The deconstructed banana split at Sushi Samba in New York City (photo courtesy Sushi Samba).
How should you celebrate August 25th, National Banana Split Day?
There’s the tried and true banana split, of course. Classically served in a long dish, called a boat (which gives the sundae its alternative name, banana boat), the recipe is familiar to most ice cream lovers:
A banana is cut in half lengthwise and set in the dish with scoops of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. The strawberry ice cream is garnished with pineapple topping, chocolate syrup is poured on the vanilla ice cream and strawberry topping covers the chocolate ice cream. Crushed nuts, whipped cream and maraschino cherries garnish the entire boat.
1. CUT the bananas in half width-wise, and then lengthwise. Sauté in butter with a dash of cinnamon until browned. Arrange on a plate, as shown in the photo.
2. ARRANGE the other ingredients: whipped cream, caramel corn and fruit.
3. DRIZZLE with sauce or fruit purée of choice.
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, written correspondence, and newspaper coverage.
It must have done well for Strickler: He went on to buy the pharmacy, renaming it Strickler’s Pharmacy.
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 August (it starts today).
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]
*According to Wikipedia, Walgreens is credited with spreading the popularity of the banana split. A chain of drug stores established in the Chicago area in 1901 by Charles Rudolph Walgreen, Walgreens promoted the banana split as a signature dessert. But was it served when the store opened, or did someone at Walgreens read the recipe and adopt it. Did Walgreens bestow the name Banana Split to the “banana-based triple ice cream sundae”? So far, the record is mute.
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