As a kid, I thought the Banana Split Ice Cream had been invented by the Good Humor Man. Afterall, for a long time the only place that I knew served them up was the Good Humor Truck that occasionally visited our street.
Eventually, I came to realize that it was not the Good Humor Man who invented the Banana Split, at that time my favorite ice cream treat. But I never did come to know (or care much) just where it came from.
From the obscure and overlooked department, it seems the banana spilt was invented in Wilmington, Ohio – at least that is what organizers of the Banana Split Festival taking place there now (June 12 and 13) tell us. The event, they say, celebrates Wilmington’s role as “birthplace of the banana split”.
For those unfamiliar, a banana split is an ice cream-based desert. In its classic form it is served in a long dish called a boat. A banana is cut in half lengthwise (hence the split) and laid in the dish. There are many variations, but the classic banana split is made with scoops of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream served in a row between the split banana. In no particular order, pineapple, strawberry and chocolate sauces are spooned over the strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla ice cream. It is garnished with crushed nuts, whipped cream, and maraschino cherry
Although there is a Banana Split Festival this weekend in Wilmington it is not without dispute.
Apparently, as is often the case, there is some debate as to whether, in fact, the banana split was invented in Wilmington or somewhere else – in this case neighboring Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
According to locals in 1907, restaurant owner Ernest Hazard wanted to attract students from Wilmington College during the slow days of winter. He staged an employee contest to come up with a new ice cream dish. When none of his workers were up to the task, he split a banana lengthwise, threw it into an elongated dish and created his own dessert. The town commemorates the event each June with its own Banana Split Festival.
In Latrobe, apparently they claim that David Evans Strickler, a 23-year-old apprentice pharmacist at Tassel Pharmacy, located at 805 Ligonier Street in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, who enjoyed inventing sundaes at the store’s soda fountain, invented the banana-based triple ice cream sundae in 1904. The sundae originally cost 10 cents, twice the price of other sundaes, and caught on with students of nearby Saint Vincent College. News of a new variety of sundae quickly spread by word-of-mouth and through correspondence and soon progressed far beyond Latrobe.There is a popular recipe, but it was published in 1907, the same year that Hazard started over in Wilmington. This Latrobe recipe called for a lengthwise split banana, two cones of ice cream at each end and a spoon of whipped cream in between with maraschino cherry on a top, with one end covered with chopped mixed nuts and another with chopped mixed fruits.The city of Latrobe celebrated the 100th anniversary of the invention of the banana split in 2004 and, in the same year, the National Ice Cream Retailers Association (NICRA) certified the city as its birthplace. It is the place of an annual Great American Banana Split Celebration and a keeper of the original soda fountain where the first now famous throughout the world confection was made.The Great American Banana Split Celebration is held throughout the downtown Latrobe area in late August with food, fun and events for kids and adults to enjoy.
In the meantime, in Wilmington the celebration includes concerts, crafters, vendors, games, and a make-your-own banana split booth.
Both towns send like great places to visit.
In the meantime, for the record, you can still get a good banana split on a stick from Good Humor, though the Good Humor man is nowhere to be seen in our neighborhood.