In Praise of Bananas

Today is the anniversary of the day in 1633 when bananas first went on sale to an amazed London public.

It’s a little-known fact that the Regency was a great banana-eating epoch, from the famed insipid banana cream pies at Almack’s to the overpriced bananas served at Vauxhall, sliced so thinly they were almost transparent. Delicate and expensive to import, bananas were a sure sign of conspicuous consumption.

As an art motif, they lost out to the gorgeously symmetrical and elegant pineapple, and although Byron mentions in several of his letters his epic work on bananas, the manuscript has sadly been lost to posterity. Wedgwood’s banana line of tableware was quickly discontinued after derogatory comments.

Gentlemen at White’s would frequently lay a banana peel on the pavement outside the famous bow window and make bets on how long it would take for someone to slip.

Beau Brummell introduced the famous banana pantaloons which were immediately banned by most hostesses for drawing room wear.

Sadly for the English, they were not blessed with such fauna as the banana slug or banana spider.

For more information on bananas, try this online museum, bananamuseum.com or join the forums at bananas.org.

Share your favorite banana story or recipe. I’m very partial to banana pancakes and fried bananas, which incorporate a lot of brown sugar and butter.

How about you?

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Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

Share your favorite banana story or recipe. I’m very partial to banana pancakes and fried bananas, which incorporate a lot of brown sugar and butter.

Banana pudding. Or, as I usually pronounce it, ‘nanner pudding. Vanilla wafer base, vanilla or banana-flavored pudding with sliced ripe bananas, and if my mom made it, real meringue for the topping. (People not my mom usually use whipped cream, but I like Mom’s way.) We ate it when I was growing up, at least when my dad let enough bananas get ripe (he had an inexplicable fondness for eating them green), and when my parents came to stay with us when my daughter was born, my mom made it to tempt my appetite when I was worn out by a four-day labor following four weeks of bed rest!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Susan, your mother’s “nanner” pudding rather beats mine, but, then, I am so-not-a-cook.

When my kids were small banana’s were “am-ahs” Every once in a while I’d make banana pudding. I know the recipe by heart.
1. take one banana and break it into two or three pieces in a small cereal bowl
2. smash it with a fork
3. add just a tiny amount of milk
4. smash some more until it is the consistency of pudding.
5. serve with a spoon in the same bowl, of course.
For a variation, you can add a bit of sugar to Step 3.
If you don’t want to dirty a spoon, serve with the fork.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

Janet, I absolutely love bananas. Thanks so much for the capsule history. If I were writing a Regency, I would be sure to incorporate some bananas into the plot. As for my favorite banana foods, i adore banana ice cream, bananas forster, and of course banana pudding with nilla wafers. I could live off of that. In fact, I need to stay away from Buttercup and Magnolia Bakeries in New York because they both make good banana pudding.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

My grandmother used to make a wonderful banana cream pie! I miss it, but doubt I could ever re-create it–Diane’s recipe for banana pudding sounds much more my cooking style. :))

Marissa Doyle
14 years ago

Bananas dipped in chocolate fondue, and bananas foster.

And of course, Nanny Ogg’s Bananana Surprise. Almost as good as a Strawberry Wobbler (both recipes can be found in the “Nanny Ogg Cookbook”)

Cara King
14 years ago

Oddly enough, I love banana cream pie, but never want to eat an actual banana.

Which is a bummer, because I’m too lazy to actually eat any other fruit.

I’m sadly fruitless…


14 years ago

I love banana bread and muffins, but I don’t bake, so I don’t know any recipes.

Kalen Hughes
14 years ago

My mom makes the best damn banana cream pie in the world, alas I don’t have the recipe handy . . . but I did have a banana slug for a pet (the Santa Cruz mountains are filled with them, and I can usually find one in San Francisco with very little effort). We named him Fang, and carried him about on our arm like a falcon. LOL!

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Banana pancakes with pecans. Yum. But anything banana works for me. While we were in England, my husband was into that banoffee(sp?) pie that Keira Knightley’s character made fun of in LOVE, ACTUALLY (not that she looks like she’s ever had any, LOL).

Megan Frampton
14 years ago

I went and had a banana right after reading your post, Janet.

I make a wicked banana bread (secret ingredient: unsweetened coconut flakes), but didn’t know they were a Regency thing.

14 years ago

I love banana splits (the band and the dessert). It’s just such a treat. Ice cream, chocolate syrup, marachino cherries, whipped cream nestled within a split banana. What’s not to love!

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