Josna Rege

339. It’s the Way That You Do It

In Food, Media, Music, Stories on July 18, 2015 at 9:53 am
from Babies (2010)

from Babies (2010)

‘Tain’t What You Do
(It’s the Way That You Do It)
                                        sung here by Ella Fitzgerald (1939)

Of course the taste of our food is critically important to our enjoyment of it, but, as we all know, so is the texture; and it’s not only the texture, but the way we eat the food, and even the way we prepare to eat it, that makes all the difference.

Take bananas, for instance. There’s a scene in the documentary film, Babies (2010), in which a nearly-one-year-old baby takes great pride in peeling her first banana entirely on her own. What struck me as I watched it was the way that, after peeling back the skin strip by strip, she took hold of one of the stringy bits that run up and down the length of the banana (phloem bundles) and fastidiously picked that off as well. Mastery!

I had a similar thrill when I found out that a banana naturally splits in thirds lengthwise and learned how to do it. Preparing it this way changed my whole experience of eating it.

There are dozens of instructions and videos on the Internet describing and demonstrating different ways to peel a banana. Here’s one, and here’s another. Each of these is someone’s preferred method and gives that person his or her particular pleasure in the eating.

Just as the way that a person prepares to eat a particular food is unique, so is the way in which she eats it. It’s also a pleasure that is best experienced alone. When I eat a nearly-overripe mango by, first, rolling it around in my hands to pulp the flesh inside, then, making a hole at the top and, finally, squeezing and sucking out the sweet pulp, I don’t want anyone watching me while I commune with the essence of mango.

from leenaeats.com

from leenaeats.com

The last time I was in our family hometown of Ratnagiri with my son, he filmed our visit to the fish market. Later, when I watched the footage, I found that, while I had been watching my cousin bargaining with the canny fishwives, he had been filming a toothless old woman sucking the pulp out of a mango. She was thoroughly and unself-consciously enjoying the experience until she started to have a funny feeling that she was being watched. She kept pausing to look around suspiciously, then returning to her deliciously messy work, mango juice dribbling down her chin and an expression of bliss on her face. This part of the video became the most popular entertainment in the neighborhood for a couple of days, as all the children in the compound kept coming and asking to see it. I must say that I felt a little guilty at the pleasure that we all took from voyeuristically intruding on an experience that really ought to have been had completely alone, but told myself that it was a home video that would never be shown publicly.

In his youth my husband used to scoff at foodies (not that that term was yet in circulation), maintaining that he didn’t live to eat, but merely ate to live. However, the delight that he took in the art of opening a pomegranate belied his words.

We human beings are a ritualistic lot, however we may seek to deny it. A large part of our pleasure derives, not just from what we do, but the way that we do it.

(from jiminmontana.wordpress.com)

(from jiminmontana.wordpress.com)

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  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your post Josna. I eat quite a lot of pears and apples. I love sitting down with a sharp little knife and cutting shavings off them and popping them into my mouth. I have a distinctive way of doing this with each of them. So it’s not just the taste, but as you say, the ritual you go about in eating them. I was intruiged by the way you eat a mango. I’m going to try it. 🙂

    • It has to be a super-ripe one, Don. First you roll it about between your hands so as to fully pulp the fruit inside. Then you pick off the little “lid” at the top and suck out the pulp through it. Some people even use a straw, though I never have.
      I love your method of eating apples and pears; sounds as if it would aid reflection.
      This year you’ll be able to seek out those old English varieties of apples and pears–delicious!

  2. There are some mangoes that should only be eaten that way, by sucking the pulp out of them. Other mango varieties would be hard to eat that way even when over-ripe, I think. Certainly will require a lot of heavy-duty sucking !!

    A banana split in thirds length wise? I did not know that… I shall try the monkey method and report back soon. 🙂

    There was a video about pomegrante peeling as well.

    But in my world, there is nothing to challenge the taste of a mango. The Langra, the totapuri, even the chausa… I miss mangos so much!

    • You’re absolutely right, and thanks for the qualification: only some pulpy mangoes are suitable for consuming in this way. It would never do to try this with the firm, fleshy ones, like Alphonsos.
      And yes, the mango is a peerless fruit. All the talking in the world will never capture the tastes and textures of all the varieties, and all the meanings and memories that we associate with the experience of eating a mango.
      Good to hear from you and hope you are well. Cheers, J

  3. Oh! Josna, your mango eating ritual transported me back to my childhood summer holidays when all of us (cousins etc.) would suck our way through a basket full of chausas, with the juice dripping down our elbows- DELICIOUS:)

    • LOVE your description, Arti. I can just imagine the scene: the cousins, the basket of mangos, and especially the juice dripping all the down to your elbows!

  4. The link took me to a woman who might be my dentists twin sister, making a banana split that consisted of graham cracker crumbs, neapolitian ice cream, pecans, whipped cream, chocolate chips and I don’t know what else. I didn’t get through the whole thing, but I never saw her break a banana into three parts. I think there was fudge sauce over the whole thing and then the whipped cream on top of that.

    • What?! I will check out and correct it–thanks for letting me know.

      • Dear Kristin, I just clicked on the link and it took me to the link I had intended: “1/1: The banana split: In three easy steps, you can split a banana into nearly perfect thirds! The pilot video in the series ‘Kate and PJs Instructional Videos on Things You Never Needed (or Necessarily Wanted) to Know.'” Can you please try again? (Not that it’s of earth-shattering importance!) Perhaps you accidentally clicked onto the next video, which is indeed one on how to make a banana split. Cheers, Jo

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