Sunday Papers: On Bananas
Oh, so many interesting things in today's Sunday papers. I'll have to spread them out. Let's start with bananas. Because I'll just bet you didn't know that they have a secret life.
According to this shocking NYTimes exposé revealing the clandestine nature of the lowly banana, there are about 20 million (MILLION) bananas distributed around New York City in one week. (Hmmm--hard to remain a secret in those numbers. But I digress.)
The refrigerated containers they arrive on these days are far removed from the old banana boats, "slimy with bananas," and containing spiders, snakes, roaches, and lots and lots of crickets. And the occasional stowaway. The bananas arrive green and hard before put into ripening rooms, not a sunny warm tropical place like you may imagine but a dark and cool garage-like room. In that room, the ripeners adjust ethylene, humidity and temperature by tapping a touch-screen. It's a delicate process; one wouldn't want to stress the bananas. We've all had some of those, eh?
The art and science of ripening had accidents and glitches before perfection. In 1936, a banana company's building exploded from the combustible ethylene, causing it to rain bananas! Oh, boy. get your banana umbrella out, folks.
Ripening takes about four days. There's a ripeness chart with shades of ripeness numbered from one to seven. "One is flag-of-Brazil green and seven a buttery yellow, with brown spots." No one buys sevens. Too many loads of sevens can cause sleepless nights to banana companies.
There was a time in the 19th century when refrigeration and shipping speed combined to make bananas so popular and plentiful that the peels were a serious hazard. A headline in the NYT in 1896 declared a "War on the Banana Skin." Before anti-littering laws, people would just eat the fruit and discard the peels wherever they were. As they rotted, the peels would become quite slippery and dangerous. The problem grew so bad that modern urban street sanitation systems were invented mostly to deal with the peel; in New York City, the banana peel actually became something of a symbol of modern sanitation. Hence, the traditional slipping-on-a-banana peel "joke." Anytime a cartoon character ends up crashing into a trash can, garbage truck, or any other public-sanitation device, he's likely to find himself having at least one banana peel stuck to him.(However, a fresh banana peel is hardly slippery at all. It's quite possible you're more likely to slip on dog poop. Ooh.)
"A banana has two uses: food... and entertainment." Garfield.
In looking for a comic strip I might use and not break a thousand copyright laws, I came across instead, from David (no last name provided), who posts articles from NYTimes appearing 100 years ago: