By Katy Andreini
I don’t know about you, but, although I never lived through the depression, I live certain aspects of my life as if I had. I have an ever-growing ball of aluminum foil rolling around somewhere in a cupboard; I keep leftovers that aren’t fit for a squirrel; and I refuse to throw away old bananas. The ball of aluminum foil is pretty harmless, and may come in handy one day if there is ever an alien invasion. On rare occasions, the leftovers get eaten by a desperate family member. It’s the bananas that inevitably come back to haunt me, the salvaging of said fruit proving to be more costly, time-consuming, and thought-provoking than the average dissertation. What I’ve learned is, just throw the bananas away.
I don’t know why I buy bananas in the first place. No one eats them. Every day, I check on the bananas, hoping to see one of them missing from the bunch in the fruit basket. But the count remains the same, day after day: five. Five hopeful, yellow bananas sporting their blue Chaquita badges boastfully, taunting me. As the days go by, I pretend not to notice the rapid demise of the fruit, until one day, even I cannot deny the deterioration and discoloration of the now-humble bananas. I note the putrid odor permeating the household, reminiscent of the aftermath of a plague. As I approach the kitchen, tiny fruit flies assault my eyes, ears, nose, and throat. Undaunted, I fight my way to the bananas, only to find shriveled black corpses where the once-hopeful fruit used to reside.
They’re still good, I tell myself doubtfully. But then I give in, realizing there is only one thing left to do: MAKE BANANA BARS!! I feel smug as I glide through the kitchen, gathering the necessary ingredients. I’ll whip the bars up between loads of laundry! They will be the perfect, semi-healthy snack for the kids!! (It is duly noted that, if they didn’t eat the actual bananas in the first place, what are the chances they’re going to eat the banana bars) but I quickly dismiss this thought as negative, and press on regardless, determined to recoup the $1.37 I spent on the bananas last weekend.
I google a recipe which calls for sour cream, an ingredient that I don’t “keep on hand,” as the perky recipe author suggests. I also note that I need to bake them in a jelly roll pan. I’ve never in my life owned a jelly roll pan, and, up until that moment, always thought they were somehow used for making jelly. But, hey, I needed to go to the store for the sour cream, anyway, so I may as well just pick one up! Thirty minutes and $27.00 later, I’m back in the kitchen ready to go. I make it through the recipe with nearly smooth sailing, until I realize I have no vanilla. I’m not trying to go back to the store – this was supposed to be quick and easy – so I google “substitutes for vanilla.”
“The Ten Best Substitutes for Vanilla” suggests that brandy will lend the same nutty, warm flavor as vanilla. In my search for brandy, I come across a bottle of Rum Chata from last Christmas. I open the bottle and take a sniff of the rancid contents. This stuff has a shelf life? I jump in the car and make a quick trip to the liquor store for more Rum Chata. It’s $16.00, but I’m still only off of my goal time for completion by 46 minutes.
WAIT. After several valuable minutes of screaming expletives and throwing a few pots and pans at my inherited rare collection of Hummels, I move past the realization that Rum Chata was only a SUBSTITUTE for vanilla. I calmly add the liqueur to the recipe and finish up. I’ve abandoned the laundry, altogether
at this point, due to a few nerve-steadying nips from the Rum Chata bottle, and I am buoyed up by the triumphant thought that I have, indeed, saved the bananas!
Just then, my oldest daughter breezes in. “Hey!” I exclaim brightly, “I made some banana bars!”
“Oooohhh,” she replies, “I thought I told you…I don’t really like bananas, per se? I just like the idea of bananas, if that makes sense? They give me a stomach ache. Sorry.”
While this is news to me, I experience a surge of hope as my youngest daughter drives up. “LOOK!” I scream, greeting her at the door and thrusting the pan in her face, “I’ve made your favorite! Banana bars!”
‘Ugghhh!” she yells, deftly batting the jelly roll pan away. “Get that away from me! Don’t you know I’m allergic to bananas?”
A vague, repressed memory of a $1200 ambulance trip last winter rears its ugly head. Deflated, I sigh, “I thought that was from peaches.”
My final hope tumbles through the kitchen door rubbing his sleepy eyes. Although it is now 5:00 p.m., he is fresh from a seven-hour nap. “Banana bars?” I whisper, with a glimmer of hope.
“Naw, not hungry,” he mumbles, and grabs his keys on the way out the door. Twenty minutes later he returns with a bag of Taco Bell.
This is the last straw. I slam out of the house and stride across the street wordlessly. I’ll bring the bars to my neighbor. He’s divorced, never cooks for himself, and will eat almost anything. He opens the door and exclaims, “Hey! Are those banana bars? I love banana bars!! But what are those brown things on top?”
“Walnuts,” I say, my voice void of emotion.
“Oh, I hate walnuts.”
My alternative title for this sad, little tale is “How the Neighbor Ended up with Frosting all over His Face.” Just throw the bananas away.