Season's eatings! The weather may be getting colder, but Dining Month on OnMilwaukee is just cooking up, dishing out your winning picks in this year's Best of Dining poll. Dining Month is brought to you by Fein Brothers, your premier food service equipment and supply dealer in Wisconsin since 1929. Congratulations to all of the winners, and happy eating for all those who voted! See all the winners for the month so far here.
Most people like to eat. Some prefer their nourishment healthy, handsome and high-class; others enjoy a diet less discriminating. This series is a celebration of the gastronomically grotesque, a repudiation of culinary conceit. It is a space to commune and connect for those perhaps poor in taste, poor in pocketbook and poor in cooking proficiency, but rich in spirit and self-reliance. Simply put, it’s a place to write about gross food.
Banana mush. The name says it all. Sort of. Not really, though. Anyway, I’ve been making my Famous Banana Mush for about five years now, and, while the actual contents and nutritional value of it are far from gross, the name and appearance and overall presentation of the dish make it eminently eligible to be featured in this series. As with the first two installments of In Poor Taste, I apologize in advance for this and issue a reminder that no one is forcing you to read on, be disgusted and lose your temper on social media.
If you’re like me and you prefer your foods all combined into a sort of casserole-like mixture or "slop" – ex: turkey and potatoes and stuffing and gravy and green beans are all great separately, so together they will be UNLIKE ANYTHING THE WORLD HAS EVER TASTED; related: Capriotti’s knows what I’m talking about on this – and if, also like me, you don’t enjoy eating healthy, then this recipe/consumption strategy is for you.
I created banana mush one day when I was feeling like I needed to eat healthier. Bananas, I thought, those are healthy. Apples, also healthy! And everyone’s always talking about protein, I remember saying aloud to a jar of Jif I was holding, let’s throw in some peanut butter to hold it all together. Yeah, a nice, creamy cement. And, really, that’s all there is to it.
If I can ever figure out how to make my famous Banana Mush look (and sound) even remotely appetizing, I'm going to be a millionaire. — Jimmy Carlton (@jimmycarlton88) January 31, 2015
Obviously, there’s some preparation involved, as well as a practically infinite supply of other ingredients you can add, and a top-shelf banana mush only comes with years of experience and skill refinement. But at its fibrous, potassium-rich, high-protein and brownish-colored amalgamated core, that’s all banana mush really is.
The base-level banana mush calls for two ripe bananas – PEELED – and one apple, sliced and cut into tiny little baby apple bits about as large as regular-sized Ibuprofen. Put the bananas in a medium or large bowl and, here’s where the name meets the game, really mush them into a paste; then add, oh, say, three or four generous spoonfuls of peanut butter to the bowl and mix that up. Really let the bananas and peanut butter mingle, get to know each other, talk about cities they’ve both been to and mutual interests, share a laugh and think about a future together. Then add the apple pieces.
Now, because I’m a super banana musher who’s well-practiced in the craft, I’ve done a lot of experimentation and addition of other ingredients. We don’t need to delve into the failures, but some of the more successful supplements have been mixed nuts (for more protein and crunch and a fun splash of salt), other fruits (berries are good, pineapple was troublesome), yogurt (again, protein, plus better texture) and Nutella, which literally makes everything taste better, from banana mush to beef tenderloin.
For what it’s worth, Jimmy’s Famous Banana Mush calls for two bananas, one large apple, three large spoonfuls of peanut butter, a handful of mixed nuts, some raisins and a slender, metrosexual European man’s-sized amount of Nutella. But the beautiful thing about banana mush is you can do anything you want with it.
Just whip whatever ingredients you choose together so you get a sort of viscous, gruel-like consistency – color-wise, it should always fall somewhere on the brown spectrum, depending on how much peanut butter you used, the Nutella, how rotten the bananas and apples were, etc. – grab a spoon and dig in. Be forewarned: banana mush is serious business. If it were served at a wedding or an art gallery opening, it would be deemed a heavy app. It’ll sit in your stomach, but in a good way, at least if you plan on exercising comprehensively afterward.
Over the years, I’ve made banana mush as a potent nutritional breakfast, a pre-workout meal or snack before a soccer game, and also as a filling but nutritious dinner when my body is begging for something more natural than Dorito ranch sriracha pizza after a weekend of too much candy corn vodka. Is it vegan? Maybe! Paleo? Probably! Gluten-free? I have no idea!
Banana mush is the ultimate utilitarian food, a warrior’s survival sustenance. They say, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Well, eat this every day, and I guarantee your doctor will drop his/her clipboard, hand you the stethoscope and ask how s/he can be more like you. If I had any testimonials, I’d provide them. But otherwise, just take it from me: Jimmy’s Famous Banana Mush is the panacean fad diet of 2017.
Jimmy's Famous Banana Mush (ratings 1-5)
Preparation difficulty: 3 (slicing and chopping and stirring and mixing is EXHAUSTING)
Chef quote: "Banana mush tastes exactly like it's named: like a toddler made it."
Advanced evolution: I don’t know, try the Nutella and mixed nut thing, or throw in some kale or garbanzo beans. Be creative! I shouldn’t always have to hold your hand and lead you through the garden of culinary ingenuity.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.