There are two types of people in this world: those who eat bananas, whole and flaky-smooth, at every breakfast, and those who don’t. Strangely enough, those who don’t tend to like Bananas Foster and banana-flavored fluoride at the dentist.
Those who eat bananas break down into even more types: those who like their bananas still green and almost sticky with sap (just a handful), those who like their bananas yellow and firm, those who wait until it looks quite ripe and spotty, and supposedly, those who like their bananas completely black before splitting open the stinky skin.
(Once upon a time, I lived for a month with a perplexing and perhaps neurotic French woman. I paid for breakfast and she brought home bananas, as per request. Peering into the trash one morning, she pointed to yellow peels and scolded me, telling me that the French always wait for their bananas to turn black. Now, I’ve seen the French skin and slice their apples before biting in, but black bananas? Except for the homeless man who hangs out underground in the Sèvres—Babylone metro, I have yet to witness anyone in Paris eating a black banana.)
There is one good reason to keep bananas until they are black. To quote Molly Wizenberg from A Homemade Life:
Sometimes I buy bunches of bananas just to bring them home and let them go brown. There’s something profoundly reassuring about having a bunch at the ready, ripe and speckled and on the verge of stink. It’s like hoarding gold bullion, only this type of gold needs to be kept in the freezer or else it will start to rot.
When baked into bread, rotten bananas becomes a universal equalizer. Everyone loves banana bread. It’s damp, pleasing, and almost medieval tasting, when the bananas are so far fermented that they seem alcoholic.
The taste makes you feel like a child. I distinctly remember sitting at the kitchen table at dinner one night, when I was – oh, probably six, and my mom asked us to guess the secret ingredient inside the banana bread. (This was bread-machine bread, baked with yeast instead of baking soda, which now seems pretty fascinating to me, although it didn’t back then. I’ll have to ask the Paj if he remembers the recipe…). Peanut butter. The secret ingredient was peanut butter, and knowing this then (and now) makes me unreasonably happy.
I made Molly’s banana bread with ginger and chocolate chips this past week, and knowing I’m about to eat another slice helps me crawl out of bed in the morning. Molly also remembers eating banana bread as a kid, at her neighbor’s house. I’ll end this post with one last quote:
Her banana bread was a model of the species: moist, tender, and spotted with walnuts. It was soulful and persuasive, familiar and softly scented, like the nape of a baby’s neck.