Sunday, January 15, 2012


I love bananas. Who doesn't? But would you think that there is enough to know about bananas to write an entire book? I don't mean some technical treatise aimed at botanists, I mean a popular book aimed at people like you and me. I wouldn't have thought so.

Until I read Banana: The Fate Of the Fruit That Changed the World, by Dan Koeppel. Koeppel writes not only a fascinating history of this delicious fruit, but an in-depth discussion of the dangers it faces from disease (much of it exacerbated by bad growing practices and bad politics). Bananas are not only the world's favorite sweet fruit, but a staple food in many parts of the world, where less-sweet versions are a basic starch, comparable to rice in Asia or potatoes in the US and UK.

Koeppel left me with a deep appreciation of one of my favorite foods, a craving to try a variety of banana nearly extinct, and more than a little concern that the fruit that is such an important part of my diet may not survive.

Of course, I should have known that, in the hands of a skilled and dedicated author, even so common a thing as a banana could make for fascinating reading. After all, just a couple of years ago, I read a very long, very interesting book on another common kitchen item: salt.

Salt A World History, by Mark Kurlansky, covers the topic of salt in detail that would be excruciating were it not for the fact that it so well written, and structured to carry you along in the political and practical history of something that everyone in the modern developed world takes for granted.

There are probably a lot of simple, everyday items—foods, simple tools, articles of clothing—that have fascinating back stories waiting to be uncovered by the right author. Something as simple as, say, a pencil.

Oh, wait. I think a friend of mine posted something on Facebook about a book on the history of the pencil. I think I might have to read that ....

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's Not My Fault!

It's not my fault my weight is rising.
It's genetics, or it's advertising.
It's all those meals supersized
That make my scale's numbers rise.

High fructose corn syrup, that's the reason
My body shape's no longer pleasin'.
And dollar menus make me swell
At Mickey D's or Taco Bell.

I admit my waist is bigger,
But there must be some outside trigger.
It can't be that it's all my fault;
I take that with a grain of salt.
And yes, a pat of butter, too,
And just a spot of cream, it's true.

Alright, I know, I love to eat,
And spend too much time in my seat,
And tend to think that exercise
Is merely torture in disguise.
I wouldn't be so oversize
Were I less stubborn and more wise.

But every day I hear excuses
(Excuses have so many uses)
Absolving me of any blame
For sloth and gluttony without shame.

Pudgy people cannot stop
Chowing down until they pop.
Hidden messages and secret voices
Bombard them 'til they have no choices.

And something in their ancestral make-up
Decides just how much room they'll take up.
It's done, it's through, it's set in stone.
You can't be thin, that bird has flown.

You might as well enjoy the ride
(With hot fudge sundaes on the side):
Eat and drink! Scream and shout!
And feel free to slouch about.

Of course, there is a small contingent
Whose  ideas are much more stringent.
They believe that gaining weight
Is not to be left up to fate.

Move! they say, eat less, do more!
Get up! Get out now! This is war!
Beat that fat and beat that flab;
Chubby's horrid, thin is fab!

Voices haunt me in the night,
No excuses for my plight
I'm not in shape to mount a fight:
The fact is that they're probably right.