You might have heard or you might have seen that a few weeks ago I broke my right leg, broken in a usual way: I fell down the stairs. Yes, down four steps into the living room, face down. I immediately knew that I had broken something.

Something? Of course a leg!

In the dark of early morning, I drove myself to the hospital and signed into the emergency room. I spent a day in various rooms as pictures were taken, shots were given, notes were written and at the end of the day, with a note of four or five pages, and to get a walker, I drove home!

I borrowed the walker, found a “walking stick” and read:

One said “Eat These” and the other said “Don’t Eat These.”

I picked out from the “Eat These” items: Bananas and cheese and went to the market for both.

For a number of days, I ate bananas and cheese, so much I thought I might turn into a monkey or a cow!

Several weeks, even a month or three passed and yes, the leg was not hurting as much and then only a little. Today I have been told to begin changing the menu and use the “stick” (that is what my mother had called her’s) less.

Well, I knew how cheese was made and I liked it in all ways, but bananas? I had always eaten bananas and liked them, but what was their history? To the library!

“The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites,” by Libby H. O’Connel.

A chapter on bananas:

“Originating in Southeast Asia, bananas were cultivated in Africa by 600AD. From there, they followed the spread of Islam via Arab travels to the Iberian Peninsula  and the Middle East. The Portuguese introduced bananas to their New World colonies by the 1600s, and the tropical fruit flourished in Central America. Northern Americas infrequently encountered bananas  an exotic fruit that spoiled quickly, until the development of refrigerated storage tanks on rapid steamships in the 1880s. By 1900, the Boston-based United Fruit Company not only controlled vast plantations in tropical Central America but also a fleet of well-equipped steamships and warehouses in America’s major  ports.

“People from all walks of life grew to love bananas. Scientists joined health faddists by touting the nourishing  vitamins and the sanitary, germ-free wrappers provided by Mother Nature. At a time when muckraking journalists exposed the toxic additives in many foods, as well as the filthy conditions in some food factories, bananas appeared to be an ideal food for all ages. By 1902 , popular cookbooks author Sarah Tyson Rorer included several bananas-based recipes in “Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book.”

There is no mention of bananas as a medicine, but I did find this and it has been a favorite for me to just eat.

From “Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking” by Joseph E. Dabney:

“Bananas became popular through the Appalachian South in the 1800s when railroads began shipping in the tropical fruit. They reach most of our Carolina upcountry through the port of Charleston.  Fulton, Kentucky, became the banana distribution point for the region when the Illinois Central  Railroad in 1880 began shipping bananas out of New Orleans in their new “icebox cars.”  The Appalachian diet has never been the same since.  Bananas became a great hit everywhere, particularly for those Sunday pudding. Every September, townspeople  in Fulton, Kentucky, cook up the world’s largest banana pudding — a one-ton monster loaded with three thousand bananas — at their big banana festival.

“As I said, banana pudding was such a wonderful dish in my preteen years that I overate one Sunday and had to lay off bananas for a week or two. But not too long.”

Mother Wincey Dabney’s banana pudding

— 4 eggs, separated

— 4 cups milk

— 1/2 cup sugar

— 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour

— 7 to 8 bananas

— Vanilla wafers

— 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven at 300 F. In large saucepan, combine the egg yolk, milk, sugar and flour. Mix thoroughly and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Set aside and allow to cool. In a greased casserole dish, place sliced bananas and wafers in alternating layers, pouring the mix into each layer and on top. For the topping, beat the egg whites and add confectioners’ sugar. Bake at 300F until lightly brown. Chill before serving. Serves 8.

Guess what! Today, Saturday, my Moore family gathered at the Ellijay Baptist Church for our annual homecoming get-to-gather, and? Yes, on the tables buried in plates, dishes, bowls and pans were all sorts of familiar dishes, and, yes, two dishes of banana pudding. What a medicine for today!

Joe Rhinehart can be reached by  e-mail at joeprhinehart@gmail.com.

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