Be Bold with Bananas!

Be Bold with Bananas. New York: Crescent Books, [1972?].

Cookbooks that focus on one ingredient are often published by companies with a vested interest in promoting filberts, or mayonnaise, or what have you. According to Amazon, Be Bold with Bananas was produced for Fruit Distributors Ltd, Banana Importers of Wellington, New Zealand. When a company trying to sell bananas decides to put together a cookbook about bananas, all sense of perspective apparently goes out the window, with predictably hilarious results. The basic premise of the book is that bananas will improve and enliven every meal you cook, from dinner (banana meat loaf, anyone?) to dessert (perhaps you’d like the banana jelly custard?). Things really begin to fall apart, though, with the photography:

I’ve seen a lot of questionable food photography, but this “banana candle” is in a league of its own. What, you have to wonder, were the editors thinking? Did they somehow (and it’s hard to imagine this) fail to notice the incredibly phallic nature of that banana? Was it some sort of elaborate practical joke? Did they actually think it looked nice? Why anyone would want or need to make banana candles is a question for another day. The recipe, should you want to try it at home:

3 bananas
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 pineapple rings
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 glacé cherries

Halve the bananas crosswise, dip in lemon juice and place each half, end uppermost, in a pineapple ring. Drip mayonnaise down the sides of the bananas.
Using a toothpick, fix half a cherry on top of each banana. It will resemble a burning candle in its holder. Place each “candle” on a small plate, lined with lettuce leaves.
Orange slices can be used instead of pineapple rings.
Serves 6.

Are bananas and mayonnaise even edible together? Are they meant to be? None of this is made clear. Instead, the authors move blithely along to other banana delights: banana paella; potato and banana nests; salad mould (featuring green peas, pineapple, and banana, all suspended in gelatin); banana marshmallow; banana jelly; iced banana; nine types of banana cake; four kinds of banana tart; and three different kinds of banana chutney. The tone of the book is upbeat, encouraging readers to try the banana sambal (“Something new at a barbecue! Why not try it next time?”), the caramel banana (“It is popular with children!”), and biriani (“a particularly tasty dish!”). The authors REALLY want you to try cooking with bananas, that much is obvious.

The back of the book promises “easy-to-prepare recipes [that] will garnish your table, delight your palate and turn your mealtimes into truly festive occasions.” Though I remain a little dubious about the “delight your palate” claim, these recipes are nothing if not festive. Banana candles would delight the guests at almost any dinner party, I imagine, if not in quite the way that the authors intended.

More banana books: Everyday Banana Recipes, Bananas Take a Bow, The Chiquita Banana Book, and The Banana Lover’s Cookbook.

Bonus: A frighteningly comprehensive banana bibliography.

20 comments to Be Bold with Bananas!

  • Sue G.

    This is too strange, because I was just looking through one of my old cookbooks yesterday and saw a recipe for this very same banana candle. Seriously. It was from the Salad Book. I forget the author’s name. Banana candles had their day in the sun. Amazing–and icky–but true.

  • Wow, that is ….. oddly enough, I feel like I need to make this now and post up a photo of this on my blog.

  • holy crap. tee hee! man i can imagine that thing on a family thanksgiving table…hey i bet Sandra Lee would love to make that for one of her bogus table scapes! you should send it to her ;)

  • Josh

    Howdy, I’ve been trying to find a copy of this in the states, but to no avail :( Any chance you would be willing to scan and email a copy of this? My coworkers and I want to take turns making the recipes.

  • Ning Nong

    My mother actually has this book and in the 70s it was a dream of my teenage years to actually make that awesome candle but my mother refused to waste the bananas and let me try it!! I feel the urge to make it coming on but I better resist it or my 18 year old will never let me forget it!

  • Laurel

    As a young, naive bride in the early 1930s, my mother made this for company at the first dinner she and my dad hosted. She had learned to make it from her mother and thought it was the most elegant dessert she had ever seen. After the guests had gone, my dad turned to my mom and said, “Don’t EVER make that dessert again!”

  • Clive

    My mother has a copy of this book. I remember being puzzled by it as a child. now i understand why i are so disturbed.

  • grover

    I so want this book n make the recipes within! Totally cool n retro!! :)

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