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05 May 2008

bananas

bananas at Casbah

This morning, about 8:45, I took this photograph of bananas at the Casbah Café in Silverlake, Los Angeles.

At breakfast, I sat with my dear friend Sharon, who was born and raised (until she was 11) in Hot Springs, South Dakota, then moved to Claremont, California, went to college in Poughkeepsie, NY, lived in New York City, Ashland, Oregon, and now in Los Angeles. I was born in Pomona, California, moved to Claremont (where I met Sharon), lived in London, moved to Vashon, Washington, lived in New York City (where I lived with Sharon), London, and now in Seattle.

For breakfast, Sharon ate poached eggs with brioche toast, wrinkled black olives, and tomatoes. Where did the eggs come from? Perhaps from California, as well as the tomatoes. The brioche? The wheat could have come from anywhere in the Midwest, the yeast from somewhere not clear, the water imported from Colorado or Washington. And the olives were probably from Morocco, because the little café is Moroccan inspired, but both the women preparing our food were from Mexico, originally. And mine? The strawberries were from Southern California, the sweetness far more full than that of the strawberries I ate a couple of weeks ago, because they were local and in season. The yogurt, I would guess, came from Greece, given the thickness and particular taste. And the bananas? Perhaps from Ecuador?

Right now, about 9:45 in the evening, I am writing this in our bedroom in Seattle, a little weary from traveling and full of memories. The man I love — born in Breckenridge, Colorado, went to school in Vermont, cooked in New York City, Denver, and now lives in Seattle — is with me, eating beef stew. The beef is local, raised about 60 miles from us. The potatoes were grown on the other side of the Cascades from us. The carrots are probably from California, since we bought them from a supermarket, and it’s not carrot season here. The kalamata olives were from Greece, the canned tomatoes from Italy. The red wine I used to deglaze the pan came from Napa Valley, and the mushrooms from California as well.

Is there really such a thing as eating local?

I am struck, once again, by how odd airplane travel truly is. After we ate our breakfast, Sharon drove me to Burbank airport. From the time I stepped inside that airport, until I walked out of the Seattle airport? Three hours and ten minutes. Now granted, that time went fast, because I had a fabulous conversation with an unexpectedly familiar stranger in the seat next to me. But really, are we supposed to be able to move that quickly? This morning, I woke up on Sharon’s couch in Silverlake, and tonight I’ll be sleeping in the bed I share with the Chef in Seattle. Believe me, I’m grateful, but I don’t think my body will catch up for a few days. Do we move too quickly? Do we want too much?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how excited I am that local asparagus is finally in season. Some readers wondered what the big deal was. A few anonymous readers even suggested I was being a snob by waiting. But really, have you eaten asparagus grown in Chile, purchased in Seattle in January, at $8.99 a pound? Withered, spindly, and no real taste. The taste alone makes the wait worth it.

But does that mean we only eat locally grown produce around here? Nope. As much as we try, we find it near impossible, all the time. If I never ate any foods grown or made outside of the radius of Western Washington, how could I ever make something with teff flour? Or eat the health benefits of red quinoa grown in Bolivia? Even more simply, olive trees don’t grow in Washington. Nor do any of the ingredients necessary to make any kind of oils. And what would I do without avocadoes?

I heard a beautiful piece of advice recently: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” That covers most of the faux ingredients that fill out packaged processed foods that don’t seem to do us any good. But I’m certain that my great grandmother never ate shiso leaves, macadamia nuts, or balsamic vinegar. Isn’t the tremendous variety available to us, because of the food revolutions of the past forty years, better for our health, and our understanding of the world? But they’re not local.

We don’t have any answers around here. I certainly don’t think that anyone has to live the way we do. And every day, I make decisions as to how to spend our food dollars, and I’m never entirely sure I made the right decision.

But what we try to do around here is this. When there’s a piece of produce that grows naturally, abundantly, in the Pacific Northwest — fat blackberries; sweet peaches; wild salmon — we wait to eat it until it’s in season. That makes the produce cheaper, and it tastes better, as well. I love buying food directly from farmers. These next few months will be a bonanza of berries, pea vines, and soft green lettuces. I can hardly wait.

But when it comes to foods that will never grow here, we buy them sparingly, and with deliberate decision. My great-grandmother probably ate everything locally. I have the chance to know more about how the rest of the world eats.

And besides, I’m really not willing to give up bananas for the rest of my life. (And for Little Bean’s, either. Bananas are the perfect portable kid food.)

So I’d love to know: how do you approach this?

And for that matter, how do you like to cook with bananas?

106 Comments:

At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Kathleen said...

Banana fritters! Whole bananas, dipped in batter, and fried till crispy and golden on the outside, but still sweet and slightly smooshy on the inside! Yum!

 
At 1:00 AM, Blogger Little Read Hen said...

Local fish is pretty close to my only reliable, local food, but I must say that nothing else holds a candle to prawns or halibut or salmon that came out of the water in the afternoon and is on the table by seven.

Two other excellent portable kid foods: string cheese (... they just love it, roll with it even if it is pasturized within an inch of being actual plastic.) And what my daughter (who is two) calls her 'brocicles' steamed, refridgerated brocolli florets with the stems on. She LOVES them and hasn't figured out that this makes her a marvel of the modern toddler culinary scene...

Thanks again. SO

 
At 4:40 AM, Blogger leedav said...

I'm with you. You said it so well. I was talking with a group of people the other day about what's in season and they said asparagus. I said, "Well, maybe in California but we don't have any yet." "Well, at least it's domestic."

There are some things that I don't eat unless they are available at the farmers market in my town. Asparagus, strawberries and tomatoes are top on the list. I'll talk about it despite people thinking I'm a snob if it means that even one person has the conversion experience of buying a bunch of asparagus at market and chomping the first few stalks raw because its so fresh and tasty.

 
At 5:03 AM, Anonymous La Niña said...

I, too, just hurtled across space and time from my home in Seattle to this hotel in San Antonio, and just ate a banana from the free continental breakfast. It didn't have any sticker, and I'm sure it wasn't organic. But I've been thinking about the "local-vore" thing, and my feelings are that you should showcase and highlight what's local, fresh and in season, but you should celebrate what we can get from the global market. I think about the small villages in Central and South America and how they would most likely collapse if we didn't buy what they grow. We help each other globally in many ways. It's unfortunate that the carbon footprint on something like a banana is huge... but we need to focus on finding better fuel to get those bananas to our markets- and our berries to theirs.

 
At 5:09 AM, Blogger Sarah Yost said...

my favorite banana dish is 2 pieces toasted ezekiel bread, peanut butter spread thinly on both slices and banana sliced in the middle. Sometimes if I'm feeling wild I throw in dried cranberries. Go Elvis.

 
At 5:17 AM, Blogger Kim said...

I figure that if I can buy it locally, I should. If one is looking, it's surprising just how much is available locally (even in New England!)

If I want something that's not local I buy it in season. But our household has not given up bananas, either, or coffee, tea, oil and spices.

As far as processed food, if I can't understand the ingredients on a package, and buy them individually in a store if I want to, I don't buy that product.

We can all do a little bit!

 
At 5:35 AM, Blogger blisschick said...

We are lucky enough to live four blocks from a locally owned co-op. In our small city, this is nothing short of a minor miracle. So I feel good about what we buy there. I know the employees; I know how they are treated; my partner is on the board. For us, organic is most important -- clean, not poisoned food, of course, -- and the more of it we buy, the more farmers start farming that way. But what about bananas? :) I haven't purchased a banana in a few years and I miss them. But I have recently added your "made with care" idea to my bag of tricks: for example, with our olive oil -- sure it was made in Italy but by some guy whose family has owned that land for many generations ...you know the story. So I will buy a banana -- when they become available from a small, cooperative farm and I don't care where that farm is, as long as it's not owned by "Dole," or some similar inhuman agribusiness. Because, you're right, we aren't meant to go that far or travel that fast and neither was our food.

 
At 5:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In North Texas there really isn't much to purchase locally. We do have a small Farmer's Mkt during the summer months which I try to frequent. My mother-in-law plants tomatoes every year and shares them with us. This year we have planted our own tomatoes and cantaloupe, I can't wait!!
As for bananas, I make yogurt cheese-and mix this with a dollop of Maple syrup and throw in whatever nuts I have on hand and a sliced up banana. This has been my favorite breakfast or afternoon snack for ever. Leave out the nuts and this is great baby food. Homemade banana pudding is the other dish we make.I use Mi-Del brand animal crackers(GF) and you can't tell the difference.
Thanks for sharing your lives with us and for the opportunity to give a bit back. Love all your wisdom and joy with life.Wendy

 
At 5:43 AM, Anonymous Carol said...

Now it's my turn to sound like a food snob. If you lived in the tropics like I do, you also would never again eat a banana that been picked way too early so that it can survive being transported miles away before it's eaten. I have have no choice but to politely, I hope, refuse an offer for a banana when we're Stateside from time to time after eating "real bananas" close to their source. Real bananas don't need to be cooked ... ! :-)

 
At 5:53 AM, Blogger vickyg said...

I agree, although I very much believe in buying local and am lucky enough to have Nash Huber, Sunny Farms & wonderful farms and bakeries all nearby, I do not choose to eat without olives, tea, coffee, chocolate, and bananas. I try to use a base of local and organic foods and add variety with foods not grown on the Olympic Peninsula. We all face the same decisions and must choose to how feed our families and should support our local food producers but are still limited by climate and availability. I would not want to entirely give up non-local but by choosing them to highlight the wonderful foods we have here, we can use less and still taste the world.

 
At 6:07 AM, Blogger Jecca said...

The only way I really like bananas is banana bread, but I can eat a whole loaf. I make it in a bundt pan with mini chocolate chips, using applesauce and yogurt. Yum.

I also have some of the same issues with trying to eat locally. However, living in Minnesota, I wouldn't have anything to eat from November until April if I made that decision. Obviously, that is not an option. Part of this has been solved with buying a CSA share from a local organic farm and eating most of it that week and the saving (freeze, can, dry or otherwise) the rest for when the snow comes. So I try to save things like oranges, pinapples or other produce that can't grow here when there isn't anything in season locally. I would have to buy groceries from somewhere else in the world anyway, so I get things that can't be grown locally. It's not perfect, but it's a step that way.

 
At 6:08 AM, Anonymous Shoshannah said...

I sure miss my banana cream pie, and it used to be my favorite dessert.

 
At 6:10 AM, Blogger CatherineMarie said...

I try to eat somewhat local, with as much as I can. But I know its not easy, and in CT, where winter spans from October through to April, you'd starve trying to eat local in the winter.

In the summer, I try to join a CSA, which takes care of all my veggie needs, and is local and usually organic.

I try to at least buy organic in the winter, even if its not local, it still uses fewer resources than 'conventional' crops.

And the act of travel was often even about getting somewhere, the act of getting there, the romance of the ships, the train, the things we've lost....

 
At 6:18 AM, OpenID ginaperry said...

I eat a banana nearly every morning sliced into my certified gluten-free oatmeal, along with chopped walnuts, honey and organic cinnamon (very strong stuff!). I'm always sad when the bananas run out and I need to wait for the new ones to ripen. I too was just thinking about how bananas will never be in season in New England but how different life (breakfast) would be without them.

 
At 6:19 AM, Blogger sweetpea said...

I have a confession! I had my first locally grown strawberry in August of 2006, shortly after my celiac diagnosis. I was one of those people who went through life not really thinking about where my food came from, organic or not. Tasting that berry sent me into a frenzy, literally and figuratively! I work every single weekend, my shift starts at 7:00, which means getting to a local weekend farmers market is near impossible. But I loved that strawberry so much I started showing up at the farmers market every Sunday at 6:00 am,. Most of the farmers were still just arriving and unloading. I would get a few things and head to work. I made friends with a local Hmong farmer and started learning about the history of immigrant Hmong farming in Minnesota. This particular farmer was an elder, head of the house. His 6 year old grandson was his translator, joining his grandfather every Saturday and Sunday to answer questions and make change for customers. That did, why would I support a large grocery chain when I could support my local immigrant community. I am far more deliberate about my eating these days and I have learned a great deal. And yes, local does taste much better, there is really no comparison! Yes, I do prefer to purchase food that has not traveled in large trucks for miles and miles. Do I appreciate a strawberry in the middle of winter, yes, especially if I am going to put them in the vita-mix for a smoothie. So I am not perfect, and I do purchase foods out of season and from far away. But given the choice, I will go out of my way to eat local. I will go way out of my way to support the local farming community. That Hmong farmer, well in September, he let me come to his farm to pick my own tomatoes to can. I meet his daughter, turns out she is a second generation Hmong farmer herself who has done a great deal to advance farming in the Hmong community. We take so much for granted when it comes to our food. The past two years, because of celiac, I have learned so much about food and I am grateful for every local farmer committed to delivering great produce to my farmers markets. I wish I could linger through the markets, take my time, enjoy my coffee and stay through a morning, not just run through so I can get to work. And some day, some day I am going to come to Seattle to experience your markets, including Pike Place which has a national reputation! I can't wait for that day! As for Bananna's, Tina loves bananna bread with mini chocolate chips. I like them dipped in chocolate or in an island like salad. By the way, my lemon poppyseed cake, OVER THE TOP! I am going to be making that one again and again!

 
At 6:21 AM, Blogger Sarah Caron said...

Shauna, what a small world it is! I grew up in Poughkeepsie.

Cooking with bananas? Banana bread, banana muffins, fresh bananas sliced in to sandwiches, on ice cream . . . the possibilities are endless.

 
At 6:41 AM, Blogger Gluten free Kay said...

Welcome home, Shauna!

Speaking of great grandmothers, I often describe my new way of eating and cooking as "pioneer-like." I like it. It makes me more thoughtful about the food I eat, every bite.

I have always celebrated foods in their season. I grow as many as I can on my own land. And the price of out-of-season produce has always been a barrier. I need to make my food budget stretch.

So, can I justify spending $18 for a dwarf Granny Smith apple tree? Oh, yeah! It's already bloomed, and may set a few apples THIS YEAR! Could lead to an apple crisp festival of my own some day.

I can't have bananas these days. But I made some (wheat-laden) banana bread for the college students I cook for. They're in the middle of finals. They need brain food.

 
At 6:41 AM, Blogger Summer said...

I have a similar struggle. I live in wonderful Charlotte, NC, but I grew up in Lancaster, PA - Amish country and very agriculturally centered. When I lived there as an adult, I bought mostly local everything. Wheat, bread, veggies, meat. But still some items, like bannanas, had to come from somewhere else.

In Charlotte it's much harder. I've found that living in a city, even a small one, limits my food choices. Thankfully, a couple weeks ago an all local market opened a few blocks from my house. Now, two days a week (Tues 4-7, Sat 9-1) I can buy local foodstuffs. (I had the most amazing beets last week. I bought them less then 30 minutes after they'd been pulled from the ground. This week - strawberries!)

I do my best to buy local. I buy what I can and what I need that isn't local I search out the most organic and sustainable (since the words aren't interchangeable these days) choices.

 
At 6:42 AM, Blogger Tiff said...

I just finished reading "In Defense of Food" yesterday on the train, so it was a great coincidence to see you write "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food" in your blog, since it comes directly from that book (although maybe from someplace before that, too)!

I think the best we can all do -- especially those of us living in cities like New York and a bit further away from farms than others -- is switch over to farmers' markets for all of our produce, bread, etc. in the spring and summer, as soon as they start coming around, and subscribe to a CSA for the entire year. Fill in the blanks where necessary, but always be conscious of what you're putting in your body.

"In Defense of Food" urges us not to buy packaged foods with more than five [recognizable] ingredients. When we need to go to the grocery store, that's a good rule of thumb, I think.

 
At 7:07 AM, Blogger - Manda said...

oh shauna - bananas are the perfect let your kid run around with outside because they will get messy food.

What I did (1st baby born 5/11/06, 2nd due 8/20/08), and will do again, is food process whatever I make for me - portion whatever the baby didn't eat and freeze it for later. Plus, you won't even have to worry about it for the first 6 months.

Bananas are good as chips though!

 
At 7:22 AM, Blogger Jen said...

I like to take the same approach as you - if it grows locally then I buy it locally and in season. If it doesn't grow locally, well then I buy it if I 'need' it... After all, I live in the UK, and there aren't too many avocado or coffee trees around these parts..... Same goes for spices etc. I just try to make sure that I use minimal packaging when buying things with many food miles on them, to reduce the ecological impact. Have you read Tea's latest post on going 'green'? Whats your main reason for buying local? For the freshness/taste, to support local farmers, or for the eco-friendliness? (or all three??) xx (btw, I've been wondering, who is the person pictured on the cover of your book?)

 
At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An anonymous reader weighs in: Don't worry so much about the naysayers. You are clearly someone who has built a life she loves. Many others have devoted themselves to the task of tearing down others, which results in the exact opposite emotion. The people are easily-identified via their thinly-veiled levels of vitriol. Let the people you respect question and challenge your ideas - relegate the rest to a dull roar.

Regards,
M.

 
At 7:51 AM, Blogger katie stone said...

believe it or not, bananas go wonderfully with avocados and seared foie gras--plus a little bit of balsamic reduction. and if that's too snobby, there is nothing better than a peanut butter and banana sandwich :-)

 
At 8:03 AM, Blogger Athena said...

I'm reading a wonderful book called "The Omnivore's Dilemma", by Michael Pollan. It talks in part about the meanings of organic and local, and how difficult it is to make an ethical decision about what to eat. http://www.amazon.com/Omnivores-Dilemma-Natural-History-Meals/dp/1594200823

Liz

 
At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Monica said...

We strive to eat/feed locally as well, both in our personal life and in our restaurant. We have some great resources around here and I totally agree that local/in season tastes better! My meals for the last 2 days: early oranic spinach grown locally; organic strawberries from California; bleu cheese from I don't know where, it was a gift and the label was off, and the best balsamic I have ever had which I brought back from Pienza, Italy. I love that salad. I had enough for 2 days in a row. And I will eat it again when the strawberries are local and it will be even better! I had grilled pork rib from Lopez Island with it and it tasted like summer for a moment!
PS Thank you for confirming the gluten-free-ness of the boxed lunch for me. The clients were extremely happy with it!

 
At 8:20 AM, Blogger Homebody said...

We approach it one day at a time. :)
With dairy, wheat, and soy on the forbidden list, there are just some things we choose to purchase that are not local, like a variety of flours and coconut products. Root veggies, some lettuce, spices, coffee, bananas, and a variety of oils are in our kitchen most of the time, and are mostly from far away.
But there are other things that are worth waiting for. Asparagus, strawberries, and melons are SO worth the wait. We have our favorite stands at the farmer's market.
Also, we grow what we can. There is no better tomato than one eaten like and apple with your toes in the dirt and the juice running off your elbow. This also gives our children an appreciation of the work it takes to put food on the table. Our 4 year old has had her very own garden, a 2 foot by 5 foot raised flower bed, since she was a bit over 2. She helps plant the plants, waters, and picks all the produce. Since she wanted to plant melons this year, she will be helping much more in the main garden area. And she said her brother could help her in her garden, just a little.

 
At 8:23 AM, Blogger Darby said...

I'm a banana bread person myself. I can't look at 3 overripe bananas without busting out the banana bread recipe. Forget creativity.

Excellent post today!

 
At 8:28 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

living in the midwest it's much harder to eat local all year long. our winter was seriously about 6 months long this year! we buy local beef, eggs, milk & cheese. we also have a big garden and freeze as much as we can. we make our own maple syrup, but a lot of the rest of our food just can't be local - all we can do is live it up in the summer-time! we're anxiously awaiting the arrival of our rhubarb now!

 
At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Alia Ali said...

my ma loves to fry bananas cut in half (lengthways) in a little vegetable oil and serve it covered in custard (that she makes with maizena, sugar and milk). it was one of my favorite desserts growing up :)

something else i like to do with fried bananas is to eat them with coconut milk, sugar and cinnamon (heated on the stove until the milk thickens). quick and lovely!

 
At 8:44 AM, Blogger Liz said...

I know most people, upon seeing those brown speckle-y ones on top, are going to suggest some sort of banana bread or muffin. But...since I'm among the first to comment, I'll do it anyway! Two things:

1) A kicked up banana bread I made recently, adding cinnamon, coconut, pecans and chocolate chips to a favorite recipe and topping it with a cinnamon, sugar, and pecan crust. Oh, so good.

2) Giada's Banana Muffins, with marscapone frosting and toasted walnuts. Recipe available on foodnetwork.com

 
At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Julialuli said...

I've been lurking a long time, enjoying your writing and getting inspiration from your passion for food. Eating local is a subject for which I am passionate. I'm guessing you've read Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", documenting a year of living on local food, *except* for the few essentials they each chose, including olive oil, coffee and chocolate! If your readers haven't read this book, they must! I think the lessons to be taken are that there are many, many food options locally and with a bit a research (my state, CT, has a "farm map" of the state and lists the farms and what they produce, including heirloom poultry, lamb, beef and pork)and careful preparation, we can reduce our impact on unthinking consumption. I buy my eggs from the farmer up the road. When he's out, my husband picks them up at a roadside stand near a data center he travels to every week. Our milk comes from a farm about 40 minutes from our house, but I drive past it each week when I'm taking my daughter to ballet (which really can justify that long drive for the special teacher). Our grass fed beef comes from a farm up on one of the most gorgeous views about 15 miles from here. In the summer, I buy all my produce local, pick it local and try to grow my favorites in my new yard. Winter? My goal is to get better at "putting up" local produce. Look for seconds at farm stands. When tomatoes go crazy at the end of the season, buy a bushel for half the price of the regular season and can them or make fresh tomato soup to have in the freezer on a cold winter night. The taste of those summer tomatoes remain and it's heaven! If you aren't convinced of the benefits of eating local, here's a quote from Kingsolver's book: “If every U.S. citizen ate just ONE meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption over 1.1 million BARRELS of oil every *week*.”

Julie

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger Porkchop said...

I got to go with Michael Pollan: "Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants." It's the best sentence I ever heard to describe how to eat. That said, I eat local when I can because it tastes better. Meat, fish, vegetables above all. It just tastes better. and it's more likely to be sustainable. Which is something I care about, because I love food and I don't want to see it go away. When I can't eat local, I eat seasonal. So, citrus and dark leafy greens in the winter even if I know it's traveled miles. Berries in the summer. And where are those things that I love that I can't do without that don't grow here, I try to be sparing, but I buy them---avocados. plantains. cucumbers in the winter. (yeah, that's a weird one, i know).

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger Kim said...

As always, I found this a thought provoking and beautifully written post.

Naturally, most of the comments address the food issues raised; particularly the advantages of locally raised items. Like every decision in life, food comes down to a cost benefit analysis. As much as I care about the environment and supporting local farmers, I care more about eating a varied diet from all parts of the world. When it is possible to merge these two values, I do so.

That being said, I think a lot of people attempt to provide a blanket solution. Organic is best. Locally grown is best. In reality, the best food is what works for an individual with their individual circumstances of region, income, and interest in food.

 
At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We always had bananas around as a kid. My favorite childhood treat was when my dad would slice a ripe banana into a bowl, pour ice cold milk on top and sprinkle with just a little sugar. When it's hot out, it's as refreshing as ice cream and maybe a little tastier.

 
At 10:29 AM, Anonymous StephanieF said...

I love your realistic approach to sourcing food. Many of us were raised on supermarket produce without any understanding of where the product came from or the consequences (both positive and negative) of the purchases. I, like many people, am in the process of adjusting my thinking and decision making to be more aware of the cause and effect of my spending.

As to "only what Grandma would have recognized as food".... I modify it slightly to "only what someone's Grandma would have recognized as food". Sombody's Granny ate macadamia nuts! Granted, she was most likely on an island in the Pacific.... ;-)

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

Hmm I'm not very good at eating locally. Because of my work schedule, I'm not able to go to farmer's markets, and because of my salary, and the high cost of living where I live here in Silver Lake (hehe the Casbah is my favorite spot for coffee actually!) I can't afford to join a CSA or another such organization. The most I do is to try to buy local veggies at the market. But I do think about these issues a lot -- if you or anyone else figures out a solution, please let me know!

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger evil cake lady said...

I am not really a banana fan but when I was in the Philippines a few years back I had a banana revelation. We were there for about 10 days and it seems like every day we had a different kind of banana! I had no idea there we so many varieties--and they all had their own texture and taste. SO good!

One of my favorite dishes was the chopped and sauteed banana flowers--sour and savory all at once.

But my favorite way to eat a banana (especially the bland and starchy Dole bananas)? Toron--you take a banana that's been sliced lengthwise, wrap it in a lumpia wrapper (my mom buys wrappers that are made of just cornstarch and water) and you deep fry it until golden brown. Dust with a bit of powdered sugar and eat while hot. The best!!!

 
At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Alia Ali said...

OH and i almost forgot, banana fritters of course but served like how it was in my late grandma's place: dipped in sambal kicap! pound bird's eye chilis, teensy bit of garlic & salt, mix with soy sauce and a splash of vinegar. so hot. so addictive. i'm from malaysia so the soy sauce we swear by in my household is 'kicap tamin' (classic malay brand, neither sweet nor salty); any dark (but not thick!) soy sauce from a south-east asian store should do the trick as well.

of course there's pengat pisang, sort of like sweet stewed bananas with tapioca seeds; gulai lemak pisang, a wonderful savory curry-like dish made with green plantains, coconut milk and turmeric; and kerepek pisang, very thinly sliced banana chips fried until crispy and dusted with salt.

it's almost 2am and this post is making me hungry!

(always wanted to comment whenever you have food prompts, but since you're pro-local (as you should proudly be!) had to wait a while until there was a tropical ingredient i could give suggestions on. yay! :D)

 
At 10:51 AM, Blogger Kait said...

We try to eat as local as possible, mainly from the price and taste standpoint. If we wait until tomatoes are in season and can get the for a dollar a pound instead of the $2.99 they were a month ago, the price is better and the taste is out of this world!

As well, when we travel we eat as local as possible and try to research ahead of time to find what places serve the freshest, best foods.

 
At 11:15 AM, Anonymous courtney said...

Love banana muffins, I started just throwing them together without a recipe, I usually use a couple of bananas, some walnuts, some yogurt, oats, sometimes berries. Very little sugar, the bananas and berries are usually sweet enough for me in the morning.

I also love bananas chopped up with strawberries and pineapple mixed in icecream (basicly a banana split with no chocolate all jumbled).

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger Whitney said...

oh, it has to be banoffee pie. I ate it when I lived in Ireland. It's a graham-cracker (or digestive biscuit if you can get them) crust, layered with boiled sweetened condensed milk (2 1/2 hrs in the can covered with water), fresh sliced bananas, whipped cream and chocolate shavings, then chilled. It's the most gorgeous banana creation ever.

 
At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Alyssa said...

great blog! Eating locally is something I struggle with, especially in the winter months when even the produce from hundreds of miles away is pitiful.

as for the bananas, I love to eat them straight from the peel. Tonight I'm going to make banana bread from a few that are passed their prime. with chocolate chips. yum!

 
At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Kasey said...

Shauna,
I'm so glad you brought this subject up-it's one I think about all the time. As one of those people who makes her living by working the soil (as well as being a happy, healthy, gluten-free, first-time comment poster) I want to thank you and all your readers who make the commitment to support their local growers as much as possible. We appreciate it! I know that it takes more effort to find us and buying local can be more expensive, but in the long run I really do believe that the quality of locally grown foods is better across the board, plus you're helping to keep family owned and operated farms and ranches like mine in business. Everybody wins!!

We don't have much access here to farmer's markets and it's so rural that even grocery stores can be pretty hit or miss. For the most part we grow all our own food and rely on canned and frozen goods in the winter. But then there's the stuff that's already been mentioned - olive oil, sugar, coffee - that of course NO green thumb could ever get to grow in Wyoming! When it comes to products like these, my policy is to buy Fair Trade. Seems only right that if I want other people to fork over their hard earned money for the things I grow, I should be willing to support growers around the world for their hard work and commitment to sustainable agriculture.

As for imported produce like bananas in the "off season" - usually we just go without. I hate it when I buy stuff then get it home and get depressed about how poor the quality is. I mean, who wants to be sad when they eat a banana, or a peach, or a tomato!!?? Not me!!

So: Grow it. If I can't grow it, buy it Fair Trade, in season. If I can't buy it Fair Trade, I probably don't need it.

 
At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Diane said...

I don't think the dictum" don't eat anything your grandma wouldn't recognize as food" applies to unknown ingredients. It applies to wierdo-compound food-like substances. Your grandma might not know shiso, but she would recognize as an herb - similar perhaps to lemon balm. She might not recognize macadamias, but she would know they are a nut, and consequently how to use them (like hazelnuts, or filberts, or brazil nuts maybe?). It's the same logic I apply when I shop at the asian stores I frequent ("looks like a green, so that gives me an idea how it can be cooked...").

Bananas - don't care for them much, but I do slice them and put them in yogurt.

 
At 12:29 PM, Blogger Stacy said...

ah, in defense of food, great read!

i find this problem very perplexing myself. i keep proposing to my friends and family that we move out of the city and buy a bunch of farms near each other and really begin to live 'locally' in all aspects of life.

i'll let you know how that pans out.

 
At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I care less about locally grown food and more about being vegetarian. I do it for health reasons (and YES, you CAN get enough protein being vegetarian), but the best benefit is that it helps our environment far more than eating locally ever could.

 
At 1:13 PM, Blogger Avery Yale Kamila said...

I just finished reading your book and my face is stained with tears of joy. What an amazing, sensual story about food, life and love. Your openness and curiosity are truly inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful prose and your bountiful outlook with the world!

 
At 1:37 PM, Blogger Anna Lee said...

I approach that decision much in the same way that you do. When I can I buy locally grown free range meats,and locally grown fruits and veggies, as well as personally foraged favorites. I live in the Pacific Northwest, too, and was privileged to grow up learning how to eat my way out of the forest. I also feel like one of the most honored experiences one can have is the interaction with the artisans that grow and prepare our food. I love bananas grilled on the barbecue with chocolate. MMM wrap a banana in aluminum foil, sliced open on one side down the skin, but not through both sides of the banana and add a handful of chocolate chips (do this before you put it in the foil). Put banana on the barby and grill a few minutes till melty and hot.

 
At 2:03 PM, Blogger tarambarker said...

I hear you on the struggle to eat locally, without giving up "essentials" like spices, oils, tea, etc. And especially here in Maine, a state with a very short growing season, I find my lust for fresh veggies far surpasses my local farm's capacity to produce! I do, however, put a premium on foods that are made/grown on a small-scale, using traditional (organic, handmade, etc.) means of production. I like to think that if I'm going to buy balsamic vinegar or a specialty cheese, I can at least make sure that my purchase supports a family business or small cooperative - it's another way for me to think about my food choices being sustainable.

And as for bananas, my mom would make banana boats for us on camping trips (it's neither local or good for you, but it's yummy). Take a banana, slice the peel so that you can sort of separate the peel from the banana (without removing the banana), and stuff the banana with chocolate chips and marshmallows. Wrap it up in foil and stick it in the coals of your campfire to get it all hot and melty. REALLY good! And with a high-end chocolate and homemade marshmallows, it might even pass for gourmet. ;)

 
At 2:11 PM, Blogger Kathleen said...

You have described, exactly, my dilemma with food shopping and feeding my family. I have not yet found a satisfactory answer to this problem. It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one wrestling with this.

As for the bananas, I generally only cook with them when they're beyond ripe. Then I'll mash them up and make banana bread or muffins. Boring, but it's just what my mom did when I was a kid, and somehow it's comforting.

 
At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seldom mention canning. I know fresh is best and local when you can get it, but why not can foods yourself for the down season? Any pointers there?

 
At 2:46 PM, Anonymous swirlingnotions said...

Once again, Shauna, fabulous, thought-provoking post. On a topic I've been thinking about a lot (actually, both bananas and the local thing). I think you put it beautifully when you talked about waiting for the season for the things that grow in abundance where you live--for me, those are things like tomatoes, figs, cucumbers, peas, fava beans--and choosing deliberately the ingredients that don't grow here.

As for the bananas . . . they ARE a fabulous portable baby food (as are edamame, when they're older). Just remember to take unused ones out of the diaper bag when you get home ;-).

 
At 3:27 PM, Anonymous Lauren said...

I to love buying my foods from a farmers market or a U-pick farm. But sometimes especially in the winter when nothing grows here and their are no farmers markets. We do try to buy Organic and I am experimenting with gluten free foods. I just absouletley can not wait till this summer. At my dads he has a nice garden and orchard he is building up.He just bought 3 kinds of tomato plants, Zucchini, yellow squash, banana peppers, and green peppers, sweet potatoes, corn , Brussels sprouts, leeks, beets, peas, green beans, watermelon, canalope, and probably more that I can't think of. Also last year we planted apple, pear, and plum trees but those won't bear fruit for 2 years yet. And he planted strawberry plants, and will be buying blueberry bushes, we already have 6 bushes on our property. We will be eating all our own produce as much as we can. Also buy locally grown beef and chicken from the farmers market and any other fruits and veggies we don't have like organic garlic and strawberries, they also have amish made pies, breads, and cookies, A local maker of honey and more. I cant wait till summer starts. Oh and banana's I just like them on top of a high fiber cereal, a PB and banana sandwhich with a bit of honey, Banana bread or muffins, or in a pie.

 
At 4:05 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

Shauna, this is a lovely post, and touches on lots of issues dear to my heart. I was born in DC, lived my early childhood in Georgia, grew into a young adult in a suburb of Philadelphia, spent formative months in Peru and Bolivia and France and other places, lived in New York City for several wonderful years, and now am a vegetable farmer in Virginia. My partner and I make our living by selling our veggies and eggs directly to customers - and are emotionally and spiritually nourished by these connections as well. But I feel quite strongly that what we eat is not as important as who we are when we eat it: how we feel when we can take the time to nourish our bodies, who we become when we eat lovingly prepared food in the company of people we love, how we move through the world when we pause for time at the table.

Through some lovely alchemy of intention and luck, we are able to eat locally so much more easily than most. And that is important to me. It's kinder to the earth. Everything tastes so good! We're eating from our own farm, or supporting our friends. When we spend the bulk of our money locally, we're more attuned to the pulse of everything, and thus, I think, more grateful and awake. But I don't feel any moral qualms at all for having olive oil, chocolate, coffee, spices, vinegars, and bananas (always!) in our kitchen. They remind us there is a world bigger than what we live and breathe - I think that's vital. And they make things taste delicious! I believe in simple pleasures, and how they let us exhale.

 
At 4:53 PM, Blogger milhan said...

Bananas are too expensive right now...I refuse to pay .79/lb, when I used to be able to get 3lbs for .99!

Having said that, my favorite "dish" with bananas is brown rice bread, toasted, with natural peanut butter, a sliced banana and a healthy drizzle of local honey on top - yum.

 
At 7:30 PM, Blogger amanda said...

My approach regarding local produce is similar to yours - if it's tasty and in season I use a lot, if it's out of season and/or imported, I buy it less often - because generally produce that is flown or trucked in is more expensive and less flavourful. That said, if I'm craving something in particular and it's not in season or unable to be produced locally, I think it's great that I don't have to deny myself! That's the beauty of our global marketplace.

Personally, I think if people find expressing a preference for fresh, locally grown produce, if and when it's available, is somehow equal to snobbery, then they must be leading a pretty sheltered existence. Just my opinion.

Not a big fan of bananas myself, but a few weeks ago while honeymooning in Cuba, my husband fell in love with the tostones (fried bananas) served locally. You slice the bananas about an inch and a half thick, and fry them first at a medium heat for a couple of minutes, then drain them and gently squish the chunks down into thick patties. Then you re-fry them over high heat to crisp them up. You need a decent amount of oil in the pan and the larger, less sweet bananas (or ideally plantains) work best.

 
At 7:55 PM, Blogger Beth said...

I put them in brownies. Don't scoff! It's a great use for bananas just a wee too soft to eat properly. I dice them up and throw them right in the brownie batch and bake as usual. They taste delish.

 
At 7:57 PM, Blogger Alison said...

When did you live in Pomona?

I ask because both of my parents grew up and when just married lived in Pomona before they moved to Kansas.

Do the names Standley or Carosone ring a bell?

 
At 9:02 PM, Blogger anacker said...

I try to buy as much food locally as possible. I live in Florida, so we are very lucky with some of our produce, tomatoes, strawberries, and citrus especially. However, our soil isn't soil, it's sand and it's hot ALL YEAR LONG here. So, some things just don't grow well. I try to buy foods as close to home as possible and when they're in season, for taste and for the lower prices.

As far as bananas go... I love them. My 2 favorite recipes for them are peanut butter and banana crepes drizzled with orange blossom honey and banana bread.

 
At 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmm banana pizza:-) has to be my favourite way to weird people out at dinner time and its delicious. use whatever pizza base you like, I often use a spicy fruit chutney instead of tomato sauce on the base (although bbq sauce is also excellent) then add baby spinach, grilled chicken, grilled bacon, grilled banana (worth the extra step, although raw is also ok) then top with cheese. bake in oven then serve with sour cream. not exactly diet food, but trust me, its yummy!

cheers, katrina

 
At 6:20 AM, Blogger Carrie said...

I struggle with trying to eat as locally as possible, yet many of our ingredients are from places around the world.

But, like you Shauna, if it is in season here and the farmers are selling it, I'm buying it here and I'll wait until they are selling to buy it.

For example, I spent 2 hours yesterday on my knees in a strawberry field. I stained my jeans, and my fingers turned deep red. But it was one of the best afternoons I have ever had. Yes, it would have been a lot easier to stop by the grocery store and pick up the strawberries, but my hands picked every single one of those strawberries. I had so many.

I picked 8 pounds of ripe, delicious strawberries for $8.00. It would have cost me over $25 if I had bought them from a grocery store, and they wouldn't have been grown in soil 20 minutes from my house.

I made 10 strawberry pies and took them to any neighbor who had room in their fridge. It felt good, even though we ate very few of the finished product, it felt like abundance being shared and I don't think I could have gotten that feeling if I hadn't worked to be a part of the process.

When you buy local produce (when it's possible) you also develop a deep respect for those people who harvest food for you for a living. It's hot, dirty, sweaty work, and we so often forget that food has to be grown, and picked by hands other than our own to be on our plates for every meal.

Shauna, I had to laugh last week when I found out what was growing in the fields behind our home (you can see a picture on my website)... What was growing? Local wheat!! lol (Guess I'll just be watching, and not partaking! Gluten abundant fields!)

Normally, those fields contain tobacco, but with wheat, rice, and other foods becoming so expensive to purchase out of country, they are starting to grow it locally again. An amazing concept.

 
At 6:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love to take a very ripe plantain, wash it and cut a thin line lengthwise in the skin to allow air to escape - microwave it whole....it's delicious plain - steamed in it's peel.mmmmmmmmmm

I imagine it could be baked in an oven the same way.

Ellen

 
At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I make BANANA-QUINOA WAFFLES! I eat them for a snack, plain. I got the recipe off of the Ancient Harvest Quinoa Flakes box. Look for the Banana-Quinoa Muffins recipe on the back and then at the end of the recipe they tell you haw to make waffles from that recipe. Simply delicious! The muffins are good too, but a little dry...

 
At 7:44 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

I forgot to add: I love bananas roasted in their skin! You slice through the skin on one side, lengthwise, and stuff it with whatever you like. My favorite is bits of dark chocolate, but butter and cinnamon and sugar are nice too, and granola and honey ... throw it in the oven till it's nice and mushy, and the skin is all dark, and then eat it with a spoon! This also works on a fire - just wrap the whole thing in foil and put it on hot coals.

 
At 7:46 AM, Anonymous themuttprincess said...

I never really gave it much thought about buying local.

As for the bananas, I love to bake with them. I let them get brown and then freeze them for a bit (or longer) and then thaw and bake with them. I swear the extra step of freezing them and letting them ooze into the mixing bowl adds more flavor! I make banana bread, banana cake, and will just add bananas to whatever cake (or cookies) I feel like making. And it is all gluten free, because I do not eat gluten myself.

 
At 8:13 AM, Blogger Zoomie said...

We eat and buy more or less like you. Don't worry, even your great grandmother imported her tea or coffee. Do the best you can locally both for taste and to encourage local, sustainable, organic and delicious food, and enjoy the rest in moderation.

 
At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just want to chime in about the bananas... they're definitely great kid food at home, but as you know, not so portable- once you travel with them they get pretty beat up and mushy really fast!

I love them firm and so do my early-foodie kids, so we're not much for taking them along.

The things you learn after the kid is born- it's all pretty amazing stuff!

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger Rachel said...

I have 4 banana bread recipes, banana muffins, banana cake, sauteed bananas on, well, anything, chocolate-chip banana pancakes, and the ever-amazing PB&B sandwich. There was no PB&J for me as a youngster, I always wanted bananas on it instead. And I will also admit to sometimes just smashing up the banana on a plate and enjoying the puree, occasionally sprinkled with a little brown sugar. My husband likes to add them as an unexpected sweet ingredient in stir-frys. The first time he tried it, he proudly walked out of the kitchen pronouncing "Iron Chef Tim! Secret ingredient: Banana!"
On a very slightly more serious note, I have very much enjoyed reading your blog, and I was wondering if I might put a link to it in my own newly-begun blog, as one of my inspirations. Would you mind?

 
At 8:49 AM, Blogger a kelly said...

Banana pancakes!! No FLOUR NEEDED...
just mush up with an egg and fry the batter like a pancake, pour on the fruit/honey/syrup/whatever!
(sometimes I add a little yogurt in the batter)

 
At 8:53 AM, Anonymous cathy said...

Ohhhhh Shauna, you MUST try making your own yogurt! You won't need imported greek yogurt anymore! It is so much better and I had no idea before I tried it, it would be so easy to make! You will LOVE it, I guarantee!

My favorite part of the week is picking up local eggs from the egg lady in a parking lot by appointment! It feels like I am setting up a drug deal or something, ha ha! I just love getting them from someone who I know was not caging the hens and plus she recycles all the cartons I can collect for her.

 
At 9:15 AM, Anonymous Stephanie said...

An encouraging comment for Lisa, who discussed the financial issues that can arise from eating locally: Last summer, I got two friends to share a CSA share with us. My family took half, they divided the other half. In all, it cost us $12.50 weekly for the food. (This was a $500 share...they seem to run $550 this year, so a little more.) It was AMAZING. Our supermarket runs went down from every 2-3 weeks to every 6 weeks and my farmer's market buys went from $10-15 weekly to $5-10 (for a family of 4, 2 little ones) I learned to cook every kind of green. We made rice pastas with greens, cannelini beans, garlic & roasted tomatoes. We felt like we were gourmet making eggs florentine over mixed greens every weekend! This summer we're in transition and cannot do a CSA, so I'm planning to track our spending and see how much it goes up.
If you split it, cook it, and learn to freeze the extra it can really save you money. Plus, with hubby not going to the supermarket as often we had far fewer bags of chips in the house!

 
At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna, I really appreciate knowing that you and so many others struggle with this as I do. I apologize in advance for my long-windedness on this subject so near to my heart!

Over the last ten years I have gradually shifted my purchasing habits toward organic and/or local. These days, what produce I don’t grow in our little garden in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I buy mostly locally and in season, and I freeze, can or dry some of it for winter. It’s tremendously satisfying to quickly heat up my homemade spaghetti sauce, or serve my own salsa, remembering all the work that went into each jar, knowing I’m eating locally even in winter. But along about February I get such a craving for fresh food! I usually end up buying some organic apples, oranges and bananas from far away places for a few months to tide me over until spring.

I get such satisfaction eating my fill of green salads and asparagus in the spring, as many strawberries as I want in May & June, tomatoes at every meal from July until September and maybe beyond. We eat what’s in season until we’re sick of it, then wait until it finally comes around the following year to enjoy it again.

When I choose to cook with foods that aren’t available locally, I try to buy them from as close an organic source as possible, and preferably one that is fair trade. I can buy tortilla chips made from organic Pennsylvania corn, manufactured near the farm of origin. I get some cheeses from a company near my childhood home in Ohio, made from Amish farm milk.

Some things I rely on, like chocolate, I purchase from fair trade and organic organizations, such as Equal Exchange, knowing that I am helping to pay a living wage for hard-working folks in Dominican Republic, Ghana, and other places around the world.

As for bananas, when I buy them, which isn’t often anymore, it’s usually for my five-year-old daughter who eats them plain. Whatever is left when she’s done, I cut up and freeze to add to smoothies as sweetener.

I do buy non-local spices, some grains, salt, vinegar, cocoa/chocolate, nuts, fish, coconut & olive products, and surely something else I've forgotten, but I try to get organic when possible. From local farmers I am able to purchase milk, cheese, meat, eggs, some grains, honey, herbs, fruits and vegetables, even bread made from local wheat. I buy maple syrup from my in-laws in upstate NY, and have begun making my granulated sugar from it.

Before each meal, when we express our gratitude for the food, I often name the farmers who grew or produced the various items on the table. What a wonderful feeling to know the folks behind the food!

It’s tricky feeding children with only local food when they and you both know that other foods are available. My two young girls have particular food preferences, as do many of us, and they don’t always include what’s fresh and in season, to my dismay. So I piece together our family meals as best I can, trying to stay true to what I value while giving them food that will nourish their bodies AND that they will eat. I think this will be one of the best things about the empty nest (coming to me in 15 years?) - no more picky eaters! Thankfully my husband will eat just about anything and also appreciates eating with the seasons.

More broadly speaking, some of the same values that drive my local purchases also are behind our choice not to travel as much, to have only one car, to buy mostly whole foods in little packaging, to walk when we can, to reuse gray water, to recycle everything possible. When we need clothes, we often patronize a thrift store down the street, to reuse good clothing and shoes. I shop at the stores closest to me in town, when possible. My self-employed stone mason husband doesn’t generally accept jobs further than 30-40 minutes away.

We try to do what we can to feed ourselves healthfully, to support local and organic farmers and to care for the earth in our lifestyle choices. Thanks for this post - it’s great to hear stories from others on this journey!

Kris

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

My ten month old LOVES banana's. He takes giant bites (need to work on teaching moderation).

Speaking of perfect snack foods, I haven't put my little boy on gluten-free yet, but he's starting to show signs of my allergies. Maybe you could develop gluten-free cheese crackers... That's the one thing that I know he'll miss a ton. I bet you could do it!

 
At 11:39 AM, Anonymous LAURA said...

I try to eat local...but in Wisconsin it's hard...I understand the living in lots of places feelings...illinois maine, maryland, florida, puerto rico, the virgin islands and now wisconsin...whew...

That line about only eating what your grandmother would recognize as food has surfaced msot recently in Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food...a great read...

 
At 12:19 PM, Blogger tallmisto said...

I live in Arizona where weather is great 90 % of the year. Why is it so hard to buy local here, other than horrible soil? I am very concerned with what I feed myself and family and have been on a waiting list to buy produce from a local co-op for almost a year. With that kind of wait I wonder why more stores don't offer local goods. I try to snatch up local "made" goods - honey, breads, salsas. But that doesn't mean anything was grown locally that is in it. My solution is to try to get a little garden of my own going. We'll see.

Best way to enjoy a banana - sliced in some good Greek yogurt with a small drizzle of honey!

 
At 12:24 PM, Blogger Rachael said...

Banana Soup! (And unlike a lot of the previous suggestions...this is gluten free!)

 
At 12:31 PM, Blogger Jennywenny said...

I think it means 'dont eat something that someones grandmother wouldnt recognise as food' rather than your own grandma.

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger Caitlin said...

I don't have it figured out yet for myself, the balance of local/ non-local eating, but I know that local eating confers a unique pleasure, since it usually involves human interaction and a sense of connection. I love the feeling of adventure that goes with local eating, especially wild-harvesting.

And I'm excited to read this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Plenty-Woman-Raucous-Eating-Locally/dp/030734732X/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210189846&sr=8-1

 
At 1:34 PM, Anonymous MaryG said...

I've enjoyed reading all the comments, and I agree with everyone! There's no perfect solution. At least many are thinking about the issue of where their food comes from and making choices based on their values. I myself try to ask this question, about food and many other things as well: Will my buying and eating or using this product enhance the greater good? Sometimes, the answer is yes, if it's chocolate, and if in that moment the greater good is my own need for comfort, or to help someone else through a hard time. Sometimes the answer is no, if I am aware of all the connections and ways in which the earth or its inhabitants can be harmed, and then I try to find a local dairy that makes a reasonably good substitute for my Greek yoghurt. Sometimes, the greater good is to eat the out-of-season banana or the pop-tart (unless it has gluten--that's non-negotiable!) that is presented to me as a gift from someone's heart. I try not to take myself too seriously or be self-righteous about my choices (did that sound self-righteous???!!!).

As for bananas: smoothies! With local strawberries!

 
At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Canada ... if I ate only locally I would have to survive the winter on venison and pine cones :) We buy local when the season allows, but more importantly (and more fun) we try to grow as much as we can in our tiny back yard and can the veggies for the winter. Yum!

 
At 2:03 PM, Anonymous MaryG said...

I forgot to mention in my previous comment something I've been thinking about a lot: the current global food shortages. I won't get into the causes and cures, except to urge people who love food to find a way to do something to alleviate it. Can we imagine going a day without having something to eat? I would have a very hard time, but I think I could do it without serious consequences. I cannot imagine going day after day without nourishment. It seems a bit wierd to be dreaming up ways to eat bananas and to debate the virtues of eating locally when people are starving--I know I know, a cliche, and not meant to be a guilt trip (OK, just a little).

Give so others may eat, even if it means (for me) foregoing a piece of good chocolate once in a while.

May all beings be fed.

 
At 2:21 PM, Blogger Nick said...

My favorite! I cannot get enough of bananas, ever! I need one every day or my body starts to convulse. Absolutely favorite banana recipe is Banana Pancakes. That banana in the batter makes all the difference, giving them a super creamy texture.

Easiest banana recipe though? To get a quick fix in, I usually just make a few Peanut Butter Hot Dogs.

- The Peanut Butter Boy

 
At 3:10 PM, Blogger Ms. Jan said...

Luckily for us, we live in Sonoma County, Calif., so we can eat largely locally all year round. Our farmer's market is open all year and we have a number of local sources of meat, dairy and eggs as well.

The new gluten-free thing has put a kink in the works as all of the flours and mixes come from elsewhere, but we do what we can.

 
At 3:39 PM, Blogger jill said...

Great post that brought up a lot of things I think about. I think I may sound like a food snob when I told friends and family on the east coast that I try to eat all organic fruit and vegetables. But this is because I live in southern California and I can. Farmer's markets are AMAZING here and it is easy to eat local and organic. We feel extremely lucky and grateful about this. I think nearly every time we go to the farmers market we say how lucky we are. Especially in the summer.
In season and local and organic always tastes 10 times better!
But in NY it just wouldn't be possible.

For me it is also a issue of human rights..pesticides are toxic for the people working with the crops and in other countries they don't have the same limitations on pesticides and they use especially toxic ones. But still many people can't afford to eat organic at all or it's just not available.

The way I feel though is do as much as you can do and then be at peace with it.

Oh and about the bananas its banana bread! I'm going to make some this week! Also I am always eating banana "ice cream" frozen bananas mixed with other fruit, or cocoa and a little agave.

 
At 5:19 PM, Blogger Mood Indigo said...

Hi all -

I'm sorry to weigh in with some bad news as I too love bananas. And I think la nina touched on something important - that as much as we want to buy local, the support of international plantations keeps whole communities afloat. The challenge is how to make sure that such plantations and agriculture are handled responsibly - and with bananas, I can guarantee they're not! There's a recent book that I would really recommend to all: http://www.amazon.com/Bananas-United-Fruit-Company-Shaped/dp/1841958816/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210205610&sr=8-1 - It's on my reading list and I imagine it will put the whole debate about food on a local and international basis into a whole new arena. Lastly - having literally done my senior coursework on the banana plantations in Costa Rica - there's not yet such a thing as an organically grown banana that's transported to the U.S. Some of the baby food companies do buy organic bananas from small and large plantations alike that they can then mash up for organic baby food. But truly organic whole bananas would not look like the lovely, perfect fruits we expect them to be once they got here without some sort of chemical "protection." At the very least, they're dipped in herbicides before packaging - and likely pesticides as well. Here's some more info on environmental and human effects of banana growth: http://www.foroemaus.org/english/environmental/00.html. For those with babies - this is one instance where jarred baby food is ultimately the more organic choice!

 
At 7:32 PM, Anonymous alane said...

In principle, I agree with Michael Polan that we shoudn't eat anything our great grandmothers wouldn't recognise as food but my great grandmother had an Irish cook who boiled everything to grey. Carbon footprint aside, I think I'm eating better than Grammy.

 
At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna, I really appreciate knowing that you and so many others struggle with this as I do. I grow some veggies in our little garden in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and I buy the rest of our fruit and vegetables locally and in season, mostly, and I freeze, can or dry some of it for winter. In the middle of winter I usually get such a craving for fresh food that end up buying some organic apples, oranges and bananas from far away places for a few months. And avocadoes, and...

When I choose to cook with foods that aren’t available locally, I try to find as close an organic source as possible, preferably one that is fair trade. I feel fortunate that I have local access to raw milk, (from which I make amazing yogurt), goat cheese, grass-fed meat, pastured eggs, some grains, raw honey, herbs, fruits and vegetables, even bread made from local wheat. I buy maple syrup from my in-laws in upstate NY, and make granulated sugar from it.

As for bananas, when I buy them, which isn’t often anymore, it’s usually for my five-year-old daughter who likes them plain. Whatever is left when she’s done, I cut up and freeze to add to smoothies as sweetener.

It’s tricky feeding children with only local food when they and you both know that other foods are available. My girls have particular food preferences, as do many of us, and they don’t always include what’s fresh and in season, to my dismay. So I piece together our family meals as best I can, trying to stay true to what I value while giving them food that will nourish their bodies AND that they will eat.

I do what I can to feed my family healthfully, to support local and organic farmers and to care for the earth in the process. Thanks for this post - it’s great to hear stories from others on this journey!

Kris

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger Jeanne said...

Interestingly, my daughter has never liked bananas. We kept trying to get her to eat them (thinking that they were the perfect kid food) only to find out when she could talk that she didn't like them.

I am mildly allergic to bananas. I can't eat them raw. On the rare occasions when I eat them, I like them in banana bread with chocolate chips. Yum.

 
At 7:13 AM, Blogger jbeach said...

Wonderful post and comments. I can't help but just be estatic that this conversation is on the table, so to speak.
To hear so many people talking about where their food comes from and how to eat more locally is soul satisfying. I live right outside NYC and worked at a farmers' market in the city for a season. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life -- the food I took home was unlike any I'd purchased at a grocery store. I don't consider that statement snobby; it's just the truth and I'm proud to shout it from the rooftops. I am all for discussing the elitism of food knowledge and experiences, but I think it's important to keep the conversation honest and open. Is organic food safer? Of course. Should we be trying to eat and buy local produce/products? No doubt.
I am attempting a small roofdeck vegetable garden for the first time. We're hoping to slice into our very own tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers this summer and throw them in a bowl with our homegrown lettuce and herbs. I've never been more excited for anything in my life!! And this is an inexpensive project, but it takes time and dedication. I'm only wondering why I didn't do it sooner!
And Whitney, I'm with you on banoffee pie! Made one myself recently and it was scrumptious.

 
At 9:15 AM, Anonymous MandyLuHu said...

Here's how I approach the local food issue. I don't think it works to make it an absolute rule. (I live in Minnesota and it gets pretty rough to eat locally grown foods during our long winter - although I do a fair amount of canning in the summer and fall). Instead, I try to push myself more and more to eat locally. Start to consider where your food came from, start to check out farmer's markets, start to consider if something is in season or not. It will truly bring a new joy and awareness to your cooking.

There are a number of reasons to eat locally - better taste and much lighter environmental impact.

I won't be giving up my quinoa any time soon, but I will wait for spring asparagus because it tastes better and feels better. I don't view it as giving anything up.

 
At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, a fan of Michael Pollan's books and Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," find it difficult to eat locally, but I have taught my children to scrutinize produce labels, paying attention to origin and thus season.

Our hands-down all-time favorite use of bananas? A beautiful green smoothie, made of fresh OJ, bananas, mango, a little mint, and a whopping handful of SPINACH!

 
At 4:03 PM, Blogger Clean ClutterFree Simple said...

Banana quesadillas! A decades-old recipe from Mademoiselle magazine (remember??). You take corn tortillas, lay them on a baking sheet. Top with sliced banana, a sprinkle of canned diced green chiles, and grate pepper jack cheese on. Put in the oven on broil until the cheese has melted. Serious yum!

 
At 4:37 PM, Blogger SusanJ said...

Great post and great comments but no one mentioned the best way of all to have bananas--just plain fried. (The family story is that my great-grandmother invented this recipe because her sons worked in a grocery store and were always bringing home over-ripe bananas.)

You need quite ripe bananas which you slice lengthwise into symmetric pieces. (Easier to do without breaking if you cut a banana in half horizontally first.) Then heat some butter in a black iron frying pan until the foam starts to subside and put in the banana pieces flat cut side down. Don't move them. Cook until they're really caramelized, almost starting to blacken in spots.

No real need to cook them on the other side.

 
At 6:18 PM, Blogger shady charbonnet said...

Frozen bananas, run them through a champion juicer and you have the best tasting vegan "ice cream" ever!

I love banana pancakes like my Mom used to make, rolled up with strawberry preserves inside. but I have not had the same luck with my g-f versions.

My family adores them in waffles. I make a huge batch of banana waffle batter and before closing the waffle iron I top each one with different things like macadamias, walnuts, pecans, berries, mini chocolate chips, unsweetened coconut or even peanut butter!

 
At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This past weekend I traveled 4,500 over four days. I covered four states, three time zones and used planes, trains and automobiles, all so I could deliver the eulogy at my uncle's funeral in Arizona on Saturday and be back at a conference in New York City. After this, I'm sure we move too fast and too easily. Either that, or I've gotten too old for this!

 
At 7:07 PM, Blogger The Story of Us said...

brown sugar and banana pancakes - nothing better on a lazy weekend morning.

 
At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Grace said...

I have to say I hate bananas! It's the texture, I can't stand squishy food!

But I love farmers' markets and eating local produce. We have a wonderful farmers' market here in Dunedin (south of the South Island in New Zealand) every Saturday morning. There's everything from seafood, vegetables, fruit, meat, flowers, nuts, bakery stalls...everything you need!

I actually just watched a depressing video in my geography lecture about how globalisation is squashing the small farmer. Small farms are actually more efficient and environmentally sustainable than large farms. But large farms get government subsidies by acreage so they make the most profit. I nearly cried when it showed factory farms with all the poor hens and pigs in small cages
:( It was a documentary based on the USA, but even in NZ we have factory farms.

 
At 8:08 PM, Blogger Ginger Carter Miller, Ph.D. said...

I read this on the website "eat local challenge," and it really has changed how I think about food:

If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then Organic.
If not ORGANIC, then Family farm.
If not FAMILY FARM, then Local business.
If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then Fair Trade.
If all else fails, at least don’t eat at McDonald’s!

(posted by Jamie S. on the site).

It's a thoughtful way to approach the whole process.

P.S. Bananas foster...

 
At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I try to buy local whenever I can. Obviously it's not always possible, so the next priority on my list is to buy from locally owned businesses. Places like Whole Foods may have beautiful, organic produce, but it's still a corporate giant and I'm not going to do the bulk of my shopping there when I have the option of supporting the neighborhood grocer who remembers my name and the favorite foods of all the people that I live with. I love going to smaller grocery stores and talking to the owners about food. I know that I'm very lucky to have that resource, but it's been what it is because people use it.

 
At 12:24 AM, Blogger LH said...

Re: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

I heard a great modification of this -- "Don't eat anything *A* great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food" i.e., somebody's great grandmother would have eaten shiso leaves, macadamia nuts, or balsamic vinegar.

 
At 9:55 AM, Blogger jjwrites said...

I'm a two-time cancer survivor, recently diagnosed with celiac as well. I'm now working with a doctor who studies the link between cancer and nutrition. He says no to bananas, kiwi, avocado, and other foods to which our western systems have not had time to adjust and which have been sprayed with chemicals to help them travel long distances. He does make exceptions, such as olive oil, but generally says fresh, local, organic, in season. He'd agree with the idea of not eating what great-grandma didn't eat--he says we'd all be better off eating as though it were 1950.

 
At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Banana smoothies. I buy unripe bananas and gradually eat them with rice cakes and peanut butter until they are way too ripe to eat. Then I stash them into the freezer and make banana smoothies whenever I feel like it. If I get bored with smoothies, I quickly melt chocolate and cover the frozen bananas with melted chocolate and nuts.

For whatever reason, I've never read a recipe quite like my own version of a banana smoothie. It tastes like a milkshake...except almost completely healthy. Frozen bananas are key.

1 small frozen banana, broken into pieces (size of pieces depends on strength of blender)
3/4 c yogurt (nonfat, lowfat, whatever)
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
just enough milk to allow it all to blend. (soy works wonderfully too)

Toss all ingredients into the blender, and blend. If the blender stalls, add a splash more milk.

Obviously, the proportions of ingredients are very easily adaptable. This is a tart, yogurty smoothie. Add more banana, more milk, and less yogurt to make it less yogurty. Add more honey to make it sweeter. Add more milk to make it less thick (although I personally love the frosty thickness of it).

Enjoy.

 
At 12:10 PM, Blogger rebelgirl7 said...

Bananas sliced on toast and sprinkled lightly with sugar. Eat in bed with a hot cup of steaming tea and a good book for full flavor.

 
At 10:10 PM, Anonymous kaeserah said...

In MT we're lucky to be able to buy locally grown canola, safflower and sunflower oils. None a replacement, of course, for olive oil, but a great product. If you can get it from a days-drive radius does that count as local? Definitely have to establish your own parameters on this issue. It's tough!

 
At 9:43 PM, Blogger Jenny said...

A snob for savoring local asparagus? Nah. Fresh asparagus is so tender and delicious. It doesn't even compare to the cardboard stuff from Chile.

I agree with you. I do my best to eat as locally as I can, but I'm not going to give up coffee...or bananas. :-)

 
At 2:30 PM, Blogger Reika said...

Although I've only recently been diagnosed with celiac and have been gluten free since 08-03-09 (5 weeks now), I've been entranced with your blog since I stumbled across it a few weeks ago. It was a post from 2009 that came to my attention, but I felt compelled to work my way through from the beginning!

I love the recipes and the stories; unfortunately, I have to bookmark many of the recipes of use later, for when my intolerances reverse themselves (fingers devoutly crossed here). I'm can't eat: lactose, soy, corn, nightshades, and blueberries; I'm also having to take it easy on my stomach so I can't eat my beloved brown, red, and wild rice combo yet.

This is the first time I'm commenting but I felt compelled to do so after seeing this post and the comments (and reading the nasty comments "reviewing" your book on Amazon).

I live in Las Vegas. It's a desert. EVERYTHING is shipped in. There are a few farms but they are far outside of town. There is a farmer's market, but it was started by the gourmet chefs in town, and it's held on Tuesday mornings at 10 am. Um.....I'm a tech at a doctor's office and the schedule doesn't allow me time off on Tuesday mornings to pick up my veggies! My solution? I try to buy organic as much as possible since most organic stuff is grown seasonally, not artificially in hot houses. I also buy a lot of frozen veg as that's often fresher than the stuff lying around in the grocery bins, and far tastier too!

With that said, I really, really, really miss the freshness of local produce picked at the peak of ripeness. You see, I grew up in the Buffalo, NY area. When strawberries are "in season" here (i.e.: shipped here, barely ripe, from California), I buy them but am ALWAYS disappointed. I then dream of strawberries that really taste like strawberries: warm and sun kissed, sweet without added sugar.

All in all, I feel truly blessed to have found a person who feels like I do about food: fresh and flavorful, but not trying to reproduce the like-wheat taste and texture which cannot exist for us.

Thank you.

 

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