If I said that I actually, truly, legitimately won the Long Beach Post’s staff baking contest for National Banana Cream Pie Day by besting both Executive Editor Melissa Evans and City Editor Hayley Munguia in a blind tasting, despite the fact that I both tabulated the anonymous ballots and am writing this column, would anyone actually believe me?
No. Probably not. I certainly wouldn’t.
So I’ll just tell you that Melissa took top honors with 200 total points for best pie, Hayley was close behind at 193 points and I languished in third at 183.
Or in a parallel universe, you can take my word that my cuisine reigned supreme, because it totally did.
As far as the individual elements—the proverbial pieces of the pie—best filling went to Hayley with 54 points, Melissa’s appearance took top honors of 56 points, thanks to excellent piping, and I’m pleased to say my graham cracker crust sliced away the others.
March 2 is, in fact, National Banana Cream Pie Day and not simply a random date serving as a slothful excuse for our journalists, editors and staff to sit around in a custard-crazed banana bacchanal.
Beyond the pies stacked up in the newsroom test kitchen of the Long Beach Post and Business Journal, our city is rich in options if you’re looking for everything from the traditional to the banana cream pie-adjacent.
Longtime Long Beach institutions including Polly’s Pies, Bake n Broil, Hof’s Hut and Pie Bar all have a banana cream pie on the menu, with Pie Bar also making a vegan option available and individual portions in single-serving jars.
Meanwhile, Long Beach Creamery has banana cream pie ice cream on its rotating menu of flavors.
If you’re more of a pudding person, Toran Grays opened the second location of his Extraordinary Banana Pudding business on Long Beach Boulevard late last year.
In between his full-time job as a general manager for Catalina Offshore, San Diego’s premium fish market, Grays had spent several years devoting all his free time to selling his homemade pudding. Eight months later he had saved $20,000 to open his first brick-and-mortar in La Mesa, a city in San Diego County, in 2020.
A year-and-a-half and over half a million dollars in banana pudding sales later, Grays opened his second location in Long Beach.
For Long Beach’s LaTanya Ward, founding Filthy Rich Banana Pudding in 2014 helped fund another project of hers, the G.U.T.T. Healing Circles for the community—the acronym stands for “gaining unity through transformation,” and the healing sessions include team building, therapeutic exercises and an ear to listen.
Every week, Ward makes hundreds of containers of banana pudding through her business to deliver or to sell at local pop-ups.
While recipes for banana cream pie first started appearing in the late 19th century, the pie’s popularity started to take off in the 1950s when Korean War-era American soldiers, longing for comforts of home, ranked the banana cream pie as one of their favorites.
Banana trivia to help while you’re digesting:
- The International Banana Museum is right here in Southern California, located on Highway 111 just south of Palm Springs, housing the world’s largest collection devoted to any one fruit. It contains more than 25,000 items and admission is only $1.
- More than 100 billion bananas are eaten every year in the world.
- Americans eat an average of 27 pounds of bananas per person every year.
- More than 96% of American households buy bananas at least once a month.
- About 51% of bananas are eaten for breakfast at home.
- The highest average per capita consumption of bananas in the world is in Ecuador, where residents eat an average of 218 pounds of bananas per person every year.
- More songs have been written about bananas than about any other fruit.
- The banana is actually classified as a berry.
- David Evans Strickler invented the banana split in 1904 when he was a 23-year-old employee at the Tassel Pharmacy soda fountain in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
- A single banana is called a finger and a bunch of bananas is called a hand.