The Banana Split Book by Michael Turback

166 pages; Black and white, Photographs and sketches.  Paperback $14.95

Camino Books, Inc. Philadelphia, PA

Reviewed by Chef John J. Vyhnanek

When I was a youngster and on school vacation I overdosed on ice cream.  After baseball, after swimming, after anything, it was time for ice cream and often it was a banana split.  My local haunt was Palen's Store in Philmont, New York.  Palen's was a newsstand, a candy counter, a luncheonette and a hangout where everybody knew everyone's business.
One of the best things about Palen's was its homemade ice cream, served at a real 1950's ice cream counter with all the sodas, ice cream syrups, nuts and sprinkles.  The seating area was even more appealing because of its marble cafe tables and wire rim chairs with wood seats.  Someone, usually myself, was eating a banana split.  One scoop of vanilla, a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of strawberry ice cream was nested in a split banana served in an oblong glass dish.  I remember it all so well---the chocolate ice cream was covered with a fluffy marshmallow sauce, the vanilla with strawberry sauce and strawberry ice cream with crushed pineapple.  There was a small squirt of chocolate syrup over all, then each ice cream was topped with fresh homemade whipped cream.  To top it all off, toasted unsalted peanuts were sprinkled on the whipped cream and the whipped cream topped with three maraschino cherries with the stem still on!  This creation was served on an aluminum dish lined with a paper doily with a long spoon and a glass of ice water. Thank god I was a kid, that much sugar would probably kill me today!  It wasn't just the sugar and all the cream, it was the size of the thing---it must have weighed 2 pounds.  Somehow most people always finished them, especially Kenny Cutler.

If you don't have memories like this and want to know more about the banana split, or maybe especially if you do, you are in luck.  Michael Turback has written The Banana Split Book: Everything There Is To Know About America's Greatest Dessert.  The book has recipes for the classic banana sundae and many other versions too.  Cute sketches and pictures of the ice cream parlor era line the pages.  There is a picture of a steam ship banana boat coming back from the tropics with bananas and of the birthplace of the famous dessert.  The banana split was invented by David Strickler, an apprentice pharmacist in Latrobe PA in 1904.  Did you know that Howdy Doody ran for "President of all boys and girls" on a platform that promised "Cut-rate banana splits"?

In this book you will find some new twists too, like the grilled banana split and a Krispy-Kreme doughnut version.  How about a Tempura Banana split!  The book isn't just about the split; other banana-inspired desserts are included from some current top-rated chefs and restaurants.  Are you traveling this summer?  Well, there is even a listing of places across the USA where you can get your banana split.  

Here is a recipe for the Quad-City Special from Lagomarcino's in Moline, Illinois:

Split 1 banana lengthwise and place the halves parallel on a Banana Split dish. Place 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream between the banana halves. Ladle 2 ounces of cherry topping over one scoop and 2 ounces of crushed pineapple over the other. Garnish with whipped cream, sprinkle with chopped mixed nuts, and place a whole cherry at the top. On either side of the scoops of ice cream place Oreo cookies to represent paddlewheels.

The bottom line on the book---it's a good scoop of banana and  banana split information.

By the way, Palen's Store in Philmont, N.Y. is long gone, but for those who remember it, we remember the best ice cream ever made!