Going bananas over bananas

BananasI very well remember the joy of having 1 (one) banana as the highlight of the new year celebration when growing in socialist Bulgaria. My father would wait in line for hours to bring 4 (four) bananas, one for each family member, and sometimes also 4 (four) oranges. Postponing the pleasure of taking the first bite was part of the pleasure. We all looked forward to this moment. We even had our own substitute: my father grew in his orchard a particularly delicious pear which he likened to a banana.

Then the 90s came and Bulgaria was not anymore restricted by economic isolation and the first thing street vendors did, in addition to pirated CDs, was to sell affordable bananas. I know it well, because I was the guy with the CDs, standing next to the guy with the bananas.

Now, I hardly eat bananas. My younger daughter, though, is a voracious banana eater. She probably eats two a day. I am a seasonal food eater — these days I love cherries and peaches. Few days ago I made a batch of sour cherry jam from the two sour cherry trees we planted in front of the house the year we moved. There were 10 little jars — enough to share with the neighbors and the Armenian coffee shop owner who always takes the time to talk with me about life, universe and everything else.

Now that I have been for almost 18 years in the U.S., I am appreciating more and more the bounty of growing in the family of gardeners. There is mystical joy in seeing how the grapes I planted, the apple trees I planted, the vegetable garden I planted are starting to produce fresh fruits and vegetables. I might not be as skilled a gardener as my parents, but I am deeply grateful to them (although back then I was not as happy camper about it) for making me work every weekend on the family gardens.

As I am reminiscing on this all, the New York Times posted a very enlightening article on the artificially low cost of bananas:

ONCE you become accustomed to gas at $4 a gallon, brace yourself for the next shocking retail threshold: bananas reaching $1 a pound. At that price, Americans may stop thinking of bananas as a cheap staple…

One of the rhetorical questions the article asks is “What other fruit can you slice onto your breakfast cereal?”. Well, you can try to be creative and seasonal too: you can try peaches and even melon with milk-based cereal. You can switch, just as Europeans would prefer it anyway, to yogurt instead of milk, and then the possibilities are limitless. That is how we have muesli.

The first recipe I ever brought home and ask my mom to help me make it, was plain yogurt with shredded apples and honey. It was one of the snacks we were given in the daycare. I must have been four and a half years old, just as my older daughter today.

As I am reflecting on the role of fatherhood these days, I am optimistic about the human ability to adapt to life. Yes, we had it good for many years with cheep produce flown from thousands of miles; and yes, we can enjoy our local produce just as well.

So here goes cheer to all local gardeners!

P.S. It just dawned on me the irony of what I was writing just as my coworkers were praising the banana bread I brought to the office. Indeed, you cannot make banana bread without bananas.

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