Tuesday, March 22, 2005

...Going Bananas

Years before I was born an event occurred that has been forever cemented into our family lore. As I didn’t even exist at the time of the incident, this is all second-hand info as retold to me by my older brother, H.L. Apparently H.L., then 4, was protesting the eating of a banana because of a common occurrence in bananas – a gross looking brown spot. My father, at his absolute wits end trying to get my brother to eat, exclaimed, “JUST EAT THE BROWN, EAT THE BROWN”.

This event was apparently so traumatic for my brother that not only did it cause him to permanently swear off bananas, it also caused him to swear off all other fruits and vegatables, period, as well. He’s really a miracle of modern science and perhaps proof that grown-ups have been lying to children for years about the dangers of not eating your veggies and ingesting too much junk food. At nearly 40 years old his diet remains a strict regimen of red meat and various Hostess products, yet he has never experienced any health problems whatsoever (though I do wonder if his complexion, with has taken on a distinctive red hue in recent years, is the result of not getting enough nutrients or perhaps the beginning stages of scurvy). His convictions are pretty strong. Every year at Thanksgiving my mom practically makes the rest of us swear in blood that we won’t reveal to H.L. that the rolls he enjoys by the dozen are actually made with pumpkin.

I don’t want to be critical of my father, especially considering it’s his birthday today (Happy Birthday, Dad), but my tendency is to believe my brother’s version of this story, if only because A) he has a photographic memory and can tell you specific details of the most mundane events from over 30 years ago and B) my dad has never really denied it.

Whatever the case, this story has been repeated to me so many times from my brother that I too have developed a completely irrational banana intolerance. While food aversions may be normal in some people, it is rather odd in my case since I tend to be an extremely adventurous eater otherwise, often to the point of driving many of my friends and most definitely, my wife, to the point of absolute disgust. There is no sandwich on earth I enjoy more than the pastrami, swiss cheese and tongue at Nate `n’ Al’s, I consider it a rare, delectable treat when I’m able to indulge in some tasty chicken feet at Dim Sum (more than once being told by the waitstaff that I was the only white person they’ve ever had order that particular delicacy) and found myself completely confused a few seasons back on Survivor when an Asian contestant was ostracized from the rest of her tribe after they got grossed out at watching her eat a chicken heart, since doing the same has always been a normal part of cooking a whole chicken in my house. But give me a banana, a completely normal staple of the average, healthy American diet and I will recoil in horror.

I think my disgust comes from two factors. One, I find it unacceptable that every time I peel open a banana there is a high probability of finding an unsightly brown or black blemish that is questionably edible. What other food has such a statistically high possibility of finding something so gross on it? Second, there is just no mistaking a banana’s similarity, in both shape and consistency, to a big, white turd.

I recently decided, after probably a good 20 years, to confront my banana-phobia head on. It wasn’t a conscious decision as much as we had run out of apples in the house and bananas were the only available fruit left. I took upon the task with much fear and trepidation. Is it ok to eat the brown spots or should they be discarded? What about the little white strips that sort of come halfway off when you peel the banana? How do you tell if it’s ripe?

Putting it into my mouth, I felt like a girl giving oral copulation for the first time. I had to fight my gag reflex so as to not spew up the turkey sandwich, cottage cheese and baked chips that had made up the rest of my lunch. I felt queasy biting into the banana’s mushy texture, giving me the distinct feeling of biting into a crap.

Then it hit my taste buds. I’ve got to admit, they’re not bad. After having one more recently without incident, I am more than willing to welcome bananas into my regular diet. But I won’t eat the brown.
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