Yesterday, at the lunch counter where I work, one of our regulars came in for a bite to eat at the end of his long shift. He’s an EMT, and he usually follows up an overnight on duty with an IPA (it seems like I am describing him to you only using random combinations of letters, but I will press on) and a hot sandwich, to lend a little bit of comfort to the end of a long, cold night on the job.
When he sat, I greeted him, and remarked jovially (as one does), “Hey, man, how’s it going? Save any lives today?” His reply was equally lighthearted, with more than a hint of self-aware irony. “You know me,” he said, “only every single day!”
It turns out, he hadn’t saved any lives that day. He may not have saved any lives in weeks, for all I know. He’d spent most of the day giving fire truck driving lessons to one of the other members of the crew, which is evidently a thing that happens when you’re an EMT. And even though he has a really, really important job, this guy still has days where I’m sure he wakes up doubting the importance of it all, questions what he’s doing, how he got where he is in life, and wondering what’s next for him, on this big blue marble. Because after all, some days you’re shoving a tube into someone’s collapsed airway as they stare pleadingly into your eyes, clinging desperately to life, and sometimes you’re apologizing to a 90-year-old man whose prized garden gnome you’ve accidentally run over with your fire truck. Life is just kind of like that.
That reminds me, let’s talk about these Banana-Flavored Hostess Twinkies Snack Cakes.
I have a deep, completely unnatural, all-consuming love for artificial banana flavoring. Oh, sure, I hear your protests. “But, Spork & Barrel,” you’re no doubt screaming at the dim, cold glow of your computer screen, “Artificial banana doesn’t taste anything like bananas.”
Listen, if you’re going to come here with that attitude, I’ll throw you right out.
A brief history of banana flavoring:
In the early part of the 20th century, bananas tasted different. Back then, it’s likely that you were buying not what we think of as bananas today, but their more flavorful ancestor: The “Gros Michel,” a variety that made up most of the bananas that were imported into the United States at the time. A fungus wiped out the crop of the tastier Gros Michel (or “Fat Mike”) bananas, and left us with the less popular, less delicious “Cavendish” banana, which is more resistant to disease. So, boom, now we get less flavorful bananas, because we can never have nice things.
Enter banana FLAVORING, or more specifically, one single, banana-funk-laden compound: Isoamyl acetate. That’s what makes bananas taste like bananas, and it was found in WAY higher concentrations in the old fungal diseased Gros Michel bananas, then in our lame, shelf-stable, flavorless Cavendish bananas. So it’s not so much that artificial banana flavoring doesn’t taste like bananas; it’s that bananas these days taste like basically bullshit.
Banana Now & Laters. Banana Runts. Banana Laffy Taffy. Circus Peanuts. Jell-o pudding. THAT’S what bananas used to taste like. And by god, that’s EXACTLY what banana-flavored Hostess Twinkies Snack Cakes taste like. 5 stars, review over.