Thursday, May 6, 2010


"Banana Bread," is one of the more searched for recipes on the Internet. Why? What's so sexy about banana bread? Is it an aphrodisiac? To answer my own question, no, it's not. It's just that people tend to be "banana affluent." They buy more bananas than they can possibly consume. What to do with the ones leftover? Use them to make banana bread perhaps? It's an option, and here in this post of posts, I share a recipe with you for banana bread.  

This banana bread recipe is one have been making for years and years and years. It's slightly adapted (I include blueberries in mine) from the original in Craig Claiborne's "New York Times Cook Book." I bought the cookbook right when I was beginning to learn how to boil water, and I learned an enormous amount by studying its pages.

I ask you: do you have displayed on your countertop some bananas that have ripened way too much? You know you really aren't going to eat those darlings ... Instead of throwing them out, why not make banana bread with them? Overripened bananas?  Not very appetizing on their own, but excellent when used to make banana bread! This recipe will make one loaf.

However, before we go over the recipe, let's talk politics: bananas are grown thousands of miles away from the US shores, and yet they are plentiful and much cheaper to buy than the apples, or oranges, or peaches, that are grown locally. How come? Doesn't that sound odd? At the end of this blog post, I include an excerpt from a New York Times op-ed which discusses why the enigma. Definitely worth a read. And now, on to the recipe: 


1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Sift the above ingredients together and set aside.

1 cup softened butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
3/4 cup finely chopped dates
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

  • This recipe will make one loaf. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Prepare a bread pan by greasing it well. 
  • With an electric mixer beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. 
  • Add the eggs and vanilla extract; beat well.
  • Add the flour mixture alternating it with the bananas. Beat only until smooth - do not overwork the mixture.
  • Fold in the dates, blueberries, and nuts.
  • Turn into the pan and bake for about one hour.

  • For easy slicing, the banana bread must be cold. Let it cool well before removing from the pan. Banana bread slices can be frozen for up to a month. Take a slice out of the freezer when you want one, bring it to room temperature, and enjoy it with a nice cup of tea!
Here's a little something about the United Fruit Company and the economics of bananas:

Dan Koppel, author of Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, wrote an Op-Ed in The Times that is packed with interesting stuff about the Freudian fruit. The economics are particularly interesting:
That bananas have long been the cheapest fruit at the grocery store is astonishing. They’re grown thousands of miles away, they must be transported in cooled containers, and even then they survive no more than two weeks after they’re cut off the tree. Apples, in contrast, are typically grown within a few hundred miles of the store and keep for months in a basket out in the garage. Yet apples traditionally have cost at least twice as much per pound as bananas.
Americans eat as many bananas as apples and oranges combined, which is especially amazing when you consider that not so long ago, bananas were virtually unknown here. They became a staple only after the men who in the late 19th century founded the United Fruit Company (today’s Chiquita) figured out how to get bananas to American tables quickly — by clearing rainforest in Latin America, building railroads and communication networks, and inventing refrigeration techniques to control ripening. …
Once bananas had become widely popular, the companies kept costs low by exercising iron-fisted control over the Latin American countries where the fruit was grown. Workers could not be allowed such basic rights as health care, decent wages, or the right to congregate. … Over and over, banana companies, aided by the American military, intervened whenever there was a chance that any “banana republic” might end its cooperation. … Labor is still cheap in these countries, and growers still resort to heavy-handed tactics.
The final piece of the banana pricing equation is genetics. Unlike apple and orange growers, banana importers sell only a single variety of their fruit, the Cavendish. There are more than 1,000 varieties of bananas — most of them in Africa and Asia — but except for an occasional exotic, the Cavendish is the only banana we see in our markets. … By sticking to this single variety, the banana industry ensures that all the bananas in a shipment ripen at the same rate, creating huge economies of scale. The Cavendish is the fruit equivalent of a fast-food hamburger: efficient to produce, uniform in quality, and universally affordable.
Some readers may recoil at this description and vow to never eat another banana. Others may thank their lucky stars that free markets are able to deliver a tasty, healthy, peel-intact fruit to their corner stores at very affordable prices.
Koppel’s larger message is that the Cavendish banana is under fungal threat and may disappear. And, because Koppel seems to endorse the locavore movement (unlike some of us), he doesn’t sound all that sad:
In recent years, American consumers have begun seeing the benefits — to health, to the economy, and to the environment — of buying foods that are grown close to our homes. … [B]ananas have always been an emblem of a long-distance food chain. Perhaps it’s time we recognize bananas for what they are: an exotic fruit that, some day soon, may slip beyond our reach.

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