I BELIEVE I once told you that I was afraid of vegetable soup until I was 30-something. It was such off-putting stuff, with strange items floating, unidentifiable lumps of orange and those brown bits. The white things were the worst. I’m not going to say what they looked like chopped up like that.
And then one day a Eureka! moment. I realized there were vegetables in the soup. Stock and vegetables. That’s it.
Now, I’ve never been wild about vegetables; I find them somewhere between boring and inedible unless they’re smothered in cream or cheese or both. In fact, in theory, I’m a vegetarian—animal cruelty you know, sweet little piggies, downy little chickens. But in practice? There’s bacon.
I just happened to read a report today that said bacon can cure Alzheimer’s, well, not specifically bacon, but fats, and in mice, not people, but better safe! These fats should be ingested when pregnant, lots of fats. I immediately passed this along to my baby who is With Child and will be until late December. Eat more bacon, I said. It’s good for baby’s brain.
You’ve seen the movie Sleeper, I trust. Cigarettes will be next.
Getting back to my point, I think.
I know this might be hard to fathom. But I’m a city girl who didn’t understand cooking until I left home and began burning hamburgers out of desperation. My mother was an excellent chef so learning to make anything myself seemed pointless. But even though I trusted my mother, and she’d never actively tried to harm me, vegetable soup was still an unappetizing concoction that I wanted no part of.
Similarly, I honestly thought there was an animal called a veal. That was a thought that also took way too long to be corrected. It was called veal. Like beef is called beef. And duck is duck. And so forth. So I thought it was an animal.
Last summer I had a moment with bananas.
I was at this boutique garden center a few blocks away, a place where our friend Carol, who was visiting from Ohio, once stopped to pick up a little posy for me as a house gift, figuring how much could such a thing cost? She was too embarrassed to put it back. The flowers did last a few weeks, I assured her, then reassured her every day until they passed. I dried a few bits and added them to an arrangement, just to add to the perceived value.
Anyway, instead of buying anything, as I passed one day, I stopped to admire the banana trees, which were unusually frilly. As I have several of these, I asked one of the guys who worked there about banana trees that actually grow bananas, not just stand around looking unusually frilly. And he said: This is a banana tree that grows bananas. That’s what banana trees do.
This is something I have never seen in the North until now. Or, to be more precise, last Monday around noon. My Prince and I were in Raleigh, North Carolina (home of the deep-fried HoHo’s—and on this trip, I noticed deep-fried Oreo’s. They fry everything there. But this is neither here nor there).
We were visiting Baby and her Personal Prince Pete and were cruising the farmers market picking up tomatoes and peaches and elephant garlic (which is giant garlic) and were breezing through the plant section, though we need nothing, particularly at the end of August. And there was this tall, spindly thing with a few limp leaves, not particularly attractive, but it had a tightly gathered cluster of fat purplish tuberous things, like small eggplants, with a flutter up top that looked like an emerging flower.
Curious, I asked the phlegmatic farmer what it was. “A banana,” he said, heaving his portly self out of his deck chair. “My last one. $25.” That it was the last one didn’t surprise me as it was probably the Charlie Brown of the lot. But it had fruit. Like six of them, which if you go by Whole Foods organic prices brought the price of the plant down . . . some.
A banana with bananas on it? And a mystery flower that looks like it’s about to do something? This was a miracle indeed, and of course I had to have it.
My Prince bought it for me, and he wasn’t even guilty of anything. I wasn’t ailing either, or in some slough of despond, so that was nice of him. He also sprang for a “tea cup” elephant ear, about four feet tall in its pot, which has these folded leaves on long slender stems. The farmer hoisted a watering can and poured water over the leaves and the water dripped off. “See,” he said.
I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be seeing. It looked like a plant being watered. But I’d never seen an elephant ear quite like it (they were rather dainty for elephant ears) and thought it mysterious and wonderful and I had to have it.
Now, I have several banana trees, none of which has deigned to fruit. I also have a fake banana that looks better than this real one, that’s also the only one that looks like it’s dying.
This morning I repotted the banana and stuck it in the sunniest corner of the back porch, where I can watch it in the morning while I drink my coffee and read the paper. One day, who knows when, the bananas will ripen, I suppose, and My Prince can pluck one to slice into his Cheerios.
This is a pleasant picture. In my head.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” probably also used to think that chocolate milk came from brown cows. But she’s better now.