National Banana Bread Day
Today, February 23, is National Banana Bread Day! Whether you’re a fan or not, you might be surprised to hear that according to King Arthur Flour (in their “A short history of banana bread” article) that “The most searched-for bread recipe online isn’t white sandwich bread. It’s not whole wheat bread, or baguettes or no-knead bread or even anything with yeast in it. No, the most sought-after bread recipe across America is (drum-roll, please): banana bread.” (emphasis added)
Banana bread first became a standard feature of American cookbooks with the popularization of baking soda and baking powder in the 1930s. It appeared in Pillsbury’s 1933 Balanced Recipes cookbook, and later gained more acceptance with the release of the original Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book in 1950.
National Banana Bread day is 23 February. Bananas appeared in the US in the 1870s and it took a while for them to appear as ingredient items for desserts. The modern banana bread recipe began being published in cookbooks around the 1930s and its popularity was greatly helped by the introduction of baking powder on the market. Some food historians believe banana bread was a byproduct of the Great Depression as resourceful housewives did not wish to throw away overripe bananas (as they were still a costly item to purchase), others believe the modern banana bread was developed in corporate kitchens to promote flour and baking soda products. It could also be a combination of both theories, insofar as being developed in a corporate kitchen to promote flour and baking soda products, as well as marketed as a method to make use of overripe bananas. (emphasis added)
Okay. That’s all well and good. I agree that bananas were widely advertised throughout the United States (in little towns in Kansas just the same as in New York City) from circa 1870s. I’ve noted numerous advertisements in vintage newspapers for bananas (along with oranges and lemons). With the rapid growth of railroads (and the magic of refrigerated railway cars [ice cut in winter]), produce could move virtually across the continent, along with meats from slaughterhouses, to destinations far and wide.
Bananas are an import
Banana bread is covered as a West Indies specialty, stating “all classes of people in the West Indies are fond of bananas, and particularly when made into bread. The ripe fruit is rubbed through a sieve and formed into a loaf and baked in hot ashes…” (part of an article about “Bread of the Nations” published in The Sentinel of Carlisle, Pennsylvania on April 26, 1882). See image:
Despite the fact that this “banana bread” main ingredient is ripe fruit, it’s doubtful this “bread” resembles the modern banana bread, nor the banana bread offered by Summerfield’s in Lawrence, Kansas in 1881 (see next image).
Banana Bread in the 19th Century United States
As early as 1881, “banana bread” was sold in Kansas
Summerfield’s of Lawrence, Kansas (above) doesn’t say, but Vienna Model Bakery of St. Louis, Missouri (below) proudly uses “banana flour” in the making of their new banana bread (1893).
Victorian Baking Powder
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