Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book

Jerry Stratton, March 22, 2023

Bananas are a staple of American life today, and much of that success likely comes from this promotional book by the United Fruit Company’s Home Economics Department. At the time it was written United Fruit still had to convince people to use bananas regularly. Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book (PDF File, 9.9 MB) tells consumers not just that bananas taste good and are nutritious, but also that they’re not dangerous and everyone can enjoy them.

That “nature seals bananas in a germ-proof package” and that they’re perfect for everyone from infants to athletes to old folks.

From the cover and interior art to the banana-related advice to the recipes themselves, this is designed for people who aren’t familiar with bananas and need a banana manual. This pamphlet covers how to choose bananas, how to ripen them, and how to slice them. It even explains how to mash them. There are three different ways: a fork, an egg beater, or an electric mixer.

Chiquita Banana Song: “There are vitamins and minerals in whatever kind you buy-aye,/They not only are nutritious—but they also taste delicious.”; bananas; food history; vintage cookbooks

Lovely instrument, señorita Banana.

And it’s narrated throughout by Chiquita Banana herself. In a chef’s hat with a teacher’s baton, she points to three simple steps to keeping bananas. In her Carmen Miranda hat with a painter’s palette, she draws a picture of the three stages of banana ripening. In the same fruited hat and accompanying herself on the banjo, she sings. The music is in fact playable, though there’s nothing exciting about it.1

How common were bananas before 1950? I have a couple of cookbooks from before 1950. They seem very rare. Note that the recipe count is by searching for “bana” in the text of the PDF. If the PDF seriously mis-OCRed the text, it won’t find it, so that number may be slightly off.2

YearBookPage countBanana recipesRatio
1889The Herald Cook Book11421.8
1893The Charlotte Cook Book16042.5
1910Franklin Golden Syrup Recipes1000.0
1911Aristos Flour Cook Book3600.0
1925Foods from Sunny Lands2627.7
1925For that “Final Touch”—Just Add Walnuts4436.8
1925100 Delicious Walnut Recipes3625.6
1930PET Recipes8056.3
1934Magic Short-cut Recipes1616.3
1935F.W. McNess’ Cook Book6700.0
1939A Parade of Brazil Nut Recipes3200.0
1940Tempting Low Cost Meals3600.0
1950Romantic Recipes of the Old South5200.0
1951Milk Made Candies2000.0
1957Alice in Brown Sugarland2827.1
1967Diamond Walnut Recipe Gems9244.3

This is a very rough survey, of course. Different cookbooks have different numbers of recipes per pages and different focuses. And it would help a lot to have newer cookbooks represented. The one company whose cookbooks span well before and well after 1950, Diamond Walnut Growers, didn’t show a huge jump between their 1925 cookbooks and their 1967 cookbook. They actually saw a drop in the ratio, from 6.8 and 5.8 in 1925 to 4.3 in 1967.

On the other hand, the Imperial Sugar Company’s Romantic Recipes “had no bananas” in 1950, and their Alice in Brown Sugarland did have bananas in 1957. The former cookbook was itself supposedly a collection of even older recipes.

But it’s also interesting that these cookbooks have coconut, dates, and other tropical fruits but rarely bananas. The 1893 Charlotte Cook Book is interesting in that all four of the recipes that call for bananas are on the same page, out of 160 pages.

The highest ratio, unsurprisingly, comes from the exotically-themed Foods from Sunny Lands.3 I was surprised to see no bananas in Tempting Low Cost Meals. That’s an evaporated milk book, with lots of creamy desserts. The earlier PET Recipes from 1930 has five recipes (over 80 pages) that mention bananas.

Take that for what it’s worth, which is very little. When it comes to more modern community books (which I don’t have PDFs for), at the very least there are usually several banana bread recipes alone. And this was not the first Banana cookbook to come from Chiquita or from United Fruit. Chiquita’s predecessors at Fruit Dispatch had a banana cookbook out as early as 1923. “Selected Banana Recipes For Appetizing And Nutritious Dishes: Relishes, Vegetables, Salads, Desserts” includes a banana bread recipe. It’s a very different banana bread, however, calling for green bananas, “Fat, ½ pint”, dark molasses, and yeast. It’s not a quickbread.

A quickbread version appears a year later, in their 1925 publication, “The New Banana”. That book’s “Banana Tea Cake” is a lot closer to banana bread, but we’re still not mashing the bananas, we’re slicing them. This version also contains milk. There’s a banana cake in the 1924 publication as well, but that’s a normal cake with a banana filling.

The banana bread we’re familiar with finally appeared in their “Banana Delights: So Easy To Make-Delightful To Serve”, also 1925. It’s exactly the same as the banana bread in Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book (PDF File, 9.9 MB), except that instead of two teaspoons baking powder plus ¼ teaspoon baking soda, it calls for ¾ teaspoons baking soda plus 1-¼ teaspoons cream of tartar. The banana fritters in that book do call for baking powder, so it isn’t just that they didn’t think baking powder was ubiquitous enough to use.

Baking powder finally appears in the banana tea bread in their 1940 cookbook, “Serve Bananas In Latest Style”. All of those cookbooks are available on Little Cookbooks. None of them feature Chiquita Banana herself, although there are many anthropomorphic bananas, and the 1940 book did feature a feminine anthropomorphic banana. Chiquita started to appear in advertising in 1944, but this 1950 publication may have been her cookbook debut.

Chiquita Banana definitely goes for intense banana flavor. If you enjoy banana breads and cakes, you have to try the Banana Layer Cake. Besides its very intense flavor—of banana, of course—it has a sort of carrot-cake richness while still being smooth. The instructions are to “frost with your favorite frosting; any flavor blends well with banana cake”. A couple of pages later, and you know what blends well with banana cake? Banana Butter Frosting. So, I had a two-layer banana cake with banana frosting between the layers and on top. No frosting on the sides—even in the photo they wanted to show off the golden brown of the banana cake layers.

I also topped with chopped macadamia nuts to enhance the exotic tropical flavor of the dessert. This was a birthday cake for the ages.

The frosting was especially creamy from the mashed banana beat into the sugar and butter. And a little lemon juice, probably to keep it from turning brown.

But, United Fruit wants you to know that bananas can be a part of healthy baking, too. Their Banana Bran Muffins use as much bran as flour (by volume, anyway) and as much banana as both of them together. These bran muffins are a real treat, great as a snack on their own or with butter.

Banana Bran Muffins

Banana Bran Muffins

Servings: 12
Preparation Time: 45 minutes


  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup bran
  • 1 egg, well-beaten
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp salad oil
  • 2 cups lightly mashed bananas (about three)


  1. Sift the flour, soda, salt, and sugar into a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add the bran and mix well.
  3. Beat the milk and salad oil into the egg.
  4. Mix in the mashed bananas
  5. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to dampen all the flour.
  6. Pour into twelve well-greased muffin pans.
  7. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes.

Both recipes specify both the volume of banana and the approximate number of bananas, and it seems that bananas are about the same size now as in 1950. The only problem I had was with the bran muffins. They called for “2 cups thinly sliced, ripe bananas (3 to 4 bananas).” I probably didn’t slice them thinly enough, because I got to two cups at two bananas, easy. So I mashed them down slightly; the recipe seems to treat them as mashed anyway. Thinly sliced ripe bananas, mixed into egg, milk, salad oil and then the dry mix, is going to end up mashed.

Pan-fried banana with ham and egg: Pan-fried bananas with ham and egg, from the 1950 Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book.; breakfast; eggs; ham; bananas

Pan-fried banana: a wonderful and easy breakfast, mildly exotic.

Banana Milk Shake: The banana milk shake, from the 1950 Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book.; bananas; milk shake

The banana milk shake is hardly a recipe: one banana, one cup milk, blend.

Baked banana with curry sauce over rice: Baked banana with curry sauce, from the 1950 Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book.; rice; bananas; curry

Baked banana: Not the most appetizing of photos, but it’s a very appetizing dish. Curry and banana is a wonderful combination.

There are probably as many main dishes and savory sides in this cookbook as baked goods. These are the recipes moderns ridicule, but bananas in main dishes are a common feature in other cultures. Bananas are a perfect mix with curries, and, like the Hawaiian Pizza’s pineapple, also great with ham. In fact, one of the recipes here is for pan-fried bananas with ham and eggs; it sounds like a great breakfast and in fact it is a great breakfast. Pan-fried firm bananas end up being a sort of solid syrup, the taste melding very nicely on the ham or on the egg. The bananas end up browned, almost roasted, on the outside, soft and fragrant on the inside.

Like the various baked banana ideas, it was less of a recipe than an idea, but a good one. The title tells you just about everything you need to know about how to make it.

The banana milk shake is similar: it’s hardly even a recipe at all. Take one banana, one cup of milk, and blend. There are, of course, several variations including cocoa, malt, and so on. One thing that’s really nice about this is that it doesn’t use any added sugar. Not even ice cream. With those ingredients, of course, it’s not a thick milk shake. Yet it still tastes great, a frothy banana-flavored drink that is easily customized. I’ll bet it’d be great with cardamom.

The Workbasket October 1974: With the Cooks: Top of “With the Cooks” from the October 1974 Workbasket, showing parts of banana recipes.; bananas; housekeeping; home economics

The recipe clippings taped to this copy came from a 1974 Workbasket.

My copy came with a few banana recipe clippings taped to the inside front page. I decided to keep them in the PDF (PDF File, 9.9 MB) for your enjoyment. It was initially difficult to track down the source of those recipes because they look like newspaper clippings. But I found them in a magazine, The Workbasket of October 1974. It was, at least at that time, printed on newsprint.

All six of the recipes appear, in the same order, in a list of With the Cooks recipes for that issue. Knowing the issue, I found a photo from an eBay listing that reproduced the top of those two pages. The format of the visible portion of the recipes is the same as the clippings taped to the inside front cover of my copy of the pamphlet. Despite not being able to see the contributor names in this photo, I think we can safely assume that this is the source of those clippings.

I’ve only tried one of them. The Banana Cruller Miniatures are a great and easy breakfast, and quick if you have a deep fryer. They’re not glazed, just sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. But after deep frying, powdered sugar turns into a glaze. Make sure to sprinkle them, turn them over, and sprinkle them again.

They’re even great for breakfast the next day.

I’ve scanned each page and then run them through my searchablePDF script so that the PDF has a table of contents and is searchable in whatever ebook reader you use. As you can see in the photo of the crullers, I find it useful myself, and I own a physical copy of the book!

I hope you enjoy this pamphlet (PDF File, 9.9 MB); I certainly have.

As a bonus, here is my favorite banana pudding recipe. This is not in this cookbook; I thought I’d add it in the spirit of whichever previous owner taped the banana-themed recipe clippings to the inside front cover. And also because any recipe from the book would be redundant, since I’ve made the book available for download (PDF File, 9.9 MB).

This banana pudding is from Avanelle Day’s and Lillie Stuckey’s 1964 The Spice Cook Book, one of my favorite vintage cookbooks.

Banana pudding

Banana Pudding

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Avanelle Day and Lillie Stuckey
The Spice Cookbook


  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 lemon’s zest
  • 4 oz vanilla wafers
  • 3-4 sliced bananas
  • 2 egg whites
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla


  1. Whisk sugar, flour, nutmeg, and ¼ tsp salt.
  2. Whisk in whole egg, egg yolks, and ¼ cup milk until smooth.
  3. Heat remaining milk to 165° and whisk slowly in.
  4. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture coats a heavy spoon, about 165°.
  5. Remove from heat and whisk in 1-½ tsp vanilla, nutmeg, and lemon zest.
  6. Arrange wafers and bananas in layers in a buttered 1-½-quart casserole, with wafers on the bottom and bananas on top.
  7. Pour custard over the layers.
  8. Beat the egg whites and ⅛ tsp salt until soft peaks form.
  9. Beat in ¼ cup sugar a tablespoon at a time.
  10. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  11. Beat in ¼ tsp vanilla.
  12. Spread meringue over pudding.
  13. Bake at 325° until browned, about 15 minutes.

In response to Vintage Cookbooks and Recipes: I have a couple of vintage cookbooks queued up to go online.

  1. I used the piano script from 42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh to save these notes to a MIDI file, and then VLC to convert the MIDI file to an MP3 file. This is the command line I used:

    piano --tempo 120 4 R 8 A A C C A A B B R 2 R 4 R 8 B B D D G G 2 A C 4 R 8 C C C C A A B B 4 R 2 R 4 R 8 B B D D G G A A 4 R 2 R --save bananas

  2. That’s why I just did a search for “bana”. In theory, fewer letters should mean fewer chances for missing due to failed OCR. I visually verified that each “bana” find was for banana and not some other word; I also counted up recipes, not matches, so that if banana showed up four times in one recipe, that’s a count of 1.

  3. Magic Short-cut Recipes also has a high ratio, but that’s likely due to a low number of pages—it only has the one recipe.

  1. <- Eddie Doucette’s Home Cooking
  2. El Molino Best ->