Yesterday afternoon I made a banana cake because: a) I had too many ripe bananas in the fruit bowl; b) banana cake reminds me of my younger years in my long ago home; c) it’s easy to make; d) most importantly of all, I love banana cake.
We didn’t eat much cake as youngsters but, if we had a staple cake in our home, banana cake was it. The same could probably be said for many other homes in Fiji in those colonial and early post colonial years.The reason for its popularity was the plentiful supply of the main ingredient; namely ripe to over ripe bananas. The recipe we used then, and which I use now, is based upon one in the South Sea Island Recipes cookery book, first produced in 1934 by the Girl Guides’ Association of Fiji. I say based upon because making our South Sea Island banana cake is not an exact science. It simply happens, as you put in some of this and some of that and mix it all up till you know that it is exactly how you want it to be. And even then, it will turn out in its own different and delicious way each time.
My mother was always slightly vexated that every time she made a banana cake, no matter how it looked when it came out of the oven, it would eventually sink in the middle. I thought the sinking made the cake extra good since the centre of the cake then became dense and moist and fulsome with the banana-eriness that only genuine Pacific bananas can impart to a cake. (Apologies to supermarket bananas; I do appreciate you, and would be lost without you, but your flavour is so meagre compared to your Pacific cousins that it is hard to believe you belong to the same family.)
So here is some of the cake I made, with supermarket bananas 😦 Note the texture, if you can see it clearly enough. It is quite different from that of the richer banana cakes I make from my American recipe books.
And here is the recipe, in a completely disreputable state, which should appal the former neat and diligent Girl Guide in me but doesn’t at all. Instead, I consider the spots and blotches, badges of honour, love and affection. The recipe amuses me in its brevity and its assumptions. The instruction is simple, “Mix in the usual way..” with the implication that, if you don’t know what that is, you shouldn’t be looking at a cookery book! No baking times or temperature settings are given; those should be obvious to the cookbook reader too, apparently.
Other wonderful gems in the cookbook include Turtle Soup and how to polish shoes with a red hibiscus.
Lastly, here is the cover of the book looking like the flotsam or jetsam of a castaway’s life, rather than the precious pearl of the Pacific it is to me.