Banana Rant

Let’s start with a song today; or at least a verse from a song.  See if you remember this little number:

Jack, Jack bo-back, Banana-fana fo-fack. Fee-fi-mo-mack, Jack!

The song? It’s “The Name Game”, that annoying rhyming chant that should stick in your brain for the next several hours.  Here’s another one:

Day-O! Day-O! Daylight come and me wan’ go home!

The song?  It’s the “Banana Boat Song”, made popular by Harry Belafonte.


I mention these songs because they’re happy on bananas.  And I hate bananas. Let me rephrase: there is no fruit, vegetable, or otherwise consumable item on God’s green earth more singularly unappetizing to me than bananas.  I only have to think about the taste of a banana and I consider tossing my cookies.  Bad news for me though – supermarkets, songs, commercials, movies and desserts ensure my world is constantly bombarded with the yellow fruit.  Bananas are as prevalent in the urban jungle as they are in the real one.

I blame my growing-up years, now that I think about it.  My first bike was a 1968 Schwinn “Lemon-Peeler”- the one with the “banana” seat.  What in God’s name was I thinking?  I could’ve had Schwinn’s “Pea-Picker” (green) or Schwinn’s “Cherry-Picker” (red) but no; I had to opt for a “Banana-Peeler” (as it came to be known).  It horrifies me to realize I sat on a banana for a good chunk of my childhood.

My Saturday mornings included “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour”; that silly animal rock band I somehow found entertaining.  Disney crushed me with “The Jungle Book”: King Louie eating bananas every time he was on-screen and even singing about them.  (I will never sing about bananas.)  Finally, I can’t shake those Chiquita banana commercials, the ones with Miss Chiquita dancing and singing: I’m Chiquita banana and I’m here to say… catchy little jingle.  It’s like the media was conspiring to force me to like bananas.


Fruit was a requisite item in my school lunches back then.  Oftentimes my mom would put a banana in my school lunch instead of an apple or an orange or grapes.  My protests went unacknowledged at home so I gave bananas away at school, to anyone who showed interest.  Not that I got anything worthwhile in return.  Bananas have little value in the American high school.

All of the above pales in comparison with one ghastly horror-film-worthy banana-filled-memory.  Coming into the kitchen one morning before school, I found my mom busily frying bananas on the stove.  I rubbed my eyes in disbelief but the image didn’t go away – banana slices sizzling and popping in an oil-filled pan.  Seriously?  Aren’t bananas bad enough the way nature made them?  Couldn’t I opt for a bowl of sliced bananas and oranges instead, where enough shredded coconut on top blocks out the banana taste?  Apparently not.  Mom just had to be adventurous.  I can still picture that plate of thin, dark, hot, greasy banana slices next to my more redeeming breakfast items.  Gag.  It’s a forever-imprint on my brain.


Even the concept of “acquired taste” failed me with bananas.  For example, I used to hate tomatoes (and yogurt repulsed me even more), but somewhere in my food journey I actually learned to enjoy them.  Now they are staples in my diet.  Not so bananas.  Bananas are as choke-worthy today as they were in that frying pan forty years ago.

If I must eat bananas there’s only one way they’re going down the hatch – in banana bread.  I actually like banana bread.  That’s probably because the dozen other ingredients win the battle and effectively expunge the banana taste.  It’s like Fig Newtons if you hate figs.  Or Oysters Rockefeller, with enough broiled cheese and spinach to effectively kill the oyster.

Opinion: bananas foster, banana splits, banana cream pies, and banana pudding are all outstanding dessert choices as long as you leave off the bananas.


Facts: 100 billion bananas are consumed every year across the globe.  Americans alone account for 27 pounds/person/year, which equates to 108 bananas!  You’ll find bananas on the list of the “World’s Healthiest Foods”.  The Latin word for banana translates to “Fruit of the Wise Men”.  California even has a Banana Museum for crying out loud. (17,000 items!)

None of that moves me.  Gwen Stefani may sing B-A-N-A-N-A-S on “Hollaback Girl” and shirts or sweaters may tempt me at Banana Republic, but I will never put “like” and “bananas” into the same sentence (er, except this one).  But hey, call me if you’re hungry.  My 108 bananas are all yours.



Foods are Something Else!

Let’s talk about hamburgers. Depending on your druthers a carefully-proportioned build of the bread, meat, vegetables and condiments makes for an American classic that – despite trendy variations – hasn’t changed in over a century. But here’s a curiosity for you: Why does every ingredient in a burger also serve an entirely different purpose in the English language? Let’s disassemble, shall we?  Top to bottom, I now give you the eleven essential ingredients.


The bun comes first of course; the capstone to lock all other burger components into place. But a bun is also an element of a hairstyle, is it not? You have that coil of hair on top of the head or at the nape of the neck and you call it a bun.  We even have the man-bun.  Er, not me.  The only bun I identify with is on my burger.

Below the bun we find a very small vegetable garden.  For today’s purposes we include onions, tomatoes, lettuce and pickles.  But did you know, if you know all there is to know about a topic, you “know your onions“?  Did you also know a tomato is old-world slang for a woman or a girl?  Lettuce is today’s language for cash – dollar bills if you will.  And a pickle, well that’s one of those predicaments where you say, “how did I get into this?”

Here’s a favorite ingredient.  I like bacon on my burger.  But not only are we all trying to bring home the bacon (i.e. make a living), but we’re also occasionally trying to save someone’s bacon (i.e. they desperately need our help).

Time for condiments.  In no particular order, squeeze on a little mustard, relish and ketchup.  Now, if I approve of your hamburger I tell you it “cuts the mustard“.  And when you sit down to enjoy your burger I assume you relish the taste.

(Confession timeout: ketchup exists for the one and only purpose of serving as king of the condiments.  Call it ketchup or catsup; all I know is the Chinese claim its invention.  So opportunity knocks; let’s get ketchup out of the bottle and into an alternative use in the English language!)

Now add a slice of cheese.  Think about that ingredient for a moment.  Where else do you use cheese outside of the food world?  Why, in front of the camera of course!  And when you “say cheese” let’s also agree it has nothing to do with the food, but rather the way the word forces your mouth into the requisite smile for the photographer.

We’re almost there.  The beef (patty) that is the essential ingredient of the hamburger is so much more than ground round.  It’s a reference to muscle or brawn (but not to be confused with “beefcake” as this blog is rated “G”).  Having a beef is about a complaint or an argument.  Building something in size or amount means beefing it up.

Let’s not forget about the bottom bun.  If we combine it with the top bun we have the plural, and that of course refers to a certain part of the human anatomy.  Pursue your “buns of steel” if you must; I will settle for my buns on burgers.

That’s all for today’s enlightenment on the vocabulary of the hamburger.  For extra credit check out the spice rack (“salt”, “pepper”, and so many more) or the bakery case (“cookies”, “rolls”), Foods are chomping to be more than just something to eat!

Sentimental Utensil

My wife and I were cleaning out the kitchen a few weeks ago when we came across a rather strange-looking device. It could be described as a combination between a small pair of metal tongs and some kind of slicer. We racked our brains trying to figure out what it was for.  Eggs?  Nuts?  Ice?  Bewildered, we wondered if it even belonged in the kitchen.

I showed our gadget to a couple of friends but they were as confounded as I was.  Then I turned it over to my ever-resourceful sister-in-law. She took it to a a couple of kitchen stores and asked several friends, all to no avail. Finally she showed the device to her hair stylist – who sent a phone video to his girlfriend – and voila! – mystery solved.  Turns out our little mechanical metal friend is a butter cutter.

I don’t blame you if you’re still confused.  Not only did I wonder why (as in, why do you need a butter cutter?) or how (as in, how do you use the darned thing?), but also when (as in, when did people ever use one of these?).

I’ll get to the why in a minute.  As for the how, a butter cutter is used by holding the blade perpendicular to a stick of butter, pressing the base down into the stick, then pushing down on the blade.  The push down and spring back of the blade produces the “pat” of butter you sometimes get with a dinner roll at restaurants.  Move on down the stick and you can churn out butter pats to your heart’s content.

As for the when, it turns out our butter cutter is vintage.  It was popular back in the 1950’s.  If you simply must have one for your kitchen, go here.  But my research also led me to ask which, as in which one?  It turns out there are several butter cutters for your consideration:

61-vintage-2Here’s another vintage model – a bunch of pats all at once!

     61-vintage-3        An updated model – regurgitates pats one at a time.

61-vintage-4The Rolls-Royce of cutters.  How thick do you like your pats?

   61-vintage-5      No comment.  This one is simply disgusting.

Remarkably, there are lots of butter cutters out there if you search long enough.  Some claim to also work on rolls of cookie dough.  Others claim to also cut potatoes into chips.  But the more models you find, the more you’re inclined to ask why?  Why go to so much trouble to cut butter when a perfectly ordinary kitchen knife will do just fine (and with far less mess?).  That earth-shattering question is actually covered at, a blog about “getting and staying organized”.  Check out the hot debate and the wealth of reader comments here (from people who clearly have too much time on their hands).

My own take on why is more satisfying.  The more I thought about our butter cutter, the more I realized I probably inherited it from my mother.  Along with other kitchen items, she probably tossed it into a box as I was heading off to my first apartment so many years ago.  And thinking about it even more, I can picture my mother using her butter cutter when I was a kid, leaving a perfect little pat beside the crescent roll that was positioned carefully on the bread plate beside each place setting at the dinner table.  Because that was my mother.  She was all about the dinner table.  Everything had its place, even the pats of butter.  And there’s an element of grace that comes with the butter cutter that would not be found in simply using a knife.

Laugh at the pointlessness of a butter cutter if you must.  But I will cherish mine instead, as well as the vintage memories that spring back every time I use it.

What’s ‘appening with Dining Out?

After moving our daughter into her college apartment last Saturday, we offered to take a group of her friends out to a local restaurant to celebrate the beginning of the school year.  The place we chose did not allow for table reservations but did offer call-ahead seating.  Thus did our party of ten arrive during the busy dinner hour and was seated less than ten minutes later.  It’s fair to say this call-ahead experience was entirely pleasing to the palate.

58 - palate

Call-ahead seating is an interesting concept to me.  It’s somewhere between a full-on reservation and simply showing up for dinner.  The restaurant puts you on a list when you call ahead, and then you’re given the next available table after you arrive.  In essence, call-ahead mitigates the restaurant’s risk of the no-show reservation.

Call-ahead feels entirely dated if you use OpenTable, of course  With OT you’re limited to the restaurants supported by the app, but you’re also given the convenience of choosing cuisine, location, menu, and time; right up to the moment you walk through the door.  OT’s website boasts “seating more than 20 million diners per month… across more than 38,000 restaurants”.  Clearly the new-age approach to restaurant reservations has arrived.

But is OpenTable also dated?  With a little research I was amazed to discover several other companies changing our approach to dining out.  Consider the following:

NoWait allows you to add yourself to the wait list of a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations.  NoWait is like having someone stand in line for you, with the convenience of knowing when that person gets to the front of the line.  Hence you can shop or have a drink nearby instead enduring the crowding and impatience of the restaurant’s waiting area.

Rezhound and TableSweep are boosters for OpenTable.  They scan OT for newly-released (cancelled) reservations, then notify you by text or email with what they find.  You have to jump over to OT to actually book the reservation (be quick!), but it’s a great concept if you’re in the habit of waiting for last-minute seats at popular restaurants.

Table8 is designed for the more upscale dining experience.  Table8’s restaurants set aside a fixed number of peak-time tables every night.  You can reserve any available table at a Table8’s restaurant for free, or reserve one of the “set-aside” tables for a fee if there are no other tables.  Again, last-minute seats at popular restaurants, as long as you’re willing to pay a little extra.

Settle allows you to book a table, pre-order your food, and pay for your meal on your phone.  I’m not a fan of Settle’s time-saving tactics.  I think the moments perusing and discussing the menu is part of the fun of dining out, not to mention the brief relationship with your waiter.  If saving time is your objective, just get your food to-go.

Shout borders on the absurd.  Shout is the ticket-scalper’s approach to restaurant reservations.  For a fee negotiated with the “seller”, you the “buyer” can purchase a hard-to-get restaurant reservation, or pay the seller to wait at a given restaurant until your name is called.  Really?  Is the restaurant that good and your time that important?

To end on a humorous or horrifying note (take your pick), Happy is marketed as the do-it-yourself happy-hour app.  Walk into a bar, cue the Happy app, and a timer starts a 60-minute countdown: to enjoy whatever 2-for-1’s or other specials the bar has to offer.  So now you can get extra drinks any time of day.  Just remember, you only have an hour.  On your marks… get set… DRINK!