My Banana Has Freckles

Chimpanzee

Chimpanzee (Photo credit: lightmatter)

I feel like a monkey, somewhere, somehow I have evolved into a monkey from a human being, it’s the evolutionary theory backwards. All I have craved lately are bananas. Not just bananas but banana smoothies, made by moi. I LOVE THEM. They comfort me, soothe me, and make me feel happy. I’ve had one every day for about five days now. There are no more bananas in the house anymore, I must go shopping tomorrow but waiting for them to ripen is an exhausting ordeal.

When I want them to ripen faster I put the bananas in a brown paper bag with an apple tossed in because I once read this hastens the process. If it doesn’t at least I don’t have to see green edges, which in fact, is the only way my mother and son can eat bananas. Raw bananas? Ugh. There must be a science to banana eating and yes, I have also heard that you should peel a banana from the bottom like the monkeys do. I’m flexible, I do that once in a while but eating them while they are green? No, that will never do and don’t confuse green bananas with plantains because that is just entirely different. You need bananas with freckles, especially if you are baking with them, carmelizing them or using them in a yummy smoothie. I also make a mean banana bread but so far, that’s a family secret.

I am sharing my banana smoothie recipe with you, I only hope it gives you as much joy as it gives me:

In a blender put:

3 ripe bananas (RIPE is the operative word, not okay if they are green)

a  small container of yogurt (you choose) I have used strawberry/banana yogurt, cherry vanilla or plain yogurt (I use 0 percent)

a bit of crushed ice (many people like icy smoothies, like my daughter, so feel free to add ice cubes or more crushed ice-I like them more creamy)

a dash of vanilla and almond extract to taste

2-3 Tablespoons of vanilla ice cream or low-fat vanilla ice cream (optional)

one teaspoon of brown sugar (optional)

a peach, plum, raspberries, cantaloupe or any old fruit that needs to be used (again, optional)

Blend at High for about a minute.

Take a Tablespoon to taste, adjust as needed. Pour, serve and enjoy!

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The Sweet Scent Of A Perfect Peach

Helianthus annuus (Sunflower). Taken at garden...

Image via Wikipedia

In my imagination I think we would be friends if only we lived closer together. I would give her, and only her, the true secret ingredient to my super moist banana chip/raisin bread. Her mouth would smile widely and crumbs would spill happily from her mouth as she ate it with delight; her big doe eyes would nod in agreement. I can’t compete with her cooking of course, she was born baking and cooking but there is no competition between friends. We laugh together at my lack of cooking skills and she constantly admonishes me and tells me she will force me to learn. Knowing her, I have a feeling, she will make me follow through.

On the side of her house I imagine her large garden where she picks her own deep, red  tomatoes from the vine and takes a big bite of one warmed by the sun. She has sunflowers, big tall, brown, vibrant orange and yellow, about fifty of them, near the rows of green peas and lettuce and carrots hiding in the moist soil. Next to them, sweet butter corn  grows tall and stretches to the sun like a morning yoga pose. Wildflowers grow nearby, purple, yellow, pink, white and the blue of a delicate robin’s egg. There are so many vibrant and intense colors in her garden, it’s like staring at a painting by Matisse.

I’ve never had the actual opportunity to meet an idol, someone I’ve cherished since I was a teenager, but I came close, by association, a few weeks ago. I spoke with her warm and friendly assistant and it was such a pleasure. Melissa, her assistant, told me something I will always remember. “She liked your writing and wants you in HER group.”  That lifted my spirits for days. While I could not go to the current workshop she was holding I hope one day to meet her and attend a different workshop.

I read her first book about one hundred times; a book that still sits on my living room shelf now,  forty years later. I share my house with my husband, a son who is soon off to college for the first time, a daughter who will now be a senior in high school and a nine-year old adopted shelter dog named Callie who is sleeping on top of my feet. That first book has been carted from my parents’ apartment to college to every city I have lived in.  We grew up together, she and I, for a forty-year time period, she just didn’t know me.

There’s no doubt in my mind, from her first magazine article in the New York Times that she would grow up to be an amazingly talented, gifted writer. True to herself and her family and friends. She grew as a writer and as a person, I wonder if people expected her to stay nineteen and if that was hard for her? We all change and grow, make mistakes, learn; stagnant is boring.

I think she would be warm and funny, intense about her work and friendly, she probably just baked apple muffins with a crumb topping and served it with sun tea. There’s a colorful tiled table that holds chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies that she whipped up in a spare hour;  sharp, white cheddar cheese and crispy pita chips would be nearby. Family and friends are always invited to her kitchen; there are always people and animals nearby.

I imagine sitting on a large white patio, rocking slowly on our rocking chairs and exchanging whispered secrets and watching the red sunset fall slowly into the water to form three lines of color, orange, dark green, ultimately black. I remember when my family and I used to go to Cape Cod, when our kids were much younger, at every sunset we would sit on the sand, other people around us, and we would wait for the sun to set. When it did, everyone clapped. That is my idea of heaven, living near the ocean, watching the sunset with strangers sharing stories, listening to Reggae music provided for free. Sitting still in front of nature as if we were in a theater waiting for the curtain to rise.

At night, in my imagination, we would creep down the stairs and meet in the kitchen unplanned. We would burst into giggles when we found out we were there for the very same thing.  I always snack after I am supposed to be asleep and I eyed a bowl of ripe peaches on a small, round table that she had recently repainted in pink-rose paint. That first bite of that juicy peach would make me happy, so happy I  can’t even describe it. This peach, this wonderful gift from nature was just perfect. It was ripe, juicy, sweet and had a silken texture. The juice rolled down my chin and I groaned with every bite of happiness. It was the sweet scent of a perfect peach with my new friend, laughing into the dark night.

Dedicated to Joyce Maynard and Melissa

Fruit Cocktail: A Lesson In Life

When I was young and canned fruit cocktail was served as my dessert (barbaric, I know) I would eat my fruit cocktail with enormous precision and I would never, ever, vary my personal style. First, I ate up all the chopped peach pieces. After that came the pears. If there was a random pineapple that came next. Grapes were the next to eat, one at a time, each squishy piece exploding (a slight exaggeration) in my mouth and after that, well, what can I say, the ultimate reward, the fake bright red cherries. The cherries were the charm, the gift, the prize. They were ALWAYS left for last.

Last night, after years of not having fruit cocktail at all, I decided to have some. It looked so comforting and soothing. I opened the can (by the way, I noticed that all the good stuff is at the bottom of the can) and poured the “lite” mixture in to a shining, blue bowl.  As I looked at it I stopped to think, and then question.  Why should I leave the grapes and cherries for last?

Life is short, enjoy the fruit whichever way you want. So, I started eating grapes with peach pieces or pears with peach or cherries with grapes. It didn’t matter, I ate with no strategy. I just ate. I mixed it up.

What I found out is that a) I am now a bona fide old person and b) the fruit pieces really all taste exactly the same. It was a little sobering, a tad bit shocking and definitely disappointing. Also, not having that luscious, heavy, thick, high fructose syrup that we used to always drink when I was a child was like replacing fruit nectar with slightly sweet water.  I think the world was a better place way back when.

So, do your thing. There’s no use saving the best for the last. The last could be now. Eat what you want (yeah, yeah, in moderation)  and try to enjoy the little things in life. Dwell on the good things, not on the bad. If you want to eat the cherries first, you can. Do what makes you happy and more importantly, try to make other people happy. Carpe Diem.