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Pickle Me This

June 6, 2010

Literary Bananas

The most recent object of my fruit obsession was the wondrous pomegranate, and before that I was nuts about avocados. For the past six hours, however, I can’t stop thinking about bananas. It’s not the first time– when I was pregnant, I ate bananas all the time, and obsessive-compulsively baked with them. Yum, those trimesters were banana pancakes, banana bread, banana cake, banana SPLITS, and my daily snack of a banana stuffed with chocolate chips melted for thirty seconds in the microwave.

This latest banana fixation is a bit different. It all started a few weeks back when we visited the Royal Botanical Gardens, checked out their banana biodiversity display, and learned that there actually exist thousands of varieties of banana, that sometime in the middle of the last century the “Cavendish” was decided as the banana of choice for exporters, and these days it’s the only banana around. Which means that bananas in general are threatened, because biodiversity has been completely undermined and as the Cavendish is under threat by a menacing fungus, we may be on the fast track toward the banana version of Silent Spring.

And then today I ate a plantain for the first time in my life. I fried the pieces, using this recipe, and topping it with sheep’s milk feta from Monforte Dairy, and it was the most extraordinary treat I’ve had in ages. I was so busy marvelling at the flavour that I scarcely noticed my husband polishing off the whole plate of them, and he’s just lucky I like him a lot or I really might have considered divorcing him. Instead, we decided to go out and find another plantain, and so tonight’s after-dinner walk was devoted to seeking out banana biodiversity in The Annex neighbourhood.

Results were poor. We went to five grocery stores and found nothing but Cavendish varieties. Finally, at an Asian grocery store at Bloor and Palmerston, we found another plantain. (The first one had come from Augusta Fruit Market in Kensington. I wonder if we’d sought banana biodiversity in Kensington, perhaps we’d have better luck? But I doubt it). We both do remember seeing red bananas at our local grocery store once years ago, and we bought them, but either red bananas are terrible or we didn’t let them ripen, because neither of us remembers this experience positively.

Plantains though, oh wow. And bananas in general– like anyone with a baby, I bow down to these. We had a fun snack of black beans and bananas a few weeks back, that suggested to me that the lovey fruit is more versatile than I ever imagined.

Anyway, now I am going to read the book Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. (And you can bemoan these hyperbolic titles all you want– heaven knows that I have–, but it’s sort of nice that when one becomes obsessed with any object, one can rest assured that a recent book has been written devoted to it. These are not such terrible times in which we live, save for the banana biodiversity threat, but I digress).

Have been thinking about other literary bananas too– did you know that the term “banana republic” comes from an O Henry short story  (though I do, only thanks to Wikipedia)? The first one I could think of off-hand was the bananafish, from “A Perfect Day for…”, which (allegedly) had six bananas in its mouth, tragic being that it was. I think literary banana peels are quite ubiquitous, but I’m not sure they count. It’s the flesh that I’m talking about. And there’s Banana Yoshimoto, who is probably the most literary banana going. But I can’t help thinking there must be a whole bunch more out there (ha ha).

Um, this post is also certifiable proof that I lead a life much unencumbered.

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