You don't have to be bananas to post here, but it helps. April 21, 2008 5:42 AM   Subscribe

Metafilter's own soulbarn recently had his new book on bananas favorably reviewed at Salon. I look forward to reading it.
posted by TedW to MetaFilter-Related at 5:42 AM (39 comments total)

I had an idea a while back of writing a childrens book w/ a monkey (main character). various adventures the monkey has (a la curious george). Print the book on banana pulp paper and cut the cover/pages to the shape of banana leaves. Unfortunately never found the resources to do it. :(
posted by jmnugent at 6:07 AM on April 21, 2008

I heard soulbarn interviewed on Fresh Air a couple months back and he really had a fascinating story to tell. I do recommend!
posted by boubelium at 6:21 AM on April 21, 2008

Hopefully the book covers the government's secret development of bananaphone technology.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:25 AM on April 21, 2008

Some biblical scholars argue that the fruit Eve tasted in the Garden of Eden was not an apple, but the much more suggestively shaped banana. (From the Salon review.)

I would really love to see a reference for this. Because there's no way that an actual scholar, meaning someone with an earned, accredited doctorate in a relevant field, is arguing this. Someone may have fancifully suggested it somewhere, or made a joke of it, but if there is a single article in a Biblical studies journal where someone makes the case for a banana being the forbidden fruit, I'll eat my hat. There are tons of real Biblical scholars doing real linguistic and historical research, but you'd never know it based on the nonsense that comes from the the never-named, amorphous "Biblical scholars" of this and other articles.

/pet peeve filter
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:26 AM on April 21, 2008 [4 favorites]

My wife heard that Fresh Air interview and has been telling everyone about it. Goon on ya, soulbarn. Fascinating stuff.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:59 AM on April 21, 2008

The very thought of the dreaded banana makes me feel sick to my stomach, but this book sounds absolutely fascinating, and good fun to boot. Bit of a conundrum for me, that. I suppose reading something that would make me feel a bit vommy every time its central subject was mentioned could at least be an interesting experience...
posted by jack_mo at 7:00 AM on April 21, 2008

posted by cortex (staff) at 7:16 AM on April 21, 2008

One of the things mentioned in the interview was the variety of local bananas grown around the world. Anyone here tasted anything exotic and care to share? I am afraid my experience is entirely Dole-based.
posted by boubelium at 7:30 AM on April 21, 2008

I heard soulbarn interviewed on Fresh Air a couple months back and he really had a fascinating story to tell.

Same here. Congrats, soulbarn! Any admins care to fix the munged link that presumably is supposed to go to his userpage? Goon on you!
posted by languagehat at 7:38 AM on April 21, 2008

Fantastic! I thought a few years ago that a book about bananas and their spread would be a great read - thankyou for writing it for me! I really look forward to reading it.

Boubelium: ladyfinger bananas are my favourite (I think aka sugar bananas). They're small and delicately sweet. Would you count plantains as well? Fried up with sugar, mmm.
posted by goo at 7:48 AM on April 21, 2008

posted by cortex (staff) at 7:50 AM on April 21, 2008

That book looks great, soulbarn - congrats! And thanks for posting this, TedW.

From the book's blog, here's the original article in Popular Science.

*wipes goon off monitor*
posted by mediareport at 7:51 AM on April 21, 2008

Pater Aletheias: "I would really love to see a reference for this. Because there's no way that an actual scholar, blah blah blah blah"

Besides, everyone knows it was a daikon radish.
posted by Plutor at 7:58 AM on April 21, 2008

boubelium, I tried some bananas in Tanzania recently. No idea what kind they were (I should have asked the guide, who'd picked them up at the market). They were small, anyway, not much longer than the length of my palm, and incredibly fresh. Definitely more depth and complexity of flavour than what I'm used to getting in Canada or the US, even organic. Not sweeter, but the sweetness was accentuated by sort of citrusy-pineappley undernotes. Mmmmm...
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:01 AM on April 21, 2008

Some scholars hold that it was, in fact, a durian.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:01 AM on April 21, 2008

And also that Adam and Eve ejected themselves from the garden after eating it, just to put some distance between them and the smell.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:02 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

This scholar would like to suggest the Peter Pepper.

He would also like to thank cortex for fixing his link.
posted by TedW at 8:15 AM on April 21, 2008

Picked by packs of pickled pikers?
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:31 AM on April 21, 2008

Bananas: White Turds.

(congrats on the book though)

oh, and to all those people that whine "oohhhh, I need my potasssssiuummmm," eat a kiwi.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:37 AM on April 21, 2008

I have the banana book and am waiting until dreaded finals are over so I can begin to read books for purely enjoyment purposes again. I bought the book after hearing the NPR interview, and then seeing his name pop up in the recent Metatalk post about MeFi authors among us. I love it when things come together.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:39 AM on April 21, 2008

We've already done the love bananas/hate bananas discussion in the xkcd fruit chart thread. No need to repeat it so soon.
posted by mediareport at 8:40 AM on April 21, 2008

Awesome. I didn't know that was a MeFite on Fresh Air. It was a really entertaining interview. I had a driveway moment. I was just pulling in when you started singing the Chiquita banana song so I couldn't turn it off. Congrats! I'll have to pick it up.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 8:59 AM on April 21, 2008

cortex: "Some scholars hold that it was, in fact, a durian."

Proof, verbatim:

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying: 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 18 Because it smells like my ass.'
posted by Plutor at 9:17 AM on April 21, 2008

In Soviet Russia, bananas goon you!
posted by AwkwardPause at 10:52 AM on April 21, 2008

Pater Aletheias, you and your "Pet Peeve Filter" should have googled. Now you have been goongled.

The banana/bible reference is from the Winter/Spring 2004 issue of "Judaism." Read it online here:

Where should I send the ranch dressing for your hat?


- soulbarn
posted by soulbarn at 12:06 PM on April 21, 2008

Aw, no way, a MeFite wrote that banana book? That's great! When that NPR interview came on a few weeks back, as soon as I heard the phrase "banana scientist" I was instantly engaged, and on arriving home I hung out in my parked car in my driveway so that I could listen to the whole thing. Great job, soulbarn! Since then I've told many a person about how the Cavendish has usurped the Gros Michel, and I am dying, dying, to try a Lakatan at some point.

I tend to dislike this new genre of popular books which try to make the case that the entire history of the world has hinged upon some totally insignificant thing, like salt, or cod, or the Irish, but man, everyone loves bananas.
posted by painquale at 12:21 PM on April 21, 2008

It's certainly a topic with appeal.
posted by Abiezer at 12:30 PM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oof. You shouldn't have let that one slip.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:56 PM on April 21, 2008

This shit is bananas.

What's all this gobbledygook about selective breeding? Surely this beautiful fruit was intelligently designed by that most intelligent if designers to fit perfectly in the palm of the first man's hand, no? (This is, after all, the reason lowly apes won't touch the things.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:15 PM on April 21, 2008

I hate, hate, hate bananas, but heard the NPR interview, and it was so good, I even briefly considered the possibility that I might like other breeds of bananas than those I've tried.
posted by dizziest at 1:25 PM on April 21, 2008

Heh. I heard the Fresh Air interview and immediately put the book on hold at my library. Got it early last week and enjoyed the read greatly. Nice work, sir.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 1:58 PM on April 21, 2008

posted by trip and a half at 2:57 PM on April 21, 2008

Keepin' it real, banana peel. HURF DURF GOONERS!
posted by not_on_display at 3:06 PM on April 21, 2008

Cool! I read that online article a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. Very engaging stuff.
posted by mosessis at 8:18 PM on April 21, 2008

I hope this book includes the fact that bananas were once called "long apples" and "apples of paradise" (according to this list)!

I really liked the original Popular Science article when I read it a while ago. That article, along with Oranges by John McPhee and The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, featured in an essay I wrote - which won a little award and made me happy. I'd self-link it but I'm not that brazen.
posted by dreamyshade at 10:03 PM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

go ahead and link it, I'd like to read it.
posted by soulbarn at 6:24 AM on April 22, 2008

OK, here you go. Now that I re-read that, your banana article seems to be more "mentioned" than "featured", but it influenced the whole thing (as did the other works I read).

Bonus links: the political and economic symbolism of bananas in postwar Germany, banana juiceboxes, banana pants, and the geostationary banana. Yes, perhaps I am a fan of fruit.
posted by dreamyshade at 9:43 PM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

Hey, soul barn. That article was written by a physician, not a Bible scholar, and the article didn't appear in a Biblical studies journal. If that's all you've got, I'm sticking with what I wrote.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:00 PM on April 26, 2008

Here's the "argument" made by the physician that the banana was the forbidden fruit.

A more attractive theory is that it was the banana, a (dangerous?) fruit foreign to the Middle East and growing originally in Africa and India.

If bananas are foreign to the Middle East, isn't it less likely, rather than more that they would be alluded to in an ancient Middle Eastern text?

Banana leaves are longer than small fig leaves for making a genital covering.

What the Bible says is "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
(Gen 3:7) Notice--the fig leaves covering were not said to only cover their genitals--that's from later artwork, not the Bible. Also, they leaves weren't from the forbidden fruit, they were from a different tree--the fig tree. What the leaves came from has no bearing whatsoever on what the forbidden fruit was. Also, unless someone wants to make a case that fig is a bad translation and the word really means banana, the whole thing is a non-starter.

To this day in Israel bananas are sometimes called by the Hebrew [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the fig of Eve. In botanical terms the banana is the Musa sapientum, the fruit of wisdom.

I have no idea whether it is true that bananas are called the "fig of Eve," but I rather doubt it, since googling banana and "fig of Eve" gets seven hits. All are either the article you mention or a reference to your book. Since the author of the article is not a Biblical scholar and hasn't even bothered to read the text closely enough to realize that more than one plant shows up in the story, I'm not going to give him the benefit of the doubt. And, at any rate, even if it is true, that's an awfully shaky foundation for an argument that a banana was the forbidden fruit.

If I might ask a question: you referred to Schneir Levin in your book as a "biblical archeologist." The article you quote says that he is "physician for children in Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes on medical and psychological aspects of biblical and religious issues." Did you misstate his occupation, or did he leave pediatrics to pursue a new doctorate in archeology that launched a career change for him?

I'm sure your book is interesting, but if you are this sloppy with your Biblical information, which is my field, how can I trust that you did appropriate fact checking elsewhere? Because building a chapter around one article from a pediatrician doesn't cut it, even if you do call him a Biblical archaeologist.

Did you actually think he was one, or did you just know that people would catch on if you said "pediatrician Schneir Levin"?

My apologies if Levin actually is a Biblical archaeologist. Strange that the article wouldn't mention that he was actually credentialed in the field, though, isn't it?
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:28 PM on April 26, 2008

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