Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Occasional Small Consignments of Bananas

When I was in Atlanta this weekend, my sister and brother-in-law and I kept seeing a headline that had a funny yet mournful ring to it: "Chiquita Banana Dies." They really meant the woman who did the voice of the Chiquita Banana in a popular animated commercial, to which I "link" you here. Please watch it. It's the best commercial ever, a mini-opera and PSA all in one. Plus it sells bananas! You will note that the banana arrives in an ocean liner with a singular purpose: she has "come to say [that] bananas have to ripen in a certain way." All that distance! Just to say that! What a journey! What an idealist this banana is! The commercial first appeared in 1947, and the citizens of the United States - or so the executives at Chiquita Banana seemed to think - required a lot of banana education, which made me wonder when bananas first became popular in the U.S. There was some talk of googling, but I insisted I'd look it up properly in my OXFORD COMPANION TO FOOD when I got home. And I did! "During the 19th century occasional small consignments of bananas were sent by fast ships... Early varieties had not been bred for keeping qualities, so the fruit had to arrive in little more than a fortnight and was an expensive luxury. But all this began to change in the 1870s, when two American entrepreneurs began to ship bananas from the Caribbean to New Orleans, Boston, and New York." But here's the most amazing thing! "As bananas ripen they give off ethylene gas. Most fruits do this during ripening, but bananas produce an exceptionally large amount... A banana put in a lidded box with green tomatoes turns them red. It also helps a hard avocado to ripen overnight." Bananas are magic!