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The Sweet Success Of Bananas Foster Has An Unsavory Past

Workers unpack bananas in New Orleans. Bananas Foster, one of New Orleans’ favorite desserts, is a durability bequest of an oft-forgotten section in a city’s history: a banana trade, that spawned banana republics.

Arnold Genthe/Library of Congress


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Arnold Genthe/Library of Congress

Workers unpack bananas in New Orleans. Bananas Foster, one of New Orleans’ favorite desserts, is a durability bequest of an oft-forgotten section in a city’s history: a banana trade, that spawned banana republics.

Arnold Genthe/Library of Congress

There’s some-more to a story of Bananas Foster than flambeed fruit. While a interesting dessert is a honeyed bequest of New Orleans’ once-booming banana trade, there’s also a reduction delicious one: banana republics.

Today, a banana is America’s favorite fruit, yet it was once deliberate exotic. The fruit usually became hackneyed in a United States starting in a 1870s, interjection to improvements in shipping and botany. By a spin of a century, a banana trade was a million-dollar industry.

Big fruit companies were formed in New Orleans. Freighters ripping with bananas clogged a Mississippi River. A outrageous network of trains stretched out like a spiderweb to ride bananas opposite a country.

Bananas Foster was invented during Brennan’s Restaurant.

Kerri McCaffety/Courtesy of Brennan’s Restaurant


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Kerri McCaffety/Courtesy of Brennan’s Restaurant

Bananas Foster was invented during Brennan’s Restaurant.

Kerri McCaffety/Courtesy of Brennan’s Restaurant

“It was a outrageous product for a port,” explains Ralph Brennan, owners of Brennan’s, Bourbon Street’s mythological restaurant. The dessert — bananas, butter, brownish-red sugar, cinnamon, rum, banana liqueur and vanilla ice cream — was invented there in 1951. “A lot of people worked on a docks during a time and unloaded a bananas from a ships.”

Made during Brennan’s

The story of how Bananas Foster came to be is recounted in Miss Ella From Commander’s Palace, a new discourse from New Orleans restaurateur Ella Brennan.

At a time Owen Brennan, Ralph Brennan’s uncle, owned Brennan’s Restaurant, and his sister Ella managed it. Owen told Ella to come adult with a special new dessert for a cooking that night in respect of a New Orleans Crime Commission chairman, Richard Foster.

“Damn you, Owen,” Ella replied. Feeling a reduction of disappointment and panic, she dashed into a kitchen.

“While fussing and carrying on, she usually grabs a bananas,” explains her daughter Ti Adelaide Martin, now co-owner of Commander’s Palace, also in New Orleans. “[They] were substantially usually sitting right there, straightforwardly available.”

Ella motionless to sauté them, remembering a plate of caramelized bananas that her mom mostly done for breakfast. She was also desirous by a renouned baked Alaska dessert during a opposition grill and thought, “Why don’t we fire it like Antoine’s?” says Martin. The newly christened “Bananas Foster” was a outrageous strike during cooking that night.

Family Connection

But there’s another reason because there were so many bananas in a kitchen that day. Ella and Owen’s hermit John (Ralph Brennan’s father) ran a furnish business that had a over-abundance of — we guessed it — bananas.

John’s mom had ties to a Standard Fruit Company. She took trips to Cuba and Honduras with her family on Standard’s steam ships.

Those good times didn’t last, though. “Like all good family businesses, they got into a quarrel and separate adult a company,” Ralph Brennan says. “They wound adult losing it all.”

Top Banana

One of Standard’s biggest competitors, Cuyamel Fruit Company, was also formed in New Orleans. The association was founded by Samuel Zemurray, a Russian newcomer who, while operative during a docks one day, beheld piles of fast ripening bananas noted for a trash. He began shopping them adult during discount prices and offered them locally.

The thought was a hit. Zemurray warranted adequate to buy some land in Honduras and began handling banana plantations himself. He even famously helped revive General Manuel Bonilla to a Honduran presidency in 1912, usually to strengthen his possess business interests.

Samuel Zemurray, a poverty-stricken newcomer who became a millionaire, founded a Cuyamel Fruit Company. He after became boss of United Fruit Company. Meddling in a domestic affairs of supposed “banana republics” was usually one of his many argumentative business practices.

Associated Press


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Associated Press

Samuel Zemurray, a poverty-stricken newcomer who became a millionaire, founded a Cuyamel Fruit Company. He after became boss of United Fruit Company. Meddling in a domestic affairs of supposed “banana republics” was usually one of his many argumentative business practices.

Associated Press

Meddling in a domestic affairs of supposed “banana republics” was usually one of his many argumentative business practices, however.

The attention was abundant with heartless work conditions: complicated loads, breathless temperatures and pleasant diseases. Workers were frequently unprotected to poisonous pesticides. The banana had captivated a mildew that broken thousands of acres, forcing a workers to keep relocating to “outrun a disease,” says Justin Wolfe, associate highbrow of Latin American story during Tulane University. The businessmen and workers were in “a kind of arms competition with mom nature, that they were going to lose.”

By a late 1950s, New Orleans began losing a hold on bananas due to salary disputes and insurgency to modernizing a port.

A Lasting Legacy

But Bananas Foster stays a top-selling dessert during Brennan’s, and has turn one of New Orleans’ many famous treats. “My aunt gets an awful lot of credit for entrance adult with this dessert that’s lasted for so many years all over a nation — and maybe even a world,” Ralph Brennan says.

Yet Martin and her mom can’t assistance yet wonder, “Why in a universe do people make such a large understanding out of that elementary dessert?”