There are millions of stories out there on The Dish That Changed Everything; the magical moment when an aspiring gourmand did a 180 and learned to embrace the mushrooms, liver, kale, or other formerly offensive ingredient that had plagued their life until that moment. “I used to hate X,” they write. “And then, one day, I discovered….” Even Mark Bittman follows this well-worn path by admitting his prior distaste of celery in the New York Times Magazine.
This is not one of those stories.
I consider myself an omnivore. After 12 years of semi-vegetarianism (mostly an excuse for my semi-picky eating habits and avoidance of semi-raw meats), I plunged back into the ingredient pool with gusto, slurping down oysters, nibbling up sweetbreads, jonesing for the huitlacoche tacos at La Esquina. I’ll generally try anything once—though I still haven’t managed to get my brain around the eye-dea of eating an eyeball—but I’ll always go out of my way to steer clear of bananas.
Yes! Bananas! Not raw, not caramelized, not fried, not frozen, not with ice cream, not in pudding, not baked into bread, not in dried chip form, not even blended into a smoothie. I can detect it. I know it’s there. My hatred of bananas is a one-two punch of taste and texture. Its flavor disgusts me the way the soapy flavor of cilantro makes others gag. (For the record, I used to hate cilantro, but now I love it. So there.) And the way its pasty texture coats the mouth makes me feel like I’m suffocating while eating a piece of starchy tropical Styrofoam.
On a lesser scale, I feel the same way about eggplant. The aubergines get a partial pass because their taste isn’t as repellent (in fact, they don’t really have a taste at all; like tofu, they soak up other flavors) but when cooked, their mushy texture leaves me shuddering. One of the worst elements of vegetarianism, for me, was restaurants’ default use of grilled eggplant as the meat-free entree on so many menus. Talk about a rock and a hard place. Or a rock and an oily, spongy place.
Along with pumpkin pie (easy to avoid out of season), there aren’t many other ingredients with such an unpalatable taste/texture combination that inspires an almost irrational revulsion within. There are a few whose flavors I’ll cross the street to avoid, though. In the interest of getting it all off my chest, do you know what I hate? I hate: salmon, cooked green peppers, curry powder and anything with large quantities of cumin, raisins unless they’re in raisin bran, and most sprouts.
Most of the time, I can find a way to work around my dislike of these things—smoked salmon, for example, is a glorious way to make lemonade out of fishy lemons, and green peppers are pretty easy to get over unless you’ve plonked them onto my pizza. But I just can’t with bananas. They permeate. They infect my nostrils with their sickly smell. I know you’ll try to be well-meaning and make recommendations for recipes, asking “well, have you ever tried bananas this way?” It won’t work.
So please, stop your howls of protest, your exhortations to “just try it—maybe your tastes have changed!’ I’m not here to make friends with bananas. We’ve loathed each other since the day we met, and as much as I’d like to write a story a year from now talking about the magical moment when the banana ceased to be my nemesis and instead became my most beloved craving, it’s just not meant to be. More for you!
However, I’m happy to eat your unwanted olives, anchovies, mushrooms, tuna, pickles, squid, fish sauce, lardo, and tapioca. Why anyone doesn’t want to eat that stuff is beyond me.