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Susan Bagel – Banana Water

Written by: Sharon Roth and Theo Erickson

Long, hot summer nights. The kitchen boils, and yet I must keep the stove burning to make my eleventh batch of hot banana water. The aroma fills the house — the fruit flies are going crazy, searching for bananas only to find water bursting into the gaseous phase. I know the upstairs, where Mr. Bagel and my children sleep, is sweltering. I wish I could join them, but the only time I can cook during the months of June to August is between the hours of 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., when the house is cool enough to use the stove.

My grandmother made banana water for us every time we visited in the winter. Holding a mug between my little hands, letting it warm me. The overpowering aroma, sweet, addicting. I’ve been missing that warmth. Dipping a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie into my hot banana water. It was almost delicious. Nostalgia softens everything.

I simmer in the kitchen with my grandmother’s banana water. I listen to the bubbles fizzing, the owl hooting outside the window where the cool air pours in. The light above the sink. I am boiling into the gaseous phase, recondensing, becoming more and more banana-peel flavored. In my attempts to change I merely become more deeply what I already am.

When I sit at the kitchen table at 6 a.m., before my children have gone to day camp and after my husband has left for work, I, half-lolling from being awake for 36 hours, look at my pitcher of banana water. These days it’s too hot to drink banana water — so I serve it over ice. The condensation on the pitcher drips down rounded glass like the sweat down my temples. I am bananas, and bananas are me. After I boil the bananas, I sew them back together, attempting to recreate what once was. Dreaming of the first bone-snap of opening the top of the banana peel.

The children wake up like it’s Christmas morning. They hold glasses of iced banana water between their little hands, condensation dripping onto the kitchen table. I serve the sutured bananas to my delightful children. They untie the knots carefully, like a gift, reopening the wound exactly so I can make banana water again. Mr. Bagel doesn’t eat bananas during the summer months. His fingers are too sweaty and slippery to untie the knots.

Tea twice steeped, twice as sweet. That’s what grandmother always used to say before pouring boiling water over her rotting banana peels, extracting their flavors. She always knew how to see the best in everything and everyone. Looking at the bright side of life, seeing the glass of banana water half full. The brown spots on the bananas only make it sweeter — every bruise not a flaw, but a sign that you have ripened. When I reopened old wounds, she sutured them back together.
My grandmother’s heart was warm, but I fear that mine is cold as ice. The delicate balance between past and present now on the rocks. Changing her recipe — grandmother would call that a sin. Ashes to ashes. The sun must set.

When the sun rises, when the brightness outside matches the humming overhead kitchen light — I do not know the woman sitting at the table. All of her flavor steeped into the water. What is left? Eleven lifetimes later and I remain unchanged. Eleven times I have been reborn, eleven times I have sutured my wounds. I have no crunch left in my peel.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:
1. Boil banana peels for seven hours.
2. Lose yourself. Find yourself.
3. Serve over ice. Attempt to enjoy.

Graphics Editor at The MQ

Sharon was “born” in 1801. She inspired the Archie Comics, which later inspired the hit TV show Riverdale.

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