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06 November 2010

Yes, We Have No Bananas Today

A recent WSJonline video about vending machines going "fresh" prompts two thoughts:
a)  One size might fit all, but one taste does not.  There is compromise, consolidation, substitution, but for bananas...there's not much accounting for taste.  I like my bananas not-quite-ripe, still green around the edges on the outside and firm with a not-too-sweet, nutty-tasting flesh on the inside.  The bananas for vending in the video looked perfect.  How would they look 8 days later?  They then would be perfect for a friend of mine who declared, "The browner the better."  Maybe they should have two rows or even three rows of bananas, so that consumers would have a choice in relative ripeness, while the vendor could come and move the product over to the next row as it ripens. 
They can label and sell the ripest ones as "baking bananas," as everyone who bakes knows that really, really brown bananas make the really, really good banana bread.
(Witness: Jennifer Crusie's latest (and really, really good romance read)  Maybe This Time.)  I will not give away anything about this book, except a lesson learned at age 9 is that again, really, really brown bananas make the really, really good banana bread.  I am puzzled why there were actually people who went to their graves (or stuck around as a ghost) without knowing this common fact.  People frequently tell me that I only believe some things are easy, because I know more than most people.  I am usually skeptical and this is one of those incidences.  That a nine-year-old doesn't know, I can understand, but it seemed like an awful lot of adults hadn't known until Andromeda ("Andie") Miller came into their lives to make the best banana bread they had ever had.

b) I am also reminded of Kroch's & Brentano's, Booksellers.  There was one at the mall when I was growing up on Long Island, NY.  (Please note, while I usually detest people using "Long Island, NY," as if Long Island were a town and not either physically a 100-mile long island or politically, two counties cheek-and-jowl full of towns, it's a lot easier in this case than explaining where I lived (West Babylon) and where (Smithhaven, South Shore, Walt Whitman, etc, etc) malls were.)  Kroch's was always considered a higher class (read: more expensive) bookstore.  We also had paperback booksmith in the same mall, and if I recall correctly, a Waldenbooks.  Can you imagine having three bookstores within a few hundred yards of each other?  Ahh, that was the concept of a mall at its best.

I had not known that Kroch's was from Chicago until I relocated here and talked with persons from this area who proudly proclaimed the fact, although that did not keep it in business.  The company closed in 1995, but in the decade before then, its employees tried desperately to keep the business going.  I remember walking down Wabash in Chicago and seeing the big windows of its flagship store covered with signs, "Yes, we have bananas today,"  a catchy promo to contradict the song, but perhaps there was some other backstory that an outsider such as myself would not know.  Of course, it meant that a customer received a free banana with book purchase.  Hey, anything (within reason) for a sale.

Speaking of Waldenbooks, we are missing ours in Sterling, basically the neighboring town from Dixon.  We were all very civilized, referring people to each other if we thought the other bookseller might have the needed title.  We even called one another for the potential customer, so that the books would be there waiting upon the potential customer's trekking the ten miles between stores.  We managed to start the ball rolling on a signing by Maury Possley and Rick Kogan when their collaborative effort, Everybody Pays, came out in paperback.  They managed to hit Dixon, Sterling and Princeton.  Hearsay, the Sterling branch was one of the company's better ones -- financially and operationally, but all of them closed nearly a year ago come end of January.

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