Yes, we have no bananas

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‘I’m thinkin’ bananas just wanna be bread’

A couple of weeks ago I chauffeured The Child up to the Big Ferry at Orient Point so that she could catch the train back to Boston. (You may recall from my story “Her Personal Truck” that not only can The Child drive now, she drives an F350. But it’s not a stick, and both our cars — the “new” ’98 Toyota 4Runner, and the old ’91Honda wagon — require stick-shifting skills.)

The Child and her BF pose in front of their new home. Yes, that’s a honkin’ big truck — but it’s not a stick

Anyway. The drive up to the Big Ferry is a pretty one (you ride on two little Shelter Island ferries on the way) but it does eat up a good chunk of time — it’s an hour and a half each way. To stave off starvation, I tossed a banana on the back seat.

Well. What with feeling sort of Mom-sad about bidding my one and only Child good-bye, I never did feel peckish. So when I got home I reached around to retrieve the unneeded, uneaten banana. But, instead of it being at its beginning-of-the-trip peak of tasty ripeness, now — just three hours later — it was looking rather, well, brown and bedraggled.

The untimely demise of my banana got me thinking. Have I ever been able to transport a banana successfully for later consumption? I mean, I can get them home from the store okay. But I have never been able to put one in a packed lunch or in a bag of foodstuffs to transport back or forth to Amagansett — even if I nestle said banana(s) carefully on top of whatever food-transporting receptacle I’m using and don’t close the top. (A closed brown paper bag being a tried-and-true method of ripening bananas.)

My version of the Banana Art at Art Basel. An Art World sensation that feels particularly quaint in these Pandemic Times

But, no matter what precautions I take, my bananas always look the worse for wear. Which seems to be the way things go, banana-wise. Why, I just checked, and even the banana in the infamous Art Basel Banana Installation looked, well, like it would rather be in a batch of banana bread batter than duct-taped to a wall.

So what is it about bananas?

Don’t do it!! You’ll be wasting a perfectly-good perfect banana!

I know that there are certain other foods that I’m told “don’t travel well,” which is why you can eat wineberries to your heart’s content from the bushes around our house in Amagansett — that is, if The Child or The Dude’s Sister don’t beat you to them — but you cannot buy them in stores. Not even at farm stands. That’s because wineberries “don’t travel well.”

Those wineberries were able to travel from bush to Grampa Whitmore. But no further than that

But you can find bananas at stores. Sometimes even at farm stands. Though the story about the City Lady asking the farm stand hand if their bananas were “local” shows how humor travels well even if bananas don’t. Get the whole funny story here: “The Forty-Dollar Farm Stand.”

What’s not to like about a farm stand with a surfboard for a sign? Well, maybe, ahem, the prices. But they only carry what’s “local,” which means (ahem, City Lady) no bananas here!

So. How do the people who ship the bananas keep those bananas from going all spotty and black on the way to the IGA? Can’t be refrigerated trucks; banana-bread lovers who want to speed things up (like me when The Child was an Actual Child and wanted that B Bread now) know that putting bananas in the fridge makes them blacken in no time at all.

I do know that they ship them on the green side. But that can’t be the only thing they do

Speaking of banana bread, that’s what The Child clamored for when we unpacked the freshly-blackened bananas she’d carefully stowed — along with umpteen boxes of household goods — for the trip down from her now-empty apartment in Boston (those really icky ones on the right up above). I dug out my mom’s recipe, and we went to town. Here it is if you happen to have any squishy bananas hanging around. Which you probably do.

Bake at 350, unless you’re using a glass loaf pan. In which case go for 325

Notice the recipe just says “bananas.” We used three. But the recipe is pretty flexible. Unless you’re going to use bananas like the ones we found in Panama (see photo at the top of this post). Then you’d need, like, eight. Oh, you squish them up with a fork; I add them before the dry stuff. But that doesn’t really matter either.

Looks like my Favorite Younger Sister was going to use two, not three. Whichever. I bet her banana bread made her People smile

But enough with the Banana Mystery. My mind is more occupied with following The Child (virtually; through Instagram) on her RV wanderings. Hey! I should have snuck a perfect banana into the kitchen of her camper to see how it fared. Would have made a nice experiment — as long as she didn’t eat the subject.

Morning in the Badlands. Maybe there’s a banana sitting on the counter of the kitchen in that camper waaaaay off to the right

New York City. September 2020

How do you milk an oat?

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‘Lactose intolerant? I’m any-kind-of-milk intolerant’

A couple of nights ago, Trevor Noah was talking about how facing a second wave of coronavirus while still fighting the first was kind of like when he was a kid and his mom would serve him vegetables at lunch that he hadn’t eaten from dinner the night before.

This reminded me of when I was a kid and my Mom would try to enforce milk drinking. “Young lady, you are not leaving this table until you drink that milk!” Well, any of you who has ever had a child or been one will realize that there is no way to force a kid to consume anything.

So that glass of milk would go back in the fridge — only to be brought out at the next meal. And the next, and the next. Until the milk ring inside was positively etched into the glass. No way I was going to drink that milk. Continue reading

Bean me up, Scotty

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‘At the end of my rope. Er, supply chain’

So The Dude went by the new apartment — the very tiny one we bought late last year and were in the midst of spiffing up when we got locked down — well, he just popped his head in for a peek and, lo and behold, something peeked right back.

It was a rat. A really big rat. Now, our soon-to-be living room is small — very small. As in 11 by 13 (feet!) So even a run-of-the-mill rat would look pretty large. But, huge as he was, Mr. Rat took one look at Mr. Dude and took off. He ran right into the bathroom and disappeared down the waste pipe where the old toilet used to be and where the new toilet is supposed to, er, go.

What will eventually block Mr. Rat’s private entrance into our apartment

Well. I figured that even Andrew Cuomo would agree that getting somebody to block off Mr. Rat’s personal subway entrance into our apartment would count as “essential,” so I got our contractor on the case.

As much as I hate vermin, I must admit it made a nice change of pace to worry about something besides what to make for my 59th dinner in a row. (In case you think I am superficial or callous, of course I worry about the sick and the dying. The unemployed and desperate too. But this is a humor blog, for heavens sakes. And, trust me, I am distracting myself as much as trying to distract you.)

I am totally nostalgic for the Olden Days when choosing the right shade of grout kept me up at night

Even in the Olden Days I turned to cooking for solace in times of stress. (Turn back time by taking a look at “And Then There Were None, ” a piece from what feels like a hundred years ago.)

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Pots and Pandemics

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‘Cooking for the Apocalypse’

Okay. How many of you out there know what “pork shoulder calas” is? Hint: it’s not pork butt.

Pork shoulder calas is what I scored from the almost-empty meat case the other day when I made my once-weekly foray, gloved and bandanna’d, into the local IGA. I go at around 8:30 because, even though it’s “seniors only” from 9:00 to 10:00, they only let in 30 shoppers at a time. (I found out the hard way that getting there at 9:00 means standing — er, shivering — in a socially-distanced line, waiting until one of the lucky First Thirty exits the store.)

A fully-laden shopping cart in Happier Days. When it was filled with what I wanted rather than what I could get. I would kill for those paper towels

While I’m waiting, either in the car (when I’m early) or on the line (when I’m not), I go over my shopping list.

Then, when I get inside, I realize my list isn’t worth the scrap paper it’s scribbled on because, basically, nothing on there is in there.

Empty bread aisle, also from happier days. Then it was 4th of July hoarding, which was at least temporary

As a senior who’s earned her early-groceries stripes, I didn’t think much could surprise me anymore. But every week when I go IGAing, I’m stunned at the total absence of once-familiar items. There are whole sections of the store that are empty. The usual suspects — peanut butter, oatmeal, eggs, canned tuna — have been missing for weeks, not to mention toilet paper. Which is such a classic Corona MIA that my Beloved Only Younger Sister joined in the TP fun. Yup. Her post went, ahem, viral.

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Viral Smiles

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‘Making the world a better place, one grin at a time’

A couple of nights ago, The Dude poked his head into the kitchen and asked, “What are we doing for dinner tonight?” Well. Ordinarily I wouldn’t find this hilarious. But ordinarily we are not cooped up together 24/7 in state-suggested social isolation.

The Dude asking what we were “doing” for dinner reminded me of my Old Days in the Ad Biz when we Ogilvy Peeps would fly Midwest Express out to Appleton, Wisconsin, to call on our client Kimberly-Clark. (You can read about that wackiness in “HooHah Time is Story Time.”) Bless their hearts, the stewardesses (yup, “stewardesses”) would put a cloth napkin on your tray table and ask sweetly, “Will you be joining us for dinner tonight?” I always wanted to reply, “Oh, I don’t know. I was thinking of going out.”

Well, it’s Day 32. (Only Day 32?) And our dining options, at least out here in Amagansett, are limited to A) eating in our kitchen or B) eating at the counter in our kitchen.

Where we eat: A) the kitchen B) the kitchen counter

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Thanksgiving Turkeys

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‘The worst Thanksgivings are still pretty darned great’

Those of you who follow along with me each week already realize — no doubt because I’ve told you way too many times — that Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. (Speaking of giving thanks — thank you for reading, Favorite People.) See “Turkey Shoot”, “In the Kitchen with Dad (and the Coal Miner’s Daughter)”, “Flipping the Bird”, and “My Breast is in no need of a rub, thank you very much” for pieces stuffed with reasons why.

Is that a banana, or am I just glad to see it’s almost Thanksgiving?

And it’s not just me. I grew up with a whole passel of Thanksgiving Lovers. Why, one year we invented a holiday called “Veteransgiving” just so we could get together, calendar be darned. (I bet we’re one of the few families who’s celebrated Veterans Day Weekend with turkey and pie.) It was held at my Favorite Sister Laura’s, and it was One Fun Time.

I don’t have a photo, alas, of Veteransgiving. But here’s one from a Christmas during that same era, also chez Laura

Although Veteransgiving was a little unusual, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “turkey”. No, the Thanksgiving “turkeys” of my memory were these (in no particular order):

The Thanksgiving with the Sad Little Game Hens. Dude Man and I were freshly hitched and, for some reason which I cannot recall, did not decamp to a Family Unit for the holiday. (Maybe we didn’t get enough time off? Maybe we couldn’t decide which family to invade? I honestly can’t remember.)

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Yes, some people can live by bread alone

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‘That craving for carbs simply must be genetic’

Some years ago, The Child (who was an actual child at the time), started fussing peckishly in her highchair while I was on the phone with my mother. “Hold your horses, Honey,” I said. Mommy’s getting you your bread and water.”

The Child, getting close to the age when she would demand bread and water

“Bread and water!” my mom exclaimed, spluttering with over-the-phone laughter. “Are you punishing that child?” She was astonished when I explained that B&W was The Child’s snack of choice.

Not much has changed since she was in a highchair. Snackwise, anyway

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And then there were none

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‘How to make the world’s best brownies, bar none.’

I’m seriously distracted today. The Wayner and I are considering “downsizing” from our Manhattan home of nigh-on twenty-five years to a place that just became available in a highly-desirable building nearby. It’s adorable, filled with light; all the clever original casement windows face a gorgeous private garden. And so on and so forth.

The issue? It’s so small (the kitchen is six feet by six; but at least it has a kitchen) that moving there would take a major attitude adjustment, not to mention a pruning of possessions so majorific it would make Marie Kondo‘s head explode.

Eeensy-weensy isn’t the half of it

So, what to do?

Let’s make a batch of brownies, by gum! Nothing is easier — or more soothing. I have a foolproof method (it’s so simple, I hesitate to call it a “recipe”) that I’ve used even longer than The Dude and I have lived in this (sniff) apartment. It’s sort of adapted from an old Maida Heatter cookbook I have lying around somewhere (and will soon be donating to some library or other).

Here’s the recipe written down for somebody-or-other. Don’t worry; I will “translate”

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The Forty-Dollar Farm Stand

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‘Yes, we have no bananas’

I miss The Bonacker. Especially when I get a craving for corn.

The Bonacker was this crusty old guy who’d set up a card table on the grassy verge of the road near the power station and pile it with sweet corn that he’d haul over every morning in from, I’m assuming, his farm.

I don’t have a photo of The Bonacker, but he was a dead ringer (no pun intended) for my Grampa Henry. Come to think of it, I never saw them on the same tractor at the same time

I’m assuming he was a farmer because he sold corn. But other Bonackers (AKA “Bubs”) were baymen who, instead of hauling corn, would “haul-seine”) bluefish and sell them right on the beach. Actually, many men of the Bonacker persuasion did both. They also raked clams which their wives would make into clam pies. (I have never tasted a clam pie, and have no plans to do so.)

But I did taste — and savor — my share of Bonaker corn. I’d stop by The Bonacker’s on my bike and fill up my basket. I remember it cost 10 cents an ear. If you bought a dozen, he’d throw in a bonus ear. I also remember that we rarely had any left over. Which was sort of a shame, since Corn Salad is one of my favorite creations. (You can find the recipe, which is actually more of a “method”, at “Friends, Romans, Countrymen: lend me your ears”.)

As rare as Bonacker accents at my house — leftover corn

The Bonacker was so cool that if you forgot your money (which happened to me more than once) he would simply tell you to pay him next time. As for “telling you”, understanding him could be a bit of a challenge. The Bonackers, including “my” Bonacker, spoke a dialect that harkened back to the 17th Century when the first working-class English came over.

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“What’s that smell?”

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‘There’s something rotten in the State of Illinois’

It rained this Easter. Which wasn’t really a problem, not for me anyway, since I don’t have any little kids to take on an Easter Egg Hunt. (More’s the pity.)

But I remember very well, being the Oldest Kid and all, what happened one time when it rained on our, er, Easter Parade.

But first, a word about Easter.

My family was Lutheran. Which is sort of like being Catholic, but stripped-down and rather basic — kind of like the black-wall tire of religions, or like being the Catholic B-Team. We were jealous of our cousins who were Catholic and enjoyed the full-on religious package; they got to have First Communion and wear fancy dresses and patent leather mary janes and hats with (gasp) veils and get sprinkled with Holy Water. They even got to kneel. (When you’re seven, you think kneeling is incredibly cool.)

I remember that purse. I loved that purse; I distinctly remember putting my collection envelope in there — and (gasp) am I wearing a hat?

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