Tuesday, July 21, 2009

dorian gray in the tropics

We all know at least one.

The person who tells you breathlessly that the people at work -- or church -- or the club -- think she is younger than she is. "They all say: 'I don't look my age."

It is, of course, a transparent absurdity. We all look the age we are -- because that is how old we are.

I suspect that the "compliment" is not often offered in the tropics.

The combination of heat and humidity is death to man-made structures -- and to nature's bounty.

That thought hit me as I was returning from the local fruit seller earlier this week.

I had purchased a small hand of bananas.

I should pause right here. When I say "bananas," you should completely forget about the Cavendish bananas you will find at Safeway.

The Cavendish is the world-wide standard banana since the 1950s for its uniformity, size, and alleged disease-resistance. It turns out, though, it is not disease resistant, and will remain as the standard banana for probably no more than another decade or so.

The Cavendish also travels well with its thick skin -- not unlike the best type of tourist.

The down side of the Cavendish is that it is not very tasty. It is uniform, but bland. Like the worst type of tourist.

Mexico offers a large variety of bananas. Usually smaller than a Cavendish, but much sweeter, softer, and thin-skinned.

Back to that hand of bananas.

I picked bananas that still had a touch of green, but were solid and yellow. But by the time I got them back to the house, three of them had already gone bad in the heat. By that evening, you see what the remainder looked like at the top of this post.

I have quickly learned that almost anything I purchase here needs to be used within a day or two of getting it home. If I don't, it will simply go bad like an unruly teenager. That has been true with lunch meat, chicken breasts, mangoes, pineapple -- and now, bananas.

And I doubt anyone is going to tell one of my bananas: "You certainly don't look your age."

But for a little age humor, I found this Groucho Marx-Jack Benny clip. Enjoy:


Constantino said...

Why would you keep fruits and vegetables longer than a day or two anyway?
You purchase to use or eat the same day. Only NOB do people buy up for weeks in advance and say they enjoy the taste of produce without flavor!
After all, you go to the Mercado daily don't you?
It's a social thing...

Jonna said...

One of the better things I did with this house renovation is make space in the kitchen for a built in wine cooler. I knew it was going to be for fruit more than wine since I'd suffered for years with fruit rotting in a day or two and fruit flies everywhere. I set it to red wine and the fruit ripens slowly, doesn't rot, no fruit flies and it is cool when you eat it. I could pick whatever temp I want actually but I'm lazy and just hit the red wine button. It doesn't use a lot of electricity either. Even the bananas don't turn brown as they do in the fridge. With bananas though, I mostly use them in smoothies so I peel them and freeze them when they are ripe. Frozen bananas are wonderful when it is hot.

CancunCanuck said...

Too true, too true. I have to buy fresh stuff in very small quantities or it ends up in the trash, especially bananas!

And I hope people tell me I don't look my age for a long time to come..... :)

Felipe said...

Oh, please, don´t start with the video clips. They just clog things up.

On the banana matter, you keep running into more and more of the reasons that rational Gringos do not live in the Mexican tropics, no matter how sweet the sound of crashing surf.

Islagringo said...

I don't know whether to comment on the age thing or the bananas. I think I will choose age. Safer.

I doubt that the Mexicans care about looking their age, but they never do. I have yet to accurately guess someone's age. And a word to the wise. If asked by a Mexican, "How old are you?", don't ever say "Guess". You will be unpleasantly shocked by the response!

Nancy said...

You probably know what I'm going to say.

"Cut them in one inch pieces, freeze, and use for smoothies."

Laurie said...

Dorian Grey? Another creepy guy is Benjamin Button. The movie was tedious, but Brad was gorgeous. Almost as gorgeous as the NOLA scenery. And bananas. I just eat' em quick. I also learned to shop often. It is a social thing, and sometimes you find treasures. I found fresh okra during my last days before the exile. I was delighted with the gumbo that resulted.

Anonymous said...

Felipe is a very good writer, but he is wrong on his video complaint. Blogs offer a lot of ways to make a point. They are not just about writing. If a video makes that point, I would like to see it. This one worked perfectly. Jack Benny is a running age joke. It tied perfectly with your essay. I do admit it was a bit long, but that was in an era when people took their time to enjoy life (even in humor).


Calypso said...

It is a fact that fruits and vegetables will not last as long as their tasteless U.S. counterparts.

I assume it has to do with less sprays and processes to keep product 'viable'.

I will have to check out Jonna's wine cooler idea. We bought a glass door cooler on a whim a couple months ago with the idea of a wine cooler - this is even better.

Inmigrante Rentista said...

I am more concerned about your use of the trinity, set in the circle of life, than bad teens or fruits.

Steve Cotton said...

Constantino -- I envy your life in central Mexico. Even your shopping sounds as if it came from a movie set about life in Mexico. We have no mercado here in Melaque. But we do have established stores that are indistinguishable from shops in any small American town. The place where I buy my fruit and vegetables is not a place for socializing. Everybody rushes in, picks up a few items, and then stands in long lines waiting to pay their money to the fellow who weighs their purchases. I do not think I have heard more than greetings pass between him and his customers. He is pleasant enough, but his job is to run as many customers through the store as quickly as possible. He gets fresh produce in twice a week. I buy enough only to hold me over for those three or four days. Even so, things rot. And they will rot in his store just as quickly. It is one of the prices we pay to live next to the great sea.

Jonna -- I saw a wine cooler in Wal-Mart on Saturday. I could not imagine how I would use it. Now I do.

CancunCanuck -- You, of course, are the exception to the age tale.

Felipe -- And the bugs have finally discovered where I live -- even in the heat of the day.

Islandgringo -- When people ask me my age, I simply answer: "I'm 192." A witty tour guide in Thailand fired back: "What's that? Your weight?"

Nancy -- I have never had a smoothie. I should try one. I keep thinking they are going to taste like those dreadful concoctions served at the state fair to help sell the Vita-Master -- or whatever those things are called.

Laurie -- Good news on the okra -- for you. It is not one of my favorites. But I have learned to eat squash. Maybe okra will be on the list.

Harlan -- Felipe's point seemed to be more about bandwidth and blog format, rather than content. I included the video because I thought it fit in with the rest of the piece.

Steve Cotton said...

Calypso -- I think most of the produce sold here has thinner skins than those shipped to THe States -- with the exception of peppers and tomatoes that seem to be very thick-skinned. That may make one difference. And most everything sold here is table ready -- not picked green.

Inmigrante Rentista -- Help me with that one, oh, sage. I am not certain where we are headed.

Anonymous said...

Canned fruit.

Jan said...

For years we've been peeling and freezing because we had a banana tree....so follow Nancy's suggestion. They are so delicious and sweet - and they make you look younger. Also, I always thought the dewy look made you look youthful.

Steve Cotton said...

Anonymous (and I can see why you made that choice) -- Eating canned fruit in Mexico is like watching television at the opera. You can do it, but why not enjoy the real thing?

Jan -- I will need to check into buying a blender. I am not very fond of fruit juices. Maybe this will change my mind. And who wants to look younger? I worked awfully hard to get to 60. I am proud to wear my stripes.

1st Mate said...

Without being able to give them a pinch I couldn't say for sure, but those bananas look edible to me. Maybe more than you want to eat at one sitting. I don't like any green on my bananas, they taste bitter. When they get soft I just peel them and stick them in a Ziplock, don't even cut them up, and freeze them. We make smoothies with a frozen banana, some fruit juice, some ice and a little protein powder. Instead of buying them by the hand, you might try buying individual bananas: a couple of very green ones, a couple with green tips and one ready to eat.

Joanne said...

The way to keep the bananas from ripening/rotting too quickly is to pull the bunch apart so each banana is a singleton, not attached to another. They last much longer this way. And I buy my bananas in Mexico too, so they are already on the slippery slope downward when I get them. I don't know why this works, but it does. Yes, they are all in the same fruit bowl, just not attached to each other.

Babs said...

Ahh, but don't you know that humidity actually keeps you from getting wrinkled and old looking. I'm actually 85 but lived in the tropics of Houston for so long I don't look THAT age! Yuk, yuk.

Steve Cotton said...

1st Mate -- I eat bananas 1) as a raw fruit alone; 2) on my cereal; or 3) in a fruit salad. Two of the pictured bananas went on my cereal this morning. Between the time I took the photograph and 11 this morning, the third banana had literally liquified. Not very good for any of its three intended purposes. But there is a new shipment tomorrow when I will buy four more bananas until Saturday's delivery.

Joanne -- I do not need to pull them apart. When I pick them up at the fruit stand, they fall off the hand into my hand. That means when I drop them in the bleach solution at home, one end of the fruit is exposed. I often wonder if that water exposure speeds up the rotting process.

Babs -- From what I can tell from looking at my neighbors, the heat and humidity has exactly the same affect on people as it has on bananas. Like Shanri-La, but in reverse.

Anonymous said...

I don't care one way about the video, but very clever fruit photograph. The age thing? You don't care because you are one of the people who look young.


Steve Cotton said...

Horst -- Thanks for the photograph comment. I thought the photograph was too subtle. Maybe, it's blatant. I will undoubtedly hear from the clown union.

glorv1 said...

Well, I disagree with Felipe. This video played out very well with the topic of age. Jack Benny always said he was 39 and hey I sure don't look my age. I love bananas, potassium and brother do I need that because of night leg cramps at times. I really appreciate the hints about freezing bananas and using for smoothies. I have 3 sitting on my counter and I'm doing that right now. Have a great Wednesday and give Jiggs some cold carrots, he'll love them. My Chocolatte eats carrots and just enjoys them so much. Take care.

Nancy said...

I don't put my bananas through the purification. I think that might have a lot to do with their early demise.

Jonna said...

I'm with Nancy, bananas grow up in the air not down in the muck or at least that's my excuse ;) I don't soak much anymore though, I'm adjusted I guess. You could wash the banana just before peeling. I know water getting into the skin will make them go bad faster.

Steve Cotton said...

Gloria -- Maybe we need to be of a certain age to enjoy Groucho's humor pace. But that should include Felipe.

Nancy -- Bananas really do not need the bleach job. They are the one fruit I eat where the outside of the peel never touches the fruit. I sent them through the same process as the rest of the fruit because they sit in the same fruit bowl. From now on, they will be segregate to their own bowl -- without a chemical bath. Maybe I can eke out an extra day or two. We will see what happens with tomorrow's purchase.

Jonna -- Several people have told me the vegetable-fruit dunking we go through is really overkill. I was just thinking of the amount of fruit I eat between the store and my house -- and I have not get sick from any of it.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to natural food! Even here in the states, I find that organic produce doesn't have the shelf life of its "conventional" brethren. I'd imagine that most of the stuff you buy is a lot less treated overall than the stuff you find in the markets here. Consider that a benefit, not a drawback.

And a tip 'o the hat to Jonna with the wine cooler suggestion. Brilliant!

And while we're talking about fruit that expires before its time, I can attest to the fact that once an avocado hits its prime, you can safely refrigerate it to stop the clock. Works like a charm.

And as a final comment, I love how Brad Pitt came up in the context of bananas. Such a lively audience you have!


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where unpicked fruit and vegetables can often freeze right there on the vine. Especially in late October.

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- I would not count on most of the products in my little fruit and vegetable store making the FDA standards for "organic." But much of it is very good.

As for the comments by readers, they are the best. I often wonder what comments each post will engender -- and I am always pleasantly surprised. Bananas and Bad Pitt was completely unanticipated -- in a way.

Mic said...

When told I look younger than I should at 66 yrs - I say it's because I'm freeze dried 6 months of the year living in Alaska - so I should look half my age. I don't, so guess I look older than I should :-)....but "a rose is a rose...."and me is me. I was so glad when hair turned grey and I started reaping the benefits of being older.

Never thought I'd have use for a wine cooler - now I gotta get one :-) Thanks Jonna.

Steve Cotton said...

Mic -- I look back at some of our family photographs. In earlier generations, people looked as if they getting ready for God's Waiting Room at 60. They dressed as grandparents. These days, our generation seems to act as if death is something that will occur to someone else, but certainly not to us -- and we dress accordingly. I noticed today that my Canadian and American compatriots dress far more similar to the boys and girls on the beach than they do to their grandparents on the streets of Melaque. And that is not necessarily a compliment.

Mic said...

Know what you mean, Steve. Actually, clothes covering is shade in it's own way...providing it's the right style and type - aimed at coolness rather than warmth.

I'm sewing some afghan types (with hidden zippered pockets for necessary valuables so I won't have to carry a purse) for my eventual trip to MX as they pack well. Do you think that would be presentable for public in MX?? They are colorful/attractive/comfortable. Easily thrown off for a quick dip if you wear a swim suit beneath.

In the meantime, they are comfortable loungers for home wear here.

Mic said...

Oops...meant "caftan" types

Steve Cotton said...

Mic -- That is what I thought. Unless you were sewing a burqa for yourself.