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Unlucky Bananas  –  Don’t leave port on a Friday. Wear a lucky hat. And never have bananas on a boat. Since when did the humble banana get a bad reputation? Blame sailors and (especially) fishermen and their many superstitions. One of the oldest myths among fishermen—and sailors who like to fish—is the myth that bananas on boats are bad luck.

There is little consensus on the origin of the myth, and everyone seems to have his or her own explanation, ranging from deaths caused by poisonous stowaway spiders on banana boats of olden days to injuries caused by slippery banana peels. (Never mind the presence of sharp equipment like fish hooks and gaffs on every fishing boat.) Ask any avid fisherman or charter captain about this, and you’ll likely hear tales of bad days of fishing blamed on bananas. Even innocuous items may be implicated in this comical myth. Going out on a fishing charter? Make sure you don’t wear Banana Boat sunscreen.

I’m pragmatic, rational and not typically prone to superstitions…until I go fishing. I am willing to give up eating bananas for the sake of fishing, but I won’t sacrifice my beloved banana bread. Though the bread would likely be banned on many other fishing boats, I’ve had plenty of great days of fishing (and sailing) after munching on banana bread for breakfast out on the water, so I’m quite convinced that banana bread is not bad luck. But whole bananas? Not on my fishing boat.

 

Bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the world and a ubiquitous fruit in the Caribbean, where they grow almost year-round. A particular treat are the sweet thin-skinned baby bananas, locally called “figs.” When you see them for sale on the side of the road, pull over and buy a hand of this sought-after variety. An ideal use for extra bananas—especially since they all seem to ripen at once—is banana bread, a quick and easy project whether you are land-based or on a boat. I like to bake multiple loaves to freeze so I have banana bread available on a moment’s notice. The banana bread of my childhood was delicious but dense. My version is lighter and more nutritious, without compromising flavour. If you’ve wanted to try baking with whole wheat flour, this is a great recipe to make. The increased nutritional content of the whole wheat flour also makes the bread a hearty way to start the day. Pair the banana bread with a strong cup of Caribbean coffee, and you’ll have excellent “fuel” for reeling in a big fish.

Banana Bread
A necessary recipe in any Caribbean cook’s repertoire

• 6 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
• 1/3 C brown sugar or demerara sugar
• 1 ½ tsp vanilla
• 3 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 ½ c)
• ¼ C honey
• 1 egg
• 2 egg whites
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 2 C whole wheat flour
• 1/3 C chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a loaf pan (approximately 9 x 5 inches). In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until well mixed. Stir in vanilla, bananas, honey and eggs. Lastly, add the salt, baking soda, flour and pecans (if using), mixing thoroughly. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes before removing from the pan. Cool completely before slicing. (Note: mini loaf pans also work well. Use three pans and bake for 35-40 minutes.) 

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