Greetings from Rangoon

No, I’m not on some exotic vacation. I’m instead cooking from my latest vintage cook book find, Rangoon International Cook Book, 1956. I at first hesitated about buying the book, as its title implied that the book would be filled with 1950s recipes from Southeast Asia.

In fact it’s an amazing mix of recipes from many cultures. The cook book was a fundraiser for the Woman’s Society of Christian Service of the Methodist English Church. The opening chapter says the funds will go toward community service projects such as a waiting room in the Kemmendine Christian Hospital.

Like all fundraising cook books, women in the community submitted recipes. Each recipe also lists its nationality. But obviously Rangoon in the 1950s was a very multi-cultural society! A quick look through shows American, Indian, Chinese, English, Danish, Israeli, Dutch, Canadian, French and of course Burmese recipes contributed by woman living in Rangoon. (Rangoon, now known as Yangon, was the capital of Burma (now Myanmar) at the time of the cook book’s publication).

In case your a bit sketchy on where Burma is located. I was!

This popular cook book went into at least four editions up through 1974. My guess is, and this is a guess because it’s hard to find much about the cook book online, is that the cook book was sold to women in churches back in the states for fundraising.

Since I had some bananas in the house which were well past their prime I looked for a recipe that used bananas. You can imagine that the ladies living overseas in Burma had plenty of access to bananas. There are eight different recipes listed under banana in the index, and many more that use banana as part of their ingredients.

I chose to make a recipe that used what I had on hand – banana bread. The recipe comes from Mrs. Ruth Behre. Ruth who was living in Burma with her daughter who was in the diplomatic service. I don’t think she lived there very long, as I find her on living in Reno, Nevada by the late 1950s.

Her recipe was basic and pretty much like all Banana Breads. It was easy to make and turned out moist and well-flavored.

Banana Bread

  • 1/2 c. shortening (I used softened butter)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 ripe bananas (or as she says, 5 local small ones. Wonder if she means these cool blue bananas?)

Burmese Blue Bananas

Cream shortening and sugar.

Add well beaten eggs.

Sift flour, soda and salt.

Stir flour mixture into shortening mixture.

Crush the bananas and stir into mixture.

Bake one hour or more depending on thickness of loaf (took me about 1 hour and 15 minutes).

Couldn’t be more simple. Yes, its not the best looking banana bread. The discolored areas are the banana, but it does taste good!

Maybe next time I’ll try the Burmese national dish – Mohinga, but finding 9 inches of banana trunk might be daunting. Last time I looked banana trunk wasn’t sold at Hannaford’s.

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