Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Consider the Banana

An old and dear friend and I recently got into a modern-day kerfuffle -- over Facebook -- about the BP oil gusher. He scoffed at my Liking someone else's status update suggesting we boycott BP. His thinking is that if you want to boycott something, boycott oil, which is so entrenched in modern culture as to be an almost impossible boycott. My retort was that, my feelings about BP notwithstanding, oil dependence can't be cut off cold turkey, but there are steps to take that can lessen the current, frightening dependence. I don't agree that because oil is impossible to eliminate for almost every American, we should throw out the baby with the bathwater and just live with the current dependence. Most of us work jobs outside the home where we have to drive to work; that doesn't mean we have to do it in a Hummer.

I was struck when I saw An Inconvenient Truth (oh, Al and Tipper, I'm so heartsick things didn't work out!) that the first tip at the end of the film for making a difference was changing to fluorescent bulbs. Changing a light bulb? That's it? But it's little changes like switching light bulbs can make huge differences. A couple winters ago Phil turned the thermostat down a degree while we were awake and in the house, and turned it down significantly when we were going to bed or heading out. Our monthly bill went down 15% almost instantly.

Likewise, I never accept plastic bags in stores. This has been awkward when a quick dash to the grocery without tote bags in hand has ended in buying more than I expected, and having to precariously balance my haul out of the store. But if everyone in America just started using tote bags, we'd eliminate the annual need for the 12 million gallons of oil needed to make the bags we consume in an average year. (Click here for some other sobering plastic-bag stats.)

In looking at some of the changes Phil and I have made in the past couple years, I think of the banana. I know, I know. Bananas are harvested under often inhumane conditions and shipped halfway around the world to get to my Fresh Market. I know; if I truly was making a difference, I wouldn't eat bananas. But hear me out.

It used to be we'd buy a bunch, and eat them until they got spots. Then Phil and I would wait for the other to eat the spotty ones, which didn't happen. So sometimes I would throw the old bananas wholesale into the freezer with the intention of eventually thawing them out and squooshing out the contents to make banana bread. But I rarely make banana bread, so would generally find an unseemly chocolate-colored lump in the back of the freezer many many months later. Often, we'd just throw out the old bananas.

In the last year, we've started composting, so organic waste always goes into a pile to nourish the garden and our future meals.

So, banana consumption today: We buy a bunch of bananas, and what Sylvia doesn't consume in one sitting (that girl does love her some bananas) sometimes start to get spotty. When the fruit gets too spotty for even Sylvie to eat, I peel the bananas, break them into three pieces, and throw the pieces in a bag in the freezer. The peels go into the compost bin.

The frozen parts could be used for banana bread, which we still don't really eat, but generally go into smoothies. Two of our favorites:
  • Double-Milk Banana Smoothie: I got this from one of the What to Expect books, but we drink them all the time now. In a blender, whir up a cup of milk, the amount of powdered milk required to make a cup of milk (usually about half a cup), a frozen banana, a bit of vanilla, and a teaspoon or so of cinnamon.
  • Sylvia and Tommy's Favorite Breakfast Smoothie: A cup of vanilla yogurt (Trader's Point Creamery is their fave), a bit of milk (maybe a quarter cup), a frozen banana, and a handful of frozen berries.
So now, when a banana comes into our house, it doesn't go out in the trash. The flesh eventually gets eaten, and the peel goes into the garden. Our banana routine isn't eliminating the need for oil, but it's a tiny change that, along with the hundreds of other tiny changes we're making, can start to move the needle.

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Anonymous Betsy said...

You bring up a good point about fruit transport. The gas consumption alone to trek tropical fruit by air and then truck is astonishing. I'm intrigued by the "eating what's in season and grown locally" movement. I don't think we're ready to stop eating fruit that can't be grown in the Midwest, but moving I that direction would be a start. Good stuff.

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Gypsy said...

Here's a few other things I like to do with my leftover bananas:
1) banana ice cream - the riper they are, the better the ice cream flavor.
2) frozen banana chocolate pops - stick a popsicle stick into the end of those banana pieces and dunk them in chocolate before throwing them in the freezer. They make a nice, fairly healthy frozen treat : )

8:11 AM  
Blogger Slowish Food said...

I agree, Betsy. We're trying to eat more seasonally and locally, but I haven't put any prohibitions around bananas. I'll think about that tomorrow.

Gypsy, I LOVE both your ideas. I have the ice cream insert in the freezer right now for banana ice cream this weekend. You should post your recipe on your blog!

4:07 AM  
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8:35 PM  

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