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Food Fights: Your Bananas

May 2, 2012

Welcome to Food Fights week. For those who didn’t read Monday’s post or folks who have no interest in going back to refresh their memory this is the salient thing to remember:

Sometimes I can be a really nice guy. But other times I encounter something so upsetting to me that I can feel the vein in my forehead start to throb. And I know the best course of action is to just to stop, take a deep breath, and let it go.

But. I. Just. Can’t. Do. It.

These things are often about food, and to someone else they may seem entirely trivial or insignificant. Today I want to shed some light on a recent example of this. Two weeks ago a tweet that came across my screen from someone who I truly admire and respect, Christina Davis of the From Scratch Club. It was about ice cream.

Now the idea here isn’t to rake her over the coals. In fact it’s just the opposite. I already did more damage than I intended. Rather I hope to show how little things drive me bonkers, and perhaps provide a bit more context to why a loose turn of phrase got under my skin.

Not only do I have some strong thoughts on ice cream in general, but I’ve also had it a lot on the brain lately: I’m mulling over the Tour de Hard Ice Cream and moments before I saw the offending tweet, I had sent a note to A Professor’s Wife proclaiming the superiority of The Snowman’s hard product over Guptill’s less than stellar soft serve.

With all of this context in mind here is what Christina wrote:

Pre-bathtime surprise for Miles on this 90+degree day in Upstate NY (!!!!) Ice cream made soley from bananas

Impossible. It can’t be done. There is no ice cream without cream. Period. If you are making some sort of sweet frozen confection out of just bananas, you are not making ice cream, but rather something else. I might call it a frozen fruit puree. But to make it more fun others have called it a Banana Whip. You can even buy a branded machine to do this, which is called yonanas.

The yonanas website cleverly claims it, “Looks and tastes like soft serve ice cream.” Now that is an unimpeachable statement. It’s not claiming to be ice cream, but rather that it shares some similar traits. Plus soft serve ice cream is full of so much dreck anyhow, I’m much less protective of its identity.

Ice cream, on the other hand, is under attack. If you don’t believe me, look at the ingredients of the carton in your freezer. Should you stock your home with Häagen-Dazs, you can skip that last step, because they are one of the few remaining hold outs that don’t pump their product full of gums, starches, thickeners, and stabilizers. Even the once pristine Breyer’s has changed its formulation.

When I replied to Christina, my intent wasn’t to attack her. Rather, it was to defend ice cream. My tone in this was driven by how inflammatory I found the claim. So this is what I said:

For shame! Frozen banana mush may be delicious and even “creamy.” But ice cream it is not!

I didn’t think it was harsh, and there was a bit more back and forth, but when Christina characterized it as such I apologized and tried to lighten it up a bit in a playful way. Maybe the nuance of my intentions didn’t translate to Twitter.

Sorry it felt harsh, but even with magical princess fairy powers you cannot make ice cream w/only bananas.

When I say the above in my own voice, it still makes me chuckle. What I was completely insensitive to was the fact that she was making this for her son who I now know is deathly allergic to almost everything. Maybe she told me that before. Perhaps she’s written about it. But I’m terrible with remembering details of other people’s lives. This (among other reasons) is why I never went into sales.

And I can scarcely imagine how difficult it is to raise a child with such a condition.
And I recognize the need to be creative.
And I do empathize.

But it’s still not ice cream.

There’s a difference in telling a little white lie to your sick kid by calling something ice cream that isn’t, and having a food blogger proclaim to the world that they’ve made ice cream using solely bananas. And if I come across other people making similar claims, I’ll continue to hold the line.

But do you want to hear the funny thing? I decided to take Christina’s advice and try it.

So I bought a bunch of bananas and let two of them get over ripe. Then I peeled, sliced, and froze the banana segments. Figuring this would be better with a little fat, I pulsed the frozen banana in the food processor and added a tablespoon of peanut butter. Lo and behold, the fruit did indeed morph into a semi-frozen mass that bore more than a passing resemblance to ice cream.

It didn’t have the same mouth feel as ice cream as it was starchy and not truly creamy. But it was sweet, and cold, and Little Miss Fussy loved it. Young Master Fussy however wasn’t convinced. To be fair, Little Miss Fussy goes bananas for bananas. They are generally a forbidden fruit, as they tend to fiercely constipate her. But I made an exception in this case.

This frozen banana puree is not a bad thing to do with your over ripe bananas. In fact, as the weather warms up, I may find myself making it again. Especially since I’m turning away from ice cream, and looking for tasty no-cholesterol alternatives. I may even mix in walnuts next time.

So Christina, thank you for bringing this tasty treat into my life. I totally get where you were coming from. 140 characters failed me. Hopefully this provided a bit more context. It’s nothing personal, ice cream is just very special stuff and I’m protective of its identity. But I’m glad your little one has something cold and sweet to get him through the summer.

[FLB Note: Knowing that this post was coming, Christina sent me the following by email which is published in its entirety. For what it’s worth, I think most of this is covered in the above post.]

This story starts with a simple photo of my 3 year old son that I posted on Instagram & Twitter on April 16th, that one mega-hot spring day a few weeks prior. Well, the picture depicts a very hot 3 year old, naked, eating a cup of banana ice cream right before his bath. The rub, as I understand it, is that I used the term ‘ice cream’ in the title of said picture: Pre-bathtime surprise for Miles on this 90+ degree day in Upstate NY (!!!!!) Ice cream made soley from bananas.

You see, my son has a life-threatening allergy to proteins in cow, sheep & goat’s milk, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, peas and sesame. He can’t have regular ice cream, so his ‘version’ was made of frozen bananas, sunbutter, cocoa powder and chocolate chips and a dash of hemp milk. Miles understands, as well as he can at 3, that he can’t have traditional ice cream and that many, many foods can make him ill, but his face lights up a room when you present him with his very own ‘special’ ice cream. Really, that’s all that matters.

Funny thing, no one called me out for spelling solely wrong but boy did The Professor come down on me like a ton of bricks for using the term ‘ice cream’. I say now, as I said on Twitter: give a food allergy mom a break. -Christina, Editor & Founder, From Scratch Club

24 Comments leave one →
  1. techcommdood permalink
    May 2, 2012 10:16 am

    Food allergies are tough, but this looks like an excellent solution. I will try making this as a healthy alternative on occasion. Do you use an ice cream maker to churn it smooth while freezing or just let it harden in a bowl?

    • Dorothy permalink
      May 2, 2012 10:26 am

      Neither, you mix frozen bananas in a food processor and after several minutes and perhaps a splash of liquid (milk, plant milk, whatever it morphs into a creamy treat. Doesn’t keep very well though, so serve right away!

    • May 2, 2012 10:52 am

      Techcommdood, I slice the bananas (2 – 4) then freeze them. Once frozen, put them in a blender w/ your other ingredients. Ta da! Frozen banana something! I serve it and the rest I store in the freezer w/ in ice cream containers that I bought on Amazon. Totally easy!

  2. May 2, 2012 10:44 am

    The whole exchange left me a little cranky.

  3. May 2, 2012 11:04 am

    Daniel, I believe that if you put something out in the world, you need to be willing to accept what comes back to you as a result. Here goes…

    I appreciate your desire to make others aware of “what’s good” and what isn’t in our food scene. I also appreciate your goal of noting the true meaning of, shall we say, “food names.” I’m not ever going to say that these pursuits are wrong or bad.

    What I find upsetting is that you’ll stop at nothing to embarrass, humiliate, or shame your “opponent” into realizing the mistake they’ve made based on your standards. It’s incredibly elitist and borders on being a bully. Also, it appears you can’t let anything go. Should we talk about bolognese-gate again? It was something we discussed and settled, and then you had to bring it up again in order to prove that you are “right.” It only alienates the people who were/are your friends. Would jazz still be a delightful form of music if not for the interpretation it receives?

    I don’t find issue so much with your first tweet to Chris; instead, I’m completely put-off to your “magical princess fairy powers” quip that seemed incredibly condescending and unnecessary. Did you really have to make a dig like that? Our society has made snark the norm for interpersonal interactions. It’s a pity. You perpetuate it. If you felt so adamant about the banana/ice cream issue, if it was really that important to you, perhaps you should have confronted Chris in person instead of hiding behind a screen.

    Also, I don’t think it is fair that you pick-and-choose what you find issue with. If you had actually EVER paid attention to Chris’ blog or tweets or Facebook updates, you would clearly understand the struggle she faces with her son. Do you only follow the activities of people in order to find the “bad stuff?” The stuff you find issue with so you have ammunition to continue your battle on proving others wrong? An indicator of maturity is the ability to delay gratification.

    I believe you should take a more holistic approach to what it is you are trying to achieve. Or better yet, do something beyond the blog… like write a book about the history, origin and meaning of your beloved foods and have some internationally recognized food historian, anthropologist or chef contribute a forward so that you have some ground to stand on when you attack others. Personally I’ve had to stop commenting on your blog (for the most part) because I’m of the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” school of thought. But that’s just me (this comment is clearly an exception… my apologies if it upsets you or is too harsh).

    Listen, I’m the first to admit a mistake or a flub. I don’t know everything about the subjects I blog about, and I think I’m decent about making note of this. I also love a good conversation with people of opposing viewpoints about important (or even not-so-important) issues, provided we can all be respectful of each other. I think you’ve lost some of the respect. Perhaps it would serve you well to review that stack of Emily Post books you once told me you have. Clearly food plays a much different role in each of our lives. To me, food is more than what we eat. It is sentiment and emotion and memories and a chance to provide for those I love. It’s a venue for living a life I desire. Perhaps food in your life has a more scientific meaning, dictated by classes and kingdoms much like binomial nomenclature.

    Yesterday I left you with this quote by Einstein: Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. Perhaps you should ask yourself if you are the great spirit or the mediocre mind.

    • May 2, 2012 12:09 pm

      I’m truly glad you got that off your chest. Just so we don’t have to drag this out in the next installment of AskTP I’ll do my best to answer your questions now. For the record, I’m not made of glass. If you have harsh criticism of what I’m doing, feel free to let it out. Keeping stuff bottled up isn’t healthy. Plus it gives me the chance to clear up any miscommunications.

      Also, it appears you can’t let anything go. Should we talk about bolognese-gate again?

      That’s totally true, and I’ve said so explicitly. I can’t let things go. It’s a character flaw. We all have some. This one is mine, and I own it. Bolognese is another one of those things that gets under my skin. As is Fettuccine Alfredo. As is Pesto.

      Would jazz still be a delightful form of music if not for the interpretation it receives?

      Probably not. But music is not food. When Thomas Keller re-imagines some classic dish, he famously uses quotation marks on the menu to indicate that it’s not actually different from what you might otherwise expect. But in the case of the banana “ice cream” we’re not talking about interpretation. It’s not a variation on the form. It’s another form all together.

      I’m completely put-off to your “magical princess fairy powers” quip that seemed incredibly condescending and unnecessary. Did you really have to make a dig like that?

      Really? Well, I’m sorry. That was not my intent at all. The phrase was preceded with an apology for being harsh, and was an attempt at making the same argument in a more light-hearted way. The idea was that you just can’t wave a magic wand and turn something into ice cream that’s made solely from bananas. I’m going to take this as a valuable lesson about my skills at Twitter humor. It’s totally something I would playfully say to someone in person. Seriously.

      Do you only follow the activities of people in order to find the “bad stuff?” The stuff you find issue with so you have ammunition to continue your battle on proving others wrong?

      Heavens no. Well, for a while I was on the hunt for examples of farmed Atlantic salmon – during my salmon police days. But that was neither fun nor rewarding.

      My battle isn’t in proving others wrong. People disagree with me all the time. I’m fine with it. The people who I follow are those who are engaged in writing about food in the region. I like to try and keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in my major interest area. The From Scratch Club is great. It’s truly great. What Christina has done is amazing. If she had tweeted about the banana “ice cream” an hour earlier it would have passed by totally unnoticed. I’m not trolling my feed looking for fights (despite what the events of the last couple of weeks might have you believe).

      • May 2, 2012 12:49 pm

        I’ll give you some points to what you’ve mentioned here except for the “princess fairy” comment. A passive-aggressive apology isn’t really and apology. Thanks for the reply and showing me “your side” to a few things.

  4. derryX permalink
    May 2, 2012 11:28 am

    We talked about this pretty in depth last night, so I don’t have much to add about the actual argument other than to elaborate on a point that Deanna makes.

    She said, “Would jazz still be a delightful form of music if not for the interpretation it receives?”

    One of the things that I enjoy about exploring foods is the abilities of the people creating things to push the boundaries about what it is we know and accept. I’m sure my education in chemistry helps me to appreciate the “molecular gastronomy” approach to food, but aside from that, it’s the open-mindedness of the people crafting things and of the people trying them that allows for new things to be created and new combinations of ingredients to become relevant and widely accepted. Food is like jazz in that way.

    I don’t think in a million years anyone would argue that frozen bananas is ice cream against your purist definition of it. Christina knew it wasn’t “ice cream;” that’s why she could give it to her son without feeling like she was going to give him an allergic reaction.

  5. May 2, 2012 11:49 am

    Sorry prof, I can’t side with you on this one. What’s that about mountains and molehills?

    If she were marketing this product, then yes, sure, it’s false advertising. But seriously, give the food allergy mom a break. Okay, so it’s not ice cream in the purest definition, but isn’t that the way much of parenting works? The tooth fairy, for instance?

    I just don’t understand the point of getting so caught up in semantics here.

  6. Kerosena permalink
    May 2, 2012 12:26 pm

    So you’re a nudje. This is news all of a sudden?

  7. ginamodschooler permalink
    May 2, 2012 1:37 pm

    Well, you’ve definitely proven the name for your blog is well chosen :-D

  8. May 2, 2012 4:25 pm

    I’m trying to think of a comparison to explain how I feel about this, and all I can think of is arguing over whether tomatoes are a fruit or vegetable. There’s a bit of an argument for both.

    Okay, ice cream made out of bananas does not meet the strictest definition of ice cream, but if I offer someone banana “ice cream” they get the idea. Maybe I should just call it a frozen dessert. Maybe everyone should stop calling tissues “kleenex.” I eat a lot of vegan foods, and I am not going to speak in paragraphs just because technically I am not eating something made with dairy (No one loses there shiitake over canned coconut milk but I gots to call it soy beverage because it comes in aseptic box? Puh-lease). I can appreciate that there are times where technical definitions matter, but I think there is a lot of grey area in our language and food names are not an exception to that.

    • May 2, 2012 5:29 pm

      Strictly speaking tomatoes are a fruit.
      Everyone should stop calling tissues “kleenex.”

      I’m also fine with compound words. Soy Milk is fine. If you dropped the Soy and just called it Milk, then we’d have problems. You want to call the banana thing Vegan Banana Soft Serve I’ll sit here and be quite. My forehead my scrunch up at the mention of Vegan Banana Ice Cream but I think I could live with that too.

      There are some gray areas, but there is also a line. I’m more than happy to keep discussing examples to show you where I draw it.

      • May 2, 2012 7:16 pm

        Okay, yes, Kleenex is wrong, BUT if you say it everyone still knows what you are talking about. If you went around correcting people for it it most would view it as unnecessary nitpicking.

        Also, I don’t get why I can’t call milk made from soy “milk”? Why do I need to add a qualifier if people drinking animal milks don’t? Milk can come from cows, goats, cats. Unless I am explaining options to people who may have a preference or allergy I don’t really see why the qualifier is any more necessary for plant milks than animal milks. I probably am just not going to agree with this line you draw or understand the point of it.

      • Shawn permalink
        May 2, 2012 8:22 pm

        Do you think it is reasonable to serve someone a glass of soy milk when they request milk? That seems to be the case if you say that it’s fine to just call it milk.

  9. Jenna C. permalink
    May 2, 2012 6:11 pm


  10. mr. dave permalink
    May 2, 2012 11:45 pm

    I honestly could not think of a dumber subject to waste words on. There. I said it.

    • Judy K. permalink
      May 4, 2012 6:15 pm

      And this, Mr. Dave, is why I miss your blog so much. You made food and the internet fun. This is just tiresome.

  11. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    May 3, 2012 11:47 am

    For the record, I am completely on Daniel’s side on this.

  12. Fred permalink
    May 3, 2012 12:50 pm

    You really strive to be a pretentious prick don’t you?

  13. enoughalready! permalink
    May 3, 2012 9:57 pm

    jeez, folks. why not let this rest now. please! we have more important things to discuss – whole foods coming to town, and will probably have many types of frozen ice cream type non-ice cream confections.

  14. Stevo permalink
    May 4, 2012 11:14 am

    I’m with Daniel on this. If I want ice cream, I want ice cream dammit not a frozen “dessert”.

    Also, I don’t think anyone has mentioned that there is a legal definition of ice cream. For something to be sold as “ice cream” it must meet certain standards, one of which is it must include a minimum percentage of butterfat.

    • May 4, 2012 11:26 am

      Well luckily, you don’t have life threatening food allergies and luckily, Christina is not trying to see the ‘ice cream’ she makes for her allergic son.

      I wasn’t going to weigh in on this one because I was taught if you can’t say something nice, say nothing…but I really do have a big mouth and you took this one too far and were pretty obnoxious to Christina.

  15. May 4, 2012 11:27 am

    Dammit, hard to proof read when I’m pissed off. See, should be sell. ‘Christina is not trying to sell the ice cream she makes for her allergic son.’

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