A Widow’s Outlawed Son

Banana Fritters

Cultural Perspectives

By Tim Hazell

In the latter part of the 19th century, Australia was emerging from rough-and-tumble beginnings as a lawless frontier. Iron rails were taming the vast outback. Australian outlaws, called “bushrangers,” were a defiant, dying breed. Edward “Ned” Kelly (1854–1880) was a cold-blooded murderer to some and folk hero and spokesperson to others among the Irish-Australian poor. His life has inspired countless song lyrics, paintings, biographies, and two films.

After his Irish father died in prison, 12-year-old Kelly became the eldest male of an impoverished household. He was convicted of stealing horses in 1870 and imprisoned for three years. Indicted for attempted murder in 1878, Kelly, his brother, and two colleagues temporarily escaped. The runaways were declared outlaws after killing three troopers. Johnny Cash added to Kelly’s legacy with these lyrics:

Well he hid out in the bush and in the forest

And he loved to hear the wind blow in the trees

While the men behind the badge were coming for him

Ned said, “They’ll never bring me to my knees!”


The Kelly Gang robbed banks and encouraged revolt among Irish-Australian populations. In their final shootout with police, they wore homemade suits of armor thick enough to repel bullets but unable to protect below the waist. Kelly was shot repeatedly in the legs, captured and sentenced to death by hanging in 1880.

Kelly is responsible for a 59-page hand-written manifesto known as the Jerilderie Letter. It rails against the abuse of Irish Catholics, using vivid, hallucinatory language. The letter closes: “Neglect this and abide by the consequences… I am a Widow’s Son outlawed, and my orders must be obeyed.”

This 19th-century recipe from an early Australian settler’s kitchen was an outback favorite, one that Ned Kelly may well have been familiar with. Far from being a rustic dish, these luxurious fritters would earn any cook a compliment! They are delicious with vanilla ice cream.

Banana Fritters

6-8 small bananas (or 12 miniatures), peeled

Oil for frying


1/2 cup white flour

Pinch salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 tbsp. brandy

1 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. sugar mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon

Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Make a hollow in the center. Break the egg yolks into it. Put whites into a separate bowl. Add half the milk to the flour and egg and beat well until smooth. Add the rest of the milk. Continue to beat until bubbles appear. Beat in the brandy. Melt the butter and mix into the batter. Cover and let stand in a cool place for half an hour. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Heat enough oil in a saucepan to half cover the fritters. Dip each banana into the batter mixture. Lower into the hot oil and fry until golden brown and puffed, turning to cook evenly. Lift out with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Serve piping hot.


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