Thursday, February 7, 2013

Completely bananas

Runners and our bananas. Like Popeye and spinach, Elaine Benes and big salads, Hillary Clinton and hot peppers (what, you didn't know about that one?), distance runners almost universally love bananas. They're full of the things we deplete during long runs, they're portable, versatile, and delicious. I've been running since I was 11 years old, and by a quick calculation have probably eaten over 4,000 bananas in my life. And I've never tired of them.

Six or seven years ago I, like many, began to develop a growing consciousness about my food and where it comes from, thanks to the work of Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, and others. Although the locavore movement strikes me as a bit extreme, I totally get where these folks are coming from. I've belonged to a Community Supported Agriculture program for years, which provides most of what my household needs in the way of produce - and make an earnest effort to buy the rest from the farmer's market. It makes good sense all around to try to eat food that comes from where you come from. It's good for farmers, good for the planet, and good for the eater. Especially when you live in California, because almost every vegetable or fruit you can think of grows here. But you know what doesn't grow here? Bananas.

Most of the bananas available in the U.S. come from Ecuador and Mexico, because they need warm climates, rich soil, and lots of room (they grow best in large groups of other banana plants - they love community, too!). I was adequately convinced by the writers of the locavore movement to consider the amount of fossil fuel it takes to get tropical fruit into our supermarkets, and so for years have avoided buying it. Instead I enjoy the varieties of fruit that grow here (which is frankly not that difficult; have I mentioned that I'm a Californian?), and the only thing I really miss: bananas. Eating them is practically woven into my DNA as a lifelong runner. I eat them by the armfuls at races (because hey, the race organizers already bought them, shame to let them go to waste), and I haven't had a decent smoothie in years. But in a recent moment of weakness at the market, I gave in.
Only in my weird little universe
are bananas a "guilty pleasure."

Yesterday I made myself a glorious breakfast smoothie, and am looking forward to enjoying one after today's run. Four more of those beauties are staring at me from the kitchen counter, and as I felt a pang of guilt over them this morning, it occurred to me how completely ridiculous I can be sometimes. I think personal integrity is an important quality - I try to do what I say I will do, walk my own talk, and I generally expect other people to do the same. But sometimes, you know, it's okay to break your own rules. Sometimes you just want to eat a banana.

7 comments:

  1. Love this post! I also love bananas and have one nearly every day. While I attempt to eat locally but don't think I can ever give up my love affair with bananas!

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  2. This made me laugh. It wasn't until I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that I realized eating bananas in the U.S. is kind of silly. But I really like bananas and I still buy them by the bunch. I always feel a little shameful but they're so delicious!

    You buy almost everything else locally, so you definitely deserve some bananas in your life! You go eat those bananas and enjoy them! :)

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    1. Oh, yes - you can definitely add Kingsolver to that list of influential writers! Thanks for normalizing my shame. :-)

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  3. You can grow them. We used to have a banana tree in our backyard.

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    1. That would be amazing. I'm a condo dweller, with only a small patio that gets limited sun. I'm lucky to keep a basil plant alive, and have to rely on what's grown by others around me. But maybe I can hit up a neighbor to start a banana grove for me ...

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    2. Or you can look at those community gardens I hear so much about. I'm not sure they are in Cali, but I bet they are. I mean, we have them here in Houston.

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    3. Yep, I'm on a waiting list to join the one near me! (It's years long ... so we'll see!)

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