The One Thing I Learned Last Year (Or: A Final Goodbye To Banana Mouth)

When I was getting my coffee at the shop on the corner, I heard someone say, “I learned a lot in the last year.” She had a baby in a stroller who looked to be about a year old, so yeah, I bet she did learn a lot in the last year. Everyone says you learn so much when you have kids.

While I niced up my iced coffee with Splenda and milk, I tried to remember what I learned in the last year. One thing came to mind:

I learned how to eat a banana without getting Banana Mouth.

This is huge.

Bananas are necessary in my diet. For one, I just read in the Times that if you consume a lot of sodium, which I do, you should balance it with potassium. So I eat bananas to cancel out the Chipins. (Down to 6 bags, by the way.)

Secondly, I need them for dance class. Whether or not I eat one before class determines whether I get through it so energetically that it’s obnoxious, or end up bent over halfway through, wheezing, with my hands on my knees.

I’ve done extensive testing, and I’m certain it’s all about the banana. I make this known. If I’m ever so pooped out that the teacher asks “you OK?” I pant, “Forgot to have my banana.”

The banana is my good luck charm.

If I could, I’d wear it on a zipper pull like a rabbit’s foot. I’m kidding. No I wouldn’t. It would be all black and disgusting, and remind me of my parents’ banana tree. To be clear: my parents don’t have a tree that grows bananas. They have a plastic gadget on their kitchen counter called “The Banana Tree”. I imagine it was designed to show off your new bananas in all their tropical glory. A fruit bowl just doesn’t do them justice.

It’s supposed to look like this:


But my parents’ version looks like this:


I’ve always asked my parents, “why the hell do you display your fugly, halfway-eaten, rotten bananas on a stand?” I’ve never gotten an adequate answer. Just a pouty, hurt look — their version of “Yo, why you givin’ me shit?” But now, looking at the photo (courtesy of Marian Belgray), I see the logic. Who wants produce like that touching any home surface?

My issue with bananas, from green to brown, is that they make a sickening noise when you eat them. And this is what I call Banana Mouth. You know the noise I’m talking about, right? It’s kind of like when people make out on TV and you can hear the saliva. Ew! I’m barfing just writing this.

You don’t have to eat a banana to have Banana Mouth.

Sometimes it happens if you’re dehydrated, or old, or a host on NPR. Any time we’re taking a weekend road trip, Steven likes to torture me by playing the Jonathan Schwartz Show in the car. When Jonathan Schwartz talks, you can always hear his spittle. If you look him up online, it says his passions are “music, Sinatra, and baseball” but I can assure you that his number one passion is talking with Banana Mouth.

Another way Steven tortures me is by telling me I have Banana Mouth. I’ll say something and he’ll ask, “I’m sorry, what did you say, Banana Mouth?” He got “Banana Mouth” from me, and now he uses it against me. It’s not right.

So, I have a complex about Banana Mouth. Not only will I not eat a banana in front of someone, I can barely stand to eat one when I’m alone. I hear the noise, and I’m embarrassed for myself. It’s like when you smell wretched B.O., and then realize it’s coming from your own armpit. It’s like, “HOLY CHRIST, IS THAT ME???” That’s how I feel when I hear myself eating a banana.

By now, you’re probably tortured with suspense. If you don’t find out how I finally said goodbye to Banana Mouth for good, you’ll burst!

Well here it is, and you can do it too:

Slice your banana in half lengthways, and put it in the toaster. You’ll want to use tin foil, because banana drippings are very sticky. Toast twice. Take it out, and put it on a plate (keeping it on the tin foil, so you don’t have to wash the plate). Allow to cool for about two minutes, and eat with a fork.

The toasted banana will taste like dessert, and won’t make a sound in your mouth. Unless you chew with your mouth open, in which case pretty much everything you eat sounds like Banana Mouth. And, in which case, I can’t be your friend.

That’s what I learned in 2011.

And if it’s all I learned, I’m ok with that. I look back at myself a year ago, eating bananas raw, and wonder, “who WAS that person?”

So what about you?

What did you learn in the last year? Don’t say it’s too late for a reflection on 2011. That’s not constructive. But you can just tell me how you feel about Banana Mouth.

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  1. Victoria says

    The best part of that photo is the little piece of the Zabar’s logo in the corner. Even before you gave Marian photo credit I knew it was an authentic Belgray banana tree and not a generic photo you found on line.

    I am so happy that for once I am the first person to comment on your blog! 2012 is starting off right! xo

    • Laura says

      I know. Thank goodness for Marian’s photo, because I’ve tried searching Getty Images for “rotten, half-eaten bananas hanging on plastic hook” and NOTHING. They need to get their act together.

      BTW, Marian’s photo was captioned “Absolute Belgray.” I’ll admit right now that I have half a banana saved in a bowl, so I guess it’s sort of generational.( I don’t like to throw out food I could eat later, OK?) I just don’t hang them up.

  2. Mom Belgray says

    Aww shucks. I had just sent you a present of four ripe bananas which should arrive in about a week. If they don’t come in time, you’re welcome to share ours.

    • Laura says

      Thanks, Mom! I’ll probably wait for mine, since yours don’t look quite ripe enough. Did you send them from auntpaulsbananas.com?

  3. says

    You can always generate a good belly laugh, Laura. And since laughter is the best medicine, everyone should read your blog for health reasons.

    In one group I was in at work, there was a running gag a couple of guys used to play on each other. One guy hated the smell of bananas. So one of his friends would always hide a nice ripe one somewhere in his desk area. And he usually wouldn’t find it until it was black and juicy.

    Of course, then he would return the favor, usually with the same banana.

    I’m real curious how a toasted banana would taste. If it’s anything like one that has been sitting out unpeeled for a few days, I’m not interested. (Not that I eat those.)

    (Well, maybe on accident.)

    • Laura says

      Is there any worse smell? OK, maybe death and gangrene. But that’s about all I can think of. Nothing smells like garbage the way an overripe banana does.

  4. Bruce says

    I’m siding with Steven when it comes to Jonathan Schwartz. If I was on a long weekend drive I’d listen to him as well. I grew up listening to him on the old WNEW-FM when he used to begin his show with the phrase “Welcome to the evening” and ended it with “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” performed by Sounds Orchestral. I enjoy his “spittly” talking. It makes his words sound more intimate or it shows off the sensitivity of the high end microphone he’s using, or both.

    • Laura says

      Who wants that kind of intimacy? Ew. I’d be just fine with them using crappy sound equipment. Whatever it takes to muffle that sticky mouth. When he’s on, I yell at the radio, “GET A DRINK OF WATER!”

  5. Sam says

    You know, if you slice a lengthwise wedge out of the banana, and insert a row of chocolate chips, and THEN wrap in foil, toast, etc., well…it really IS dessert! Almost as good as my special banana bread (well, Laura Schiavo’s grandma’s recipe that I memorized 20 years ago…but at this point I call it mine).

    • Laura says

      I’m going to memorize your chocolate-banana toastie recipe, and, in 20 years, call it mine. I always liked Laura Schiavo. I took Henry Abelove’s Thoreau class with her, but didn’t know her well enough to try her grandma’s banana bread. Now I know I should’ve made more effort.

  6. says

    Outstanding! I never regret taking the time to read your blog Laura. You crack me up. I’m not a big banana fan myself (apart from in banana bread)… maybe subconsciously due to banana mouth. People eating with their mouth open kills me. Especially kids. What are their parents thinking allowing that shit to continue? Happy New Year from Australia… I look forward to your blogs this year, as always. I’m so inspired by you, I’ve just started my own… about Ayurvedic food and digestion (but in a fun way!). http://www.agniblog.com. Love Nadia xoxoxooxoxo

    • Laura says

      Thanks, Nadia. I’m glad you have no regrets about reading. I would hate to have people say, “well there’s three minutes I’ll never have back.”
      I agree, people need to train their kids’ mouths better. But grownups eating open-mouthed, to me, is much grosser.

      Good luck with the new blog! Congrats on launching. Maybe you can inspire me to be more consistent.

  7. says

    I didn’t know about the potassium-sodium balance. Now I feel bad that I took bananas out of Samson’s diet (poop problems). I guess we should re-introduce them, with some prunes. Your lesson from 2011 is my first lesson of 2012.
    Well, actually, the first lesson of the year was: if Dad asks for socks, give them to him. Along with toenail clippers (I’m referencing my other pic, which your blog fans won’t see, but do they really read OPCs anyway?)
    Rob’s big issue with NPR is how often they say “sort of” and “kind of.” I’ve found that those terms are usually followed by the spittle. Here’s a trick I learned from working at a sound studio: eat an apple before you go in the booth. It’s supposed to take away the spittle. Or you could just use your hot banana trick. Sounds nasty, btw. And doesn’t the effort defeat the purpose of the banana? It’s supposed to be an on-the-go treat.
    My new year’s resolution was to babble and free-associate more on other people’s blogs.
    Thanks for the photo cred.

    • Laura says

      A banana should never be an on-the-go treat. You should only eat it in complete privacy. If you take it on the go, you run the risk of running into someone and, not only offending them with the noise, but inviting comments like, “Practicing, Marian?”

      Rob is right. “Kind of” and “sort of” are usually followed by a short pause that pretends to be a thinking pause, but is actually a spittle-gathering pause.

      As for taking bananas out of Samson’s diet, are you sure that’s the right thing? Most sources say bananas aid digestion. Mom taught us that they’re binding, but I think she thought that because someone told her to give them to us if we have “l**se p** p**” (can’t even type it) – the purpose being to replace lost potassium.

      I never knew the apple trick!

      Thank you for making good on your resolution here. Your free associating is welcome any time.

  8. Allison Ariel says

    Here’s my 2011 banana-related lesson: when i was in Bali I got something called Bali Belly. I think I told you about it because I loved it. I lost 5 pounds in two days. So guess what I was told to eat along with plain white rice? Banana. If your toaster ever breaks you can avoid banana mouth by mashing it up and mixing it with rice. This would also work well if you ever lost your teeth.

      • Sam says

        I’ve had Bali Belly, in Bali, as well. Indeed a quick way to lose weight. Though what I’d really like to do is develop/market a mild strain of Dengue Fever: lose appetite for a week, and 10 pounds, but then everything you eat for the next 2 weeks tastes like heaven. (Even bananas). I want to market this to brides who are worried about a) fitting into their wedding dress and b) the quality of their caterers.

  9. says

    OMG, I was totally eating a banana as I read this – how’s that for a coincidence? I don’t know if I can ever eat another one without toasting it first, so thank you for that tip.

    Btw, if you have Netflix, you should watch the first scene of The Bothersome Man for a purposely revolting example of Banana Mouth Kissing. I respect that.

    • Laura says

      LaVonne, please don’t eat banana while reading this blog. It’s not your fault, I never communicated the rules properly. I’ll have to put up a no-banana policy. If you toast it, that’s another story.

      Thank you for the movie suggestion. Will put it in my “gross out” cue.

  10. says

    My husband listens to NPR religiously but goes apeshit when Jonathan Schwartz comes on and changes it immediately. He’s also quite sensitive to mouth noises – now it makes sense!

  11. says

    Thank you for the toasted banana idea and rescuing me from Banana Mouth. I have to eat one before I go running, otherwise, it’s called a “walk”.

    If you could find out how to avoid Banana Peel Left For Days Under Seat Of Car, please tell my husband.

  12. says

    Hmmm…I’ll have to pay more attention when someone (or me) eats a banana.

    And is putting tin foil in a toaster safe? Isn’t sticking a knife in there when it’s on one of those things that can kill you? Next to throwing the toaster into the bathtub? I think you are trying to kill us all!

    My equivalent of Banana Mouth is when people talk and have thick spit that collects on the sides of their mouth. Don’t they feel it? Ew. It’s my worst nightmare to think I have that going on.

  13. says

    I don’t know, Laura. That sound is actually the pinnacle of the banana eating experience. Without the sound it’s just another fruit. To me it says “I’m mushy, but I am also nutritious. I am also a phallus.”

  14. says

    Well, I just learned the term “Banana Mouth”, but not til 2012… Hahaha, I laughed so much the first time I read this blog entry I just read it aloud to the kids. They laughed too. Now they’ve moved on to Chubby Wubby. You are in good company, Laura!

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