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.