Bananas were on special at my grocery store so I decided to try the recipe for Banana Salad (p. 99) that Miss. G. De Bus submitted to the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. I am guessing that Miss. G. De Bus is teenage Georgiana Debus in the 1901 census. At that time she’s 14 and living with her parents and younger brother and sister. By the 1911 census the young lady is still living with her parents and her name is spelled Georgina Debuss. I’m quite pleased with her recipe. This might be a fun one to try with children especially if they get to crack the walnuts too.
Bananas were available in Berlin in 1912 but I’m not sure if they were available year round. The Berlin Daily Record newspaper had a column reporting what was fresh in the market and in October 1893 bananas were available for 15 cents a dozen. Just like today bananas were shipped green to avoid damage. The Philadelphia Grocers’ Hand-Book from 1882 states “They are generally brought to our markets in a partly green state and ripened in dark well heated rooms. They are easily frozen and in cold weather are packed very carefully before shipping but are always sent at the risk of the party ordering.”
This recipe is lacking one detail — exactly what sort of dressing is to be added? Miss De Bus has another salad recipe in the book and again the dressing recipe is missing. There are some salad dressing recipes in this section of the cook book but none was submitted by Miss De Bus. None of the other dressing recipes looked like it would complement a banana salad but I finally decided to try Mrs. H. D. McKellar’s recipe for Mayonnaise Dressing since it seemed a bit creamier and might suit a fruit salad. I think Mrs. McKellar’s first name might be Olga and her husband is Henry D. By the time Berlin becomes a city in 1912, Mrs. McKellar (or McKeller) will be 33 years old. I’m very glad she submitted her recipe as it is a nice dressing and worked perfectly with the banana salad. I’m also glad I made a mistake and forgot to add the vinegar to the recipe! The dressing was nice without the vinegar but it was still good with some vinegar added at the end.
The Banana Salad is very easy to make and the presentation on a banana skin dresses it up a little. A modern cook could use the recipe as a starting point and perhaps serve it on a banana leaf.
The Mayonnaise Dressing recipe is not the classic French oil and egg mayonnaise. This is a cooked blend of egg, butter, sour cream, milk, cornstarch, vinegar and seasoning. It makes almost 1 1/2 cups of dressing. Be patient making the dressing as it takes some time for the mixture to come to the boil and then to beat it by hand. In fact I decided to beat mine outside where it was colder to hurry the process. It thickens as it cooks but the beating should help avoid separating. I used regular sour cream in this recipe as I’m not sure how to replicate 1906 style sour cream. At that time it was simply cream that was allowed to sour which doesn’t happen with modern dairy products. My container of sour cream had assorted thickeners and stabilizers in it. Next time I’ll use cream and add vinegar just as I do to create sour milk.
The dressing is a good option if you are trying to use local ingredients but probably should be used sparingly by anyone concerned about fat, cholesterol etc. The advantage of course is that you know what’s in this dressing compared to a bottle from the store and as I discovered you can control how much vinegar you add!
6 bananas, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1 lemon (juice)
Dice the bananas; add lemon juice and walnuts and pour over it the dressing, garnish with parsley and lettuce leaves, and serve in half the banana shell
1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon mustard, 1 cup full sour cream, pepper and salt to taste, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 egg, 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup vinegar, mix together; let come to a boiling point in double boiler, remove and beat until cool.