The first time I had a banana salad I was maybe 10 years old. Or maybe 11? Whichever, it might have been yesterday, my memory is so vivid.
On that hot and sunny summer afternoon we were eating with family friends in one of those simple, slightly ramshackle waterfront restaurants so common in Tidewater Virginia in the 1950's. Along with the fried fish and raw oysters (local, of course - no pollution then) on the menu was the banana salad. It arrived on a plain white plate - crisp green lettuce, a banana sliced the long way, a smear of mayonnaise sprinkled with chopped peanuts. That's it. Divine.
Now if you look on the web you will find dozens of banana salad recipes.
It's a Southern thing - Kentucky, Georgia, the Carolinas, Louisiana - and, of course, Virginia - all of their own regional (or special family) variations, mostly involving a cooked salad dressing using vinegar and eggs. Some add chopped apple. You will also find banana croquettes (bananas rolled in chopped peanuts) - a blissful childhood memory for many of the writers involved.
My New York born mother had tucked banana and mayonnaise sandwiches on white bread into my lunch boxes from the time I started school - sometimes combining banana and peanut butter (or peanut butter and bacon, a change from the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches of most 50's American childhoods). What she never, ever did was fry them - a variation made famous as an Elvis favourite. Even Nigella Lawson has posted an "Elvis" fried banana and peanut butter sandwich on her website. And she is definitely NOT Southern.
My English born sons ate banana sandwiches throughout their childhood, often with peanut butter - sometimes surprising their little London friends. Banana salads, too - although I will have to ask them if they are as treasured a childhood memory as they are mine.
Not really a recipe:
All you need: crisp lettuce, bananas, your favourite brand of mayonnaise, chopped nuts (peanuts or whatever nuts you have on hand or prefer - I love to use hazelnuts, probably a taste inherited from my Italian grandparents)
FYI: I have been known to slice a banana, smear it with peanut butter and eat it with my fingers. Yum.