, mustard.

Broiled Bananas and Bacon Bananas wrapped with bacon and broiled: a test for the mythic powers of bacon to make anything taste good.

Plenty of the desserts are equally scary:

Banana Grape Marlow Mashed bananas, marshmallows, grape juice, and whipping cream. A note warns that this requires the use of an "automatic refrigerator."

Banana Prune Whip Sliced bananas, prune purée, sugar, and egg whites.

Banana Butter Frosting Mashed bananas, butter and powdered sugar.

Throughout there are cheerful exhortations about bananas, such as "bananas are good mixers - with meat. fish, vegetables," and "nature seals bananas in a germ-proof package."

The overall effect is equally fun and disturbing, and it left me with no desire for eating a banana. Rather the opposite, but I will own that I am odd about bananas--I like them as bananas, in banana bread, and in bananas Foster. And that's it.

I also find it nearly impossible to finish a banana. No matter how big or small, I alway have a leftover bite or two. I blame this on my childhood dog, Argos, who loved few things as much as he loved bananas. He would sit patiently watching every bite of banana disappear with his big, brown, sorrowful eyes, while his whole body emanated quiet hope for those last bites of  'nanner. Of course, I obliged.

What's black and white and yellow all over?


  1. hahaha, I'm surprised you permit this in your house! ;)

  2. I don't see how this got labeled "scary."