In this, the second in the series, of food crimes, banana dishes of the 1950s take centre stage. The first article on jelly and jelly set salads is here.
So back in the 1950/60s my grandfather was a pilot for BOAC (BA these days). As was then typical by nature of the job, he’d go to work for days at a time, and my grandmother stayed at home looking after the children, housekeeping and cooking. Over the years, he flew regularly to Asia, the Middle East (he even brought back a bottle of pre-revolutionary era Persian Vodka) and the USA. At the time, of course, the USA was the land of plenty with all these modern gizmos for the housewife, and my grandfather would buy them and bring them back as gifts for my grandmother.
As a result, the house often had mod cons even before they were sold in the U.K. It also meant that my grandmother had all sorts of cookery books that came from America. One such cookery ‘book’ is actually the Cookindex, a box set of index cards from 1958 by H.S. Stuttman Co. Inc and the Tested Recipe Institute Inc. of New York. The cards, each with a colour photo on the front and recipe or two on the back, are broken into categories such as meat, vegetables, salads and so on.
Among the recipes for pot roast, and various poor imitations of classic Italian, European and Mexican dishes, there are, I suppose unsurprisingly, some truly horrendous recipes. At first the names sound bad enough (tuna in tomato aspic anyone?) but then you see the pictures and you have to wonder what on earth is meant to be enticing about them? However, among the litany of individual horrific dishes (articles on which will follow), there are also two distinct groups that a number of dishes fall into: 1. bananas where bananas shouldn’t be, and 2. jelly/aspic where it really doesn’t belong. And this is to say nothing of the strange things they garnished dishes with.
It turns out that, in the 1950s, people must have had very low potassium levels, because I can’t imagine why else bananas were thought appropriate as an ingredient for almost any dish. No meat, fish or salad seems to have been safe.
I think you’ll agree that this dish is nothing but wrong, typical of it’s time and the ingredients available, but just wrong, and something of an offence to Singaporeans.
The dish calls for 4 firm bananas to be peeled, cut in half, brushed with butter and salt, and baked till soft. They are then arranged around cooked rice, that’s topped with cooked prawns that have been warmed through. Finally, this tantalising combination is covered with curry sauce made of butter, flour, chicken stock and large amounts of curry powder.
I’ll leave you to decide if that sounds particularly appetising.
Stuffed Pork Chops
The one saving grace of this dish is that the bananas don’t form part of the pork chop’s stuffing. Sadly, the treatment of the meat is just as criminal as the inclusion of bananas as a garnish. Having had the ‘meat man’ (clearly they mean butcher, but an American friend tells me it’s not a term he’s ever heard used in the US) cut a slit in the chop to enable the stuffing, you stuff it with breadcrumbs, butter and poultry seasoning, and then cook. When I say cook, what I actually mean is proceed to destroy the meat by initially frying it for 10-12 minutes and then adding water to the frying pan and simmering the pork for 1 hour. The 10-12 minutes should have been enough cooking time; that final hour of boiling would just destroy the meat. Once the meat it plated, it is joined by sautéed bananas and, if you fancy, gravy. At this point the only thing that can be said is that the meat is so badly destroyed that no extra damage can be done by these accompaniments!
One for the none cooks among you, this one; no heat is required. All that the cook is required to do is to cut the bananas into 4 (in the manner depicted), brush them with lemon juice, and arrange them with tinned pear halves on a plate with green leaves. Then roll some cream cheese into balls, roll the balls in chopped nuts and place one ball in the hollow of each pear. Finally give it that last touch of maraschino cherries and mayonnaise to make it all the more appealing to the taste buds.
Christmas Candle Salad
A festive treat I’m sure, and one I’m anticipating will make a huge return this year.
The candle’s base is made from canned cranberry juice cocktail combined with gelatine and set in a star shaped mould. Once set, remove a circular of the jelly from the centre so you can stand half a banana in it. Now this next bit is the clever step. To make the banana look like a candle place a slice of almond in the tip to be the flame, and use mayonnaise around it to look like running wax. All done, serve each ‘candle’ with green salad and more mayo.
Cottage Banana Salad
Literally this is just cottage cheese mixed with raw onion, green pepper, pimiento, radishes and mayonnaise. After chilling it, serve with crisp green salad and a banana cut lengthways. If you fancy you can garnish it with a radish and serve it with more mayonnaise. I mean it’s just not worth my commenting anymore.
Broiled Banana with Bacon and Apples
Now, if it wasn’t for the bacon, this would actually be a pretty good dessert, especially with ice cream. But no, the Americans just couldn’t resist it and had to add bacon.
For this one, you have to roll the bananas in a mix of sugar and cinnamon, wrap them in streaky bacon, then the sugar mix again. Finally grill the bananas together with some apple rings for 10-12 minutes, and serve.
Feature Image – Copyright 1958 Tested Recipe Institute, Inc., New York. Published by – COOKINDEX – Division of H.S. Stuttman Co., Ind., New York