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Is that a banana in your pocket?

Or are you just happy reading about one?


Shirley, Shirley bo Birley, Bonana fanna fo Firley,

Fee fy mo Mirley, Shirley!


Lincoln, Lincoln bo Bincoln, Bonana fanna fo Fincoln,

Fee fy mo Mincoln, Lincoln!

Come on everybody!

I say now let's play a game

I betcha I can make a rhyme out of anybody's name…

Okay, Arnold and Marsha and everybody else who thought that Shirley Ellis was playing her famous rhyming game in 1963 with a "banana". Hands up!

Sorry, friends, as you can see it’s close, but according to the official lyrics, there ain’t no bananas, or is that, yes, we have no bananas?

Unlike Hollywood’s 1930s Brazilian dreamboat, Carmen Miranda, and every eponymously named costume for Halloween and otherwise that piles banana-adorned turbans high on party-goers heads. Or the lithe and beautiful dancer, Josephine Baker who charmed Parisians in the ’20s wearing little other than pearls and skirts – or were those belts? – of bananas. All those fat yellow fingers…

Oh my. You weren’t blushing were you? Josephine certainly didn’t. But many Victorian "ladies" did when confronted with the suggestive but innocent fruit. In fact, many a polite hostess excluded them from the dining table. If served at all, the only proper way was to do so singly, on a fine china plate, with a knife and fork, preferably silver. Guests would dispatch same quickly but with as much decorum as possible. Oh, but weren’t they delicious?

Poor banana. Standing in for the real thing in how many high school classroom demos of condoms? And foiling up how many citizens of good standing in stage and screen pratfalls?

Once a luxury food for the rich and well-travelled, and also the mainstay of slaves and the impoverished – how many classist lines has the banana crossed? And how many bounds of reality?

Have you ever known anyone who actually slipped on a banana peel and fell? Of course not. They decompose quickly so they’re only slippery for a very short time. Plus they’re big and easy to see.

How likely would it be to trip on one? How about if you smoked it?

Does anybody out there actually admit to trying to scrape a banana peel and smoking it to get high? Okay, so it was back in the weird hippie days, but, hey, what did you think Donovan was singing about in "Mellow Yellow"?

The groovy idea was this: the whitish lining of the banana peel could induce hallucinogenic states similar to those experienced with LSD. So everybody was eating, peeling, scraping and smoking. Or at least they were according to an article in a 1967 issue of Newsweek , which reported that from Harvard to Haight-Ashbury, a banana-buying boom was underway.

By publishing these helpful instructions , Time magazine furthered the cause, as it is often prone to do (see Time for helpful hints on buying Kalishnikovs on the cheap next time you need to start a revolution). "Banana-heads scrape the white fibres from inside of the peel, boil the scrapings into a paste, which is then baked (ah ha, so that’s why it didn’t work!). The dark brown ash that results is smoked in hand-rolled cigarette ‘joints’ or in pipes and tastes vaguely like a burning compost heap."

Staff at the alternative newspaper, the Berkeley Barb, must have been laughing all the way to the party. They started the whole thing by running the recipe as a spoof, a satire, a verbal pratfall. It was picked up by the Village Voice , the Los Angeles Free Press , and on and on it went.

Here’s another banana myth down the tubes: Bananas really aren’t the core of a monkey’s diet, at least not for most of them, and certainly not in nature. Most monkeys don’t inhabit the same habitat as banana trees, which, by the by, aren’t trees, but herbs.

So where did the monkey/banana crossover come from? Maybe people’s imaginations conflated fruit vendors, who sold bananas, and organ grinders, who entertained in the streets and often kept monkeys to attract passersby. Or maybe it came from the fact that monkeys are goofy and endearing and so are bananas.

Oh come on now, they are too – just the sound of the name, "banana". Go ahead, change it to "bonana." And the way they look alone – like a big yellow smile – or in clusters, like when they’re made into a skirt, albeit a very short skirt, for dancing. Happy now?


Please pass the bananas

My mom likes to tell a story about two little old ladies she overheard on the bus one day. One said that she’d had her banana that morning for breakfast. The other nodded sagely. Oh yes, she said, you have to have your bananas. They’re loaded with phosphorous – so good for you No, dear, corrected, the other. It’s the potash.

No, dearies, you’re both wrong. It’s the potassium.

One average banana contains the following (and we’re talking about the most common commercial variety of the 300-plus varieties, the gros michel , which weighs in at about 100 grams and is 7 or 8 inches long):

368 mg of potassium

1 mg of sodium

29% of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin B6

15% of the RDA for Vitamin C

7% of the RDA for magnesium, 6% of the copper and 2% of the iron you need.

In deference to one of those old ladies, bananas do contain phosphorus (about 2 per cent of the RDA), but the main health ingredient you’re after is the potassium, so important for proper muscle functioning and the proper balance of body fluids. Why do you think they serve bananas after marathons?

The New England Journal of Medicine

also reports that one extra serving a day of potassium-rich food can cut the risk of death from stroke by as much as 40 per cent.

Can you pass me another banana?

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who takes her bananas organic.