The Thrifted Kitchen {Banana Bread Wars}

For the first time since I started this series, I knew exactly what I was going to make as this week rolled around. Usually I flip through all my vintage magazines and cookbooks and have to whittle down the possibilities from 10 to 1. But, this time, my refrigerator spoke for me — or at least the very black bunch of bananas in it did. :)

This is quite possibly why bananas are my favorite fruit; they're so versatile. Didn't eat them in time? No problem...stick them in the fridge until you can make banana bread.

Seeing this is one of those "classic" recipes, I thought it best to consult what I consider the two experts in my cookbook collection: my 1964 edition of the Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook, and my 1949 edition of The Good Housekeeping Cookbook. I found each one's version of banana bread, and as I looked at them side by side, I saw they had the exact same ingredients, except two: baking soda and lemon juice.

I was intrigued, to say the least. Why would they have all the same ingredients, but Good Housekeeping decided the addition of baking soda was necessary? And why would the CAI decide that lemon juice needed to be added?

From my understanding, baking powder contains baking soda already (plus some other things with scientific names), and baking soda is usually added when you have something acidic in your batter. So it's funny, then, that the CAI uses lemon juice in its recipe, but it doesn't add baking soda to the mix (other than what's in the baking powder); and GH does, but it doesn't really have any acidic elements in its recipe.

Now, I know by comparison to some of you, I am a novice baker. I really have only gotten into it in the past 7 years, so I'm well aware that there are things I don't know. Maybe you can look at the two recipes below and tell me why this little difference of soda and lemon juice might make a difference. Then my mind will officially be at ease.

The only thing I can tell you from taste and sight is that CAI's definitely rose more than GH's (but it also had more flour and more amount of the rising agents), however, both had a similar taste and consistency.


Banana Tea Bread
Courtesy of The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, 1949
Makes 1 loaf

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, well-beaten
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 bananas)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift first four ingredients. Work shortening with a spoon until fluffy and creamy. Add sugar gradually, continuing to work until light. Add eggs and beat well. Slowly add flour mixture alternately with bananas, beating smooth after each addition. Turn into greased 9"x 5"x 3" loaf pan. Bake in moderate oven of 350 degrees for one hour, 10 minutes or until done.

To vary: Add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, or 1 cup chopped pitted dates.

Banana Bread
Courtesy of the Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook, 1964
Makes 1 loaf

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups sifted flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup nut meats, chopped

Cream shortening and sugar together. Beat eggs until light and add. Press bananas through sieve and add lemon juice. Blend with creamed mixture. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and mix quickly into banana mixture. Add nuts. Bake in greased loaf pan in moderate oven (375 degrees) about 1 1/4 hours.


  1. Fresh baked banana bread is SO amazingly delicious. I LOVED it when my former mate would bake it for me. Gorgeous photos here, as always.

    I need to actually attempt some baking again, I have plenty of vintage books to investigate on the subject in stock!

  2. Thank you, my dear! And yes! Get to baking from those vintage books, then take pretty pictures and send them over here so I can post it. :)

  3. I always substitute unsweetened applesauce for the fat/oil in quick breads. They taste better and are healthier. They don't keep as long, but really, how long does banana bread last in your house? If it's like mine they are eaten up in a flash!


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