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This B.C. woman’s recipe is one of the most popular of all time — and the story behind it is bananas

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It’s been nearly 20 years, but Shelley Albeluhn remembers the day in 2000 when she decided to mash an additional three very ripe bananas into the batter of her very first banana bread.

At the time, she hoped the on-the-fly tweak would yield a tender loaf with a sweet and deeply intense banana flavour.

Little did she know her creation — which baked up beautifully and received rave reviews from friends and family — would soon become a worldwide banana bread sensation.

Albeluhn, who lives in Port Hardy on the east coast of Vancouver Island, is the creator of Banana Banana Bread on Allrecipes.com, the much-loved website that collects recipes submitted by home cooks.

Since she posted the recipe in 2000, Banana Banana Bread has been viewed more than 35 million times and is Allrecipes’ second-most popular recipe of all time. In 2018 alone, it clocked more than 4 million views.

“This literally could be the most-viewed banana bread recipe in the world,” says Esmee Williams, vice-president of consumer insights at Seattle-based Allrecipes. She believes Albeluhn is the only Canadian to have a recipe crack the website’s all-time top 10 list.

“For a long time, it was the only recipe that came up when you Googled banana bread and for many years it was the number one recipe on our site. Shelley was definitely ahead of her time.”

Albeluhn, 53, never set out to change the global online trajectory of banana bread.

“I can’t believe this,” she says, after a Star journalist tells her of the enduring popularity of her Banana Banana Bread. “That many millions of people have seen my recipe? That’s amazing. It’s just a recipe.

“But I guess sometimes there is nothing better or more simple in life than making a really good banana bread.”

Read more:

Canada’s most popular online recipes, from Newfoundland to Nunavut

Albeluhn doesn’t remember the origin of the recipe she adapted into the now legendary Banana Banana Bread, which calls for 2 1/3 cups of mashed, overripe bananas. That’s the equivalent of five or six bananas; many banana bread recipes use just two or three.

“I winged it, really,” she says. “I remember thinking: ‘Let’s see how banana-y we can get this, so let’s put in another banana, and then another and another.’ ”

Albeluhn also recalls that she swapped brown sugar for white sugar, and replaced oil with butter.

It turned out so well she decided to post her adapted recipe online to Allrecipes.

At the time, Albeluhn was living in Port Alice, a village on Vancouver Island that, in 2000, had a population of about 1,200, many of whom were supported by the local pulp mill, which has since closed.

That Albeluhn had internet access in such a small town nearly 20 years ago is just one of the curious things about the ongoing viral popularity of her recipe, says Anatoliy Gruzd, an associate professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management with expertise in social media.

“It’s also interesting that something posted so long ago is still alive on the web — and still popular,” he adds, noting that Allrecipes has found a way to stay relevant even though it launched in 1997, whereas some other websites of its generation have gone extinct. “Think of something like (the social network) MySpace.”

“It also shows you that, in some cases, things that are posted many years ago can still be viral now. Modern forms of social media favour real-time trending stories. If something trended yesterday, it’s considered too old and we move on.”

Gruzd says that while Albeluhn’s recipe probably tastes good (he hasn’t tried it), its popularity is more likely due to Albeluhn’s impeccable timing: she posted the recipe on Allrecipes at just the right moment to ride the wave of the website’s overall success.

Williams, who has worked at Allrecipes since shortly after its launch, says the website’s appeal has always been that it caters to home cooks, many of whom gravitate toward recipes that are simple and timeless, just like Albeluhn’s banana bread.

In Canada, Good Old Fashioned Pancakes, submitted by Dakota Kelly, has remained the most popular recipe for years, netting more than 1.65 million page views here last year. It’s not clear whether Kelly herself is Canadian — Allrecipes doesn’t generally track users’ locations.

Williams says this kind of cooking is something that has not gone out of style, even amid the increasing online presence of celebrity chefs, sophisticated food bloggers and the meteoric rise of impeccably styled foods suitable for Pinterest and Instagram.

“There aren’t that many places where home cooks have a voice online,” she says, adding that the millions of recipe reviews submitted by Allrecipes users help build trust in the website. “Before you ever turn on the oven or the stove, you know exactly how a recipe will turn out. You’ll know whether it’s a kid-pleaser, or whether your husband might like it, whether it will be a hit at a potluck, and how you can alter the recipe to suit your tastes.”

More than 10,000 people have reviewed Banana Banana Bread on Allrecipes and it has a 4.5 (out of 5) star rating.

Albeluhn, who peeks at the reviews from time to time, is thrilled her beloved recipe has touched so many lives.

Not just because she believes her version, with its deep banana-y flavour, is one of the best banana bread recipes around, but also because she hasn’t tasted it since 2001.

Dietary restrictions for health reasons mean she has had to forgo the treat. But she remembers exactly how it tastes and the best way to eat it.

“It’s wonderful toasted,” she says. “Take a slice and put it in the toaster oven so that it gets a bit golden brown on the outside. It will still be soft on the inside, and when it’s warmed up, you get that nice, buttery flavour. It’s just so good.”

Albeluhn hopes that Banana Banana Bread continues to find its way into kitchens around the world. It’s OK, she says, for people to try it with nuts or chocolate chips, make it into muffins or serve it in restaurants, or tweak the recipe to suit individual tastes, just as she did nearly 20 years ago.

But there is one element that she insists must remain to ensure the treat is truly Banana Banana Bread: “You must make it with very ripe bananas that are dark brown, very soft and with very little or no yellow. That is key; I wish I had written very overripe bananas in my original recipe. It’s the only way you get that super strong banana flavour.”

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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