Bananas are OK.
They possess neither the flashiness of a strawberry or the grandeur of a watermelon. They aren’t refreshing like a nice, crisp apple or easy to mindlessly eat like a few hundred grapes. Instead, bananas humbly step in when you don’t have time to eat an actual breakfast and are enlisted in a pinch when you are trying your damnedest to stay awake at work in the mid-afternoon.
In the abstract, they are perfect for slip-and-fall slapstick comedy and perhaps the best fruit to use as a pretend telephone.
But where’s the wow factor? Answer: there is none. Not when they are meagerly sliced into cereal and certainly not when they are eaten on their own. But, as has been proven time and again, when given the opportunity, bananas can shine and when utilized the right way, can be quite, ahem, appealing. What follows is a collection of preparations that takes bananas and thrusts them into recipes where they have no right appearing. Taken from various Internet sources, these dishes will either gross you out or make you go ape with hunger.
*Author’s Note: This list is specifically about bananas, not plantains. Sure, plantains might be related to bananas, but such facts have no relevancy here.
Bananas are filled with nutrients that promote health and overall well-being. What better way to exploit that than by splitting one down the middle, and filling the void with three scoops of full-fat ice cream before covering it in every topping imaginable, from chocolate sauce to whipped cream to whatever those wet nuts are.
Invented in 1904 at a pharmacy—back when pharmacies were cool—the original recipe for a banana split is as follows: One banana (split), with a scoop of chocolate ice cream covered in chocolate sauce, a scoop of strawberry ice cream draped in strawberry syrup and a scoop of vanilla ice cream ruined with pineapple. Then, whipped cream is shot from end to end before it’s topped with a maraschino cherry.
Though not as popular at places like Carvel or Baskin Robbins where they opt to serve ice cream with such ingredients swirled into the recipe, you can still get a classic banana split at any diner, at any time of day or night to fill the void in the middle of your soul.
Elvis Presley is a little-known entertainer that made a minor impact on the music industry a long, long time ago. But what he was really famous for, and what he’s mainly remembered for today, is his massive, lard-drenched appetite. A southern boy who proclaimed an undying love for his mama’s (or maid’s) cooking, Presley filled his hunk a’hunkin’ belly with every fatty favorite you can imagine. Chief among his food addictions was the grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich.
To make this gooey delicacy, the King (his maid) would melt an entire stick of butter in a frying pan, while mashing ripe bananas to spread on one side of white bread and globs of peanut butter on the other. He (his maid) would then grill the sticky monstrosity until brown on both sides. The combination of the sweet banana and the salty/sweet peanut butter turns into a decadent love ballad in the mouth, with the buttery bread adding just enough fat to give you the heart palpitations you need to write a couple of catchy tunes.
Never have bananas been so helpless as in this 1970s monstrosity. Originally published in McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection from 1973, this oddity finally marries bananas to ham, with a slathering of lemon juice, mustard and hollandaise sauce for a piping-hot, potassium-rich nightmare straight out of the oven. Ham and Bananas Hollandaise is a dish perfectly attached to the era in which it was invented, as America was staring down its bicentennial and was feeling insecure thanks to the Vietnam War quagmire and ever-present gas shortages.
This dish and others during that same time like Crown Roast of Frankfurters, Hot Tuna and Egg Buns and Spaghetti-O Jello, was the culinary equivalent to mid-life crisis—super embarrassing for everyone except the poor soul locked in the deeply emotional turmoil of advancing age. Now, Ham and Bananas Hollandaise only resides in old, sticky recipe books and in the haunted memories of your grandparents as a misguided attempt to impress dinner party guests.
In a revelation that should surprise precisely no one, banana pudding traces its lineage to the Civil War-era southern portion of these United States. Even when eaten today, there is something about the combination of bananas, vanilla wafers and cream that makes one feel as though they are about to pen an old-timey letter to their “Dearest Martha” about the ravages of war. There are also no less than two national banana pudding festivals in the country held annually.
There’s the two-day National Banana Pudding Festival held every October in Tennessee, and the Georgia State Banana Pudding Festival held at the end of every April. Smart move putting the two festivals at opposite ends of the calendar—we wouldn’t want to start yet another Civil War. Shockingly, one of the very first published banana pudding recipes doesn’t include any vanilla wafers. It comes from The Kentucky Receipt Book, by Mary Harris Frazer, in 1903. Way to drop the ball on the wafers, Mrs. Frazer.
The daiquiri itself was the product of Cuban ingenuity sometime in the late 19th century. This cooling, regal, rum-filled way to get a buzz is a dose of instant relaxation, brain freeze and all. The banana daiquiri takes that same island-life concept and blends it with what is perhaps the least-expected fruit.
A pure product of the tropics, legend has it that a salty English sea captain drunkenly demanded his bartender at a seaside saloon somewhere in the Caribbean add chopped up bits of banana skin to his shots of rum, believing that the skin possessed psychotropic qualities. The bartender refused, instead offering a chilly cocktail with the edible part of the banana blended into rum. That might be true, or it might be a fantasy that I invented during a week in the Dominican Republic when I drank so many banana daiquiris that the locals dubbed me “Señor Banana.”