Thursday, February 3, 2011

"A Race To The Finish Line"

I can’t stand it.  The stress is too much.  And I’m no stranger to stress, I can tell you.  If you had any such idea, forget it.  I have been there.

I have dealt with the pressure of hundreds of writing deadlines.

I have walked on stage in front of two thousand people.

I have faced the cavernous uncertainty of open-heart surgery.

But nothing, nothing I tell you, matches the acute turmoil and anxiety over

Eating all the bananas that we bought before they go bad.

(I may be exaggerating a little for effect, but not as much as you might think.  This is a big one.)

Worst Case scenario.  And I’m not making this up.  This actually happened.

I came home one night with a bunch of bananas, so green, you couldn’t peel them if you wanted to.  The next morning – the next morning, mind you – I walk into the kitchen

And every one of them had turned black!

The bananas had gone bad overnight!  Before we could even get to them!  Five bananas on a stem, suffering from some terrible, life-shortening genetic disorder.  “Shocking” is the only word that applies.  They were green…

and then…

They were garbage.

I tell ya, I never want to see that again.  It was like bananas that had endured a nuclear explosion.  They were utterly decimated.

I was seriously traumatized.  But I couldn’t stay away.  I like bananas.  So I kept coming back.

I continue to buy bananas, but, once home, I monitor them scrupulously, my eyes alert to incipient “Danger Signals.”  A lightening of skin color.  A noticeable softening.  A telltale proliferation of spots. 

I’d feel obligated to eat them – the most deteriorated, and therefore least appetizing ones first – duty-bound to polish them off, before it’s too late.  I was determined to never again be confronted by the nightmarish specter of terminal bananas, with their pathetic, silent rebuke:

“Why didn’t you eat us sooner?”

I am no stranger to bananas; I’ve been around them all my life.  I have a sense of how long it takes before they become fruit bowl fatalities, an insult to both eye and palate, good only for the trash bin, or banana bread.

The problem is, our bananas are not alone in our stylish, wooden fruit bowl.   There are also apples and pears, each item with ian inescapable “Eat by” date.

It’s like Sophie’s Choice, but with fruit.  You opt for the banana, and the rejected alterntives take another step down the Road to Oblivion.  It’s a torturous dilemma.  Eat a banana, condemn an apple.  Choose an apple, lose a pear. 

You can store apples and pears in the refrigerator.  They may even taste better that way, chilled, as if picked straight from the tree on a crisp autumn day in…wherever they grow.  But you can’t do that with bananas, a fact drummed into my head since early childhood by the “Chiquita Banana” jingle, which, to a lilting Caribbean beat, includes the singing admonition:

Never put bananas, in the refrigerator!” 

Not that refrigeration is any “Magic Bullet” either, a reality known to anyone who has opened their fridge and gone,

“What is that smell?”

Meat can go bad, butter can turn rancid, bread, though refrigerated, can still sprout white, and later, maybe good for penicillin but less so for eating, green spots.  Milk can curdle, carrots and celery can wilt, eggplant can turn purple – wait, eggplant is supposed to be purple, though, and I admit this is off the subject, I have never been entirely comfortable with purple food.

It’s simply the Way of the World – refrigerated or otherwise, no food is immortal.  (Nor, though it probably doesn’t require adding, are the consumers of food.  Which makes sense, because if you are what you eat, and what you eat can’t last forever, neither can the people consume the stuff.  Truth be told – and there is no reason it needs to be – we are all “going bad” each of us in our own particular way.)

But let’s face it.  No plight is as perilous as the banana’s.  Bananas are entirely on their own, unaided by the technological advances of modern science, which elsewhere have been proven so successful:

“We’ve eradicated diphtheria, banished smallpox, and made polio a thing of the past.  But we can do nothing for the banana.”

What brought this situation so dramatically to the fore is that yesterday, owing to an unfortunate breakdown in communication, Dr. M and I, during separate visits to the supermarket, both came home with a our own individual bunch of bananas. 

At I write these words, there are eleven healthy bananas sitting in our kitchen.

At least six of them haven’t got a prayer. 

4 comments:

Neal... said...

I never thought I'd be passing on fruit advice, but you can freeze overly-ripe bananas. They can be used later for smoothies or banana bread or what have you. Or they can sit there for months admonishing you for never making healthy drinks or baking.

So there you go. Feels like I'm giving something back...

Ian said...

“We’ve eradicated diphtheria, banished smallpox, and made polio a thing of the past. But we can do nothing for the banana.”

That is possibly the finest fruit-related sentence I think I may ever read.

Thank you.

PG said...

I sympathize completely, since I never visit the market without picking up a bunch of bananas, even though I'm the only one around here to ever eat them. They are so cheap! Earl, never, ever go to Costco to buy bananas....you can get about a hundred for $2!!!!
And when they are good, they are very, very good. Here's a tip sent to me recently after I bemoaned the steady obligation to turn my store of rotting bananas into countless banana breads (it's like the sorcerer's apprentice):
Pull the bananas apart and they will ripen more slowly and at different rates.
(apparently, when grouped in a cluster, they tend to encourage each other to ripen at the same time or something).
Yesterday I made two banana breads, one with nuts and chocolate chips, the other plain. I put half of each one in the freezer to foist off on unexpected visitors and the other halves are sitting on the counter as I write, beckoning for attention. Unfortunately, I don't actually love banana bread as much as I love bananas....
if they call me in for work tomorrow, the secretary will get an unexpected gift!

Blitzen said...

When I was a little kid my dad bought a lot of bananas. When they got old and mushy my he would make chocolate milkshakes with them. And let me tell you, chocolate banana milkshakes are a ton more appetizing than old or new bananas.