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How to Peel a Banana
Luke Pease discovers that even peeling a banana comes with a dose of cultural relativity.

By Luke Pease

"Why are you peeling it like that!?" said Christina, my colleague and recent Chinese immigrant, as I held my banana in my right hand, split the stalk with my left, and peeled back the skin from top to bottom in what I assumed to be the universally accepted tripartite manner.

"What?"

"You are opening the wrong end," she said.

Her explanation followed. Split the other end with a gentle squeeze just as if you are tweaking a baby’s nose, peel back the skin and there you have it. A banana. With two improvements.

Firstly, the top bit has not been mushed by the undue force used to split the stalk, and secondly, the stalk now provides a convenient handle with which to hold your newly peeled banana.

An impromptu survey revealed that everyone else in the vicinity peeled their bananas in the same manner as myself, though one first-generation Chinese-American confirmed her father peels in this "Chinese" manner. Christina assured us her one billion compatriots peel their bananas as described. Having presumed my peeling technique employed the most physically efficient method possible, it came as a surprise to learn that it was not scientific principle, but rather culture, that had formed my technique.

That repository of world culture the Internet, reveals a dozen banana peeling techniques, but crucially, informs me that monkeys favor the Chinese method.

Peeling my next banana -- in the Chinese manner -- revealed an easier peel, an unmushed tip, and the advertised handle, yet the different grip required, coupled with an unfamiliar weight distribution caused by the asymmetrical curve of the inverted banana, imparted an unbalanced feeling. My banana was out of control.

However, I acknowledged the superiority of Christina's technique, and now, as I become comfortable eating my banana in the Chinese manner, I wonder what other cultural treasures await as we enter what many predict will be China's second golden age.

With a Perspective, I'm Luke Pease.

Luke Pease lives in the East Bay.

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