Memories and Musings

The Banana Bread Man

Banana Bread Man
Banana Bread Man

He used to call it out over and over again on the streets of Old Key West,
“Banana Bread, Banana Bread. Get your hot Banana Bread and don’t blame me when it’s gone!”

His bicycle seemed like it might flip over front ward with the huge freight of banana bread that filled his basket. He pushed down steadily on the wooden pedals with old, but tautly muscled calves. His sun‑bleached eyes had dimmed in power but his instincts knew where to find the tourists like a captain knows where to find the fish long after the colors of the water and the sky slid together like a cocktail left too long to linger on a bar.

Banana trees abound in Old Town. Their fragrances intertwine with the gardenia, salt water and sweat of the days.

Imagine his kitchen! The heady smells of mashed, rich, ripe bananas, brown sugar and a hint of rum mixing in with the toasting nuts and the equally as woozy, drunken scent of vanilla. Enough to make the bees swoon!

The windowless space would trap none of this baker’s perfumes! I’m sure little children would go wild thinking of ways to get some free “banana manna” from this Bahamian gentleman.

When did he cook his banana bread I wonder now? Was it in the middle of the night so as to work when the Sun would finally roll over it’s heavy weight like a drowsy lover, or perhaps he would slip the yellow‑golden loaves in the ovens around noon and head over to the The Bottle Cap or Che‑Che’s for a few cold “blue runners” to relax before he would go home, wrap them in paper bags and head down to Mallory or cruise Duval to make his living.

“Banana Bread. Banana Bread. Get it while it’s hot and don’t blame me when it’s gone”.

See ya in the next world, Banana Man.

One thought on “The Banana Bread Man

  1. Thank you for giving the memory of the Banana Bread Man eternal life in the digital realm. I had the pleasure of enjoying his bread and his joie de vivre back in 1978. Both were inspiring.

    Until then, I knew banana bread only as the crumbly bricks that routinely appeared at picnics and pot-lucks like some perpetual party crasher. But the Banana Bread Man’s version was truly transcendent. It was more like a bread pudding of creamy over-ripe bananas, sweet brown sugar, dark caribbean rum and fragrant vanilla; barely bound together by a bit of flour and the baggies in which it was packaged and sold just as fast as it could be baked. If you were lucky enough to catch the Banana Bread Man early on in his rounds the bread might still be warm, only recently out of the oven.

    Some have attested that it was the Banana Bread Man’s wife who actually baked those miraculous loaves, while he merely peddled her wares. It was also said that he had become a millionaire selling that bread; and that he could have long since retired from his labors. I can neither confirm nor deny any of these indisputable facts as they were related to me. But I am fairly certain that the Banana Bread Man enjoyed riches beyond many of our imaginations. Any who ever shared his laughter might tend to agree.

    I wonder if the Banana Bread Man would even recognize his home today in 2020. I have to think that although he might be dismayed, he wouldn’t be surprised. The writing had been on the wall for a long time. It had been decades since Key West was the end-of-the-road refuge of bikers and old hippies; of war vets seeking respite from their living hells; of shrimpers and fishery workers and prostitutes all plying their difficult trades. Key West has long since been bought out by Marriott and Hilton, paid for in cold hard cash. It has became a theme park where America’s entitled are given license to behave badly.

    So thank you once again and even more for memorializing the Banana Bread Man, who belonged to a time and place that I like to think is not too far gone; but one which I fear is all but gone forever.

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