Yesterday for National Ice Cream Month we featured the “new” ice cream sandwich, a sandwich/sundae fusion.
Today, it’s the “new” banana split in the photo: freed from its roots.
The traditional banana split is a type of ice cream sundae made in a long dish called a boat (hence the alternate term, banana boat).
The banana is cut in half lengthwise (the “split”) and placed on the bottom of the boat. The banana is topped with three scoops of ice cream—vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream—placed in a row between the split banana halves. Chocolate, pineapple and strawberry sauces are spooned over the ice cream, in no particular pairing. The sundae is garnished with whipped cream, crushed nuts and a maraschino cherry.
Check out the history of the banana split, which follows.
Then, plan a banana split party, where guests create their modern interpretations. It could become your signature annual event!
BANANA SPLIT HISTORY
The soda fountains of yore were the equivalent of today’s Starbuck’s, where people met for refreshments and socializing. Soda jerks were the mixologists of their day*, inventing treats to excite customers. Malted milks, banana splits and phosphates emerged at the soda fountains of neighborhood drugstore in the 1890s.
In those days, “jerk” was not a derogatory term; it referred to the quick, sharp pull as the attendant drew the carbonated water tap forward.
David Evans Strickler, a 23-year-old apprentice pharmacist at Tassel Pharmacy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania†, enjoyed taking on the soda jerk role and inventing sundaes at the store’s soda fountain. He invented the banana-based triple scoop ice cream sundae in 1904.
The sundae originally cost 10 cents, twice the price of other sundaes, and caught on with students of nearby Saint Vincent College. In those pre-digital days, news of the nifty new sundae quickly spread by word-of-mouth and written correspondence.
It must have done well for Strickler: He went on to buy the pharmacy, renaming it Strickler’s Pharmacy.
 Traditional banana split (photo © California Milk Advisory Board).
The city of Latrobe celebrated the 100th anniversary of the invention of the banana split in 2004. In the same year, the National Ice Cream Retailers Association certified Latrobe as the birthplace of the banana split. It hosts an annual Great American Banana Split Festival in late August (sorry, there’s no website), and the city has the original soda fountain where the banana split was created.
Others tried their hand at the recipe. One, published in 1907, called for a lengthwise split banana, two cones of ice cream at each end of the dish and a mound of whipped cream in between with maraschino cherry on a top. One end was covered with chopped mixed nuts and the other with chopped mixed fruits. [Source: Wikipedia]
Here’s the history of the ice cream sundae, and the long history of ice cream in general.
*Their day was the late 1800s through the early 1900s.
†Latrobe is approximately 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The city population was 8,338 as of the 2010 census.
PARTY TIME: BANANA SPLIT BAR
How about throwing a banana split party, where guests can invent their on banana splits? Here’s what you need to put together: