Discover more from CAFÉ ANNE
Eating the Banana Peel! (And Other Fruit Adventures)
Plus: Grapes! Kiwis! Cucumbers! Pears! Citrus!
Welcome to Issue #69 of CAFÉ ANNE!
Huge news! Back in December, I attended a city council hearing on the proposed Guinea pig ban in NYC. I was hoping to witness some interesting exchanges, and was not disappointed. But did the bill ever pass?
Yes! As of last week, if you see a guinea pig for sale in NYC—whether in a pet store or from the trunk of a Chevy Impala—you can know it’s a black market rodent. The good news: if you can’t survive without the company of a terrified little Guinea pig, you can still adopt one from a city shelter.
In other news, we have long been recounting the antics of NYC Mayor Eric Adams, including his ongoing campaign to rid the city of rats. While most New Yorkers are already aware, readers out of town will be pleased to learn that after a four-month national search, the Mayor finally found someone to fill the newly-created position of Rat Czar.
In a press conference last week, the Mayor introduced Kathleen Corradi, a former elementary school teacher who used to handle rats for the city’s public schools. She will earn $155,000 a year.
I read the transcript and the best bits were the questions from reporters:
“If I might call you Ms. Rat Czar? Just wondering, how are we going to know whether or not things are working? Are you going to be counting the number of rats that you kill?”
“Mayor Adams hates rats. How much do you hate rats?”
“Mr. Mayor, is Curtis Sliwa still going to get a rat internship?”
Enough NYC rodent news! I am very excited about this week’s issue. We’ve finally got the long-awaited results of the inaugural CAFÉ ANNE Peeling Assessment Panel. Please enjoy.
PS: Many thanks to the newsletter’s newest paid subscribers: Gayle, Nolan G, Sydney M and Beth T! Your sweet support helps keep CAFÉ ANNE paywall-free so everyone can enjoy—or not!
Eating the Banana With the Peel! (And Other Fruit Adventures)
To peel or not to peel. That was the question CAFÉ ANNE readers were debating after I interviewed NYC supermarket billionaire John Catsimatidis, who revealed that when he was growing up in West Harlem, his mother peeled his grapes.
Why would anyone peel a grape? There was talk in the comments section of pesticides and antioxidants and cultural norms and choking babies. But what really matters, of course, is whether grapes, which are notoriously difficult to skin, are worth peeling because it makes them better to eat.
Two weeks ago, in Issue #67, I asked for volunteers to serve on the inaugural CAFÉ ANNE Peeling Assessment Panel (CA-PAP) to decide the peeling question for grapes—and a host of other fruits. I received applications from around the world, elevating the panel to the status of an international tribunal.
Each of the eight panelists who served on the panel sampled six different fruits in their peeled and unpeeled states. They timed how long each fruit took to peel and described the peeling experience. They also assigned each fruit a peeling score of 1-100 with 1 being “much better with the peel on,” and 100 being “totally worth peeling.”
Thank you, panelists, for your dedication and hard work!
I entered their findings into a 413-cell Peeling Analysis Spreadsheet. This took me several hours and may be the silliest thing I have ever done. You can review the raw data here.
The findings may shock you. They may delight you. They will certainly surprise you. You may never eat fruit the same way again.
But first, meet the panelists. They want you to think they are tough judges but really, they are all totally adorable. Don’t you agree?
And now, the survey results!
Average peeling time: 12 seconds
Average peeling score: 96
I know what you are thinking: everyone agrees that bananas must be peeled. Even elephants peel their bananas. But are we sure we know what we're doing? Who among us has even once tried eating a banana with the peel?
Several of our brave panelists were surprised to discover it wasn't the nightmare they anticipated. "Maybe it was luck of the draw, but this banana peel wasn’t as bitter tasting as I expected," reported Asta. "Chewing on the peel added more texture to the banana-eating experience. Maybe if you were really hungry, it would create a more hearty dining experience."
"Bearable but unpleasant. The skin doesn't completely feel like food underneath your teeth," wrote Bridget.
Others had stronger reactions. "Made me feel like I was wasting the gift of a banana," said Jacob. "Also hard to bite into. It just didn’t seem like a fruit that was meant to be eaten unpeeled...a grim experience."
Bryan, who wrote everything in all caps, did not mince words: "UTTERLY DISGUSTING WITH THE PEEL."
But he seems to have strong anti-banana feelings in general. "SLIGHTLY LESS DISGUSTING WITHOUT THE PEEL," he reported. And what’s more: "I HATE BANANAS. THEIR EXISTENCE IS PROOF THAT THERE IS NO INTELLIGENT DESIGNER. UNLESS SAID DESIGNER IS DEMONIC. THEY ARE HORRIBLE—AND THEIR TASTE TRIES DESPERATELY TO TELL YOU THIS. JUST DISGUSTING."
Everyone else was happy with their peeled banana. "The only downside was the squished part from where I bit into it unpeeled," wrote Jacob.
Average peeling time: 70 seconds
Average peeling score: 99
For this exercise, panelists were instructed to sample whatever citrus they preferred, but in every case, the conclusion was the same. Citrus must be peeled. Even more so than a banana! It earned the survey’s highest peeling score. And while everyone managed to choke down at least one bite of banana peel, our panelists had a much harder time with citrus peel.
"Biting into the grapefruit with peel on was pretty funky," said Aster. "The bite removed only peel since it was thick and it tasted extremely bitter, I tried chewing but ended up spitting it out."
She wasn't alone.
"I really enjoy bitter things, but this was intolerable. I spit it out," wrote Laura. "I can’t believe you asked me to do this, and I can’t believe I actually did it."
"I tried, but couldn't swallow the bite of unpeeled grapefruit. Too bitter! Then my tongue went numb for about 5 minutes," said Kirsten.
"Made me scrunch my face up in disgust," said Jacob, who tried an orange. "Tasted like it was warning me not to eat it this way."
You get the idea.
Average peeling time: 46 seconds
Average peeling score: 64
When it comes to kiwi, you can go either way.
"This one surprised me," said Bridget. "I kinda liked the odd texture of the unpeeled kiwi. I won’t be doing it every time, but maybe once in a while to mix things up."
"I was a little scared of this one," wrote Britt. "The idea of eating something furry instantly triggers me. I must say, it was not so bad as I had expected. Eating the fruit with the skin on gave it a lot more texture—but I still preferred the fruit unpeeled."
"The skin was much thinner than I thought," agreed Jacob. "I think it’s adding a slight bitterness, but not too bad. I actually took three small bites since it was an overall fine experience and didn’t overwhelm the fruit."
Overall, panelists were happy to discover a new way to enjoy kiwis. "I can imagine myself now being more open to buying a kiwi when I am on the go and do not have the time or tools to peel the fruit," said Bridget.
Kirsten went the extra mile and made an exciting discovery: "I used a lint roller on one side of the kiwi to remove extra fuzz (which I just learned are called trichomes!) and took a bite of each side. Lint rolling the kiwi didn’t change the texture."
Average peeling time: 49 seconds
Average peeling score: 46
This bland fruit prompted the greatest variety of opinion.
Alexis, Bridget and Bryan all gave it a peeling score of 50. "There’s really not much difference between peeled and unpeeled for me," said Bridget. "I guess the peeled felt a bit fancier, but it just has better PR due to the whole cucumber sandwich thing.”
The outlier on one end was Britt, who found she prefers them with the skin: "Maybe I am going insane after having eaten all these fruits and I am imagining it, but the cucumber tasted sweeter with the peel on.”
Jacob, meanwhile, argued in favor of peeling. "I do not like cucumber and this unpeeled experience is not helping. Just a gross flavor that I don’t like and now with extra gross flavor from the outside peel. Why people enjoy this is beyond me."
Laura tested two kind of cucumbers—the delicate English variety and the standard American. "The American cucumber wax was so disgusting (and potentially hazardous), I spit out my unpeeled bite," she wrote. "That’s twice you made me spit out fruit in front of my boyfriend’s dad!!”
She also raised an interesting question: "As I was about to remove the plastic from the English cucumber, my boyfriend’s dad was like, 'Wait a minute! Wouldn’t that be considered part of the peel?' and suggested that I take a bite with the plastic on. It raised an existential point about what the ‘peel’ truly is."
Average peeling time: 3 minutes, eight seconds (for five grapes)
Average peeling score: 25
Yes, peeling a grape is a lot of work! Britt, in particular, had a struggle. "This really was an agony," she reported. "It took me almost 10 minutes to peel FIVE grapes. I was getting really frustrated because it took me so long and the process was not satisfying at all. The skin peels off in little parts at a time and in the end, pieces of the actual fruit were lost in the process. My hands were all wet and had little bits of grape skin sticking to them."
“Annoying!” said Alexis.
"I FULLY UNDERSTAND THE EXPRESSION ‘SHALL I PEEL YOU A GRAPE’ NOW," added Bryan.
Only Jacob enjoyed the experience. "I had never peeled grapes before, so initially it was intimidating and I was worried I was going to crush it or something,” he wrote. “But I hit my stride around the third grape. It was surprisingly fun."
But it's not worth the bother, according to most. Six of the eight panelists found they actually prefer grapes with the skin on. "I love the peeled eating experience. The feeling of biting through the snappy skin and feeling the sweet juices being released in your mouth is what makes grapes so good in my opinion, they’re like little sweets that nature created," said Britt.
And then there was Laura. Having discovered the glories of the peeled grape, she is sorry to have partaken from this particular tree of knowledge. "They’re incredible without the peel!" she wrote. "It’s like a different fruit. I wish I didn’t now know how much grape peels get in the way. Ignorance is truly bliss…It’s hard for me not to completely look down on unpeeled grapes now. They have a nice little pop, but if that’s what I’m after I’ll just eat a good hot dog."
Naturally I reported these findings to Mr. Catsimatidis, whose recollections spurred this whole project.
"CATS! Just for fun I convened an international panel of CAFÉ ANNE readers to try eating grapes both peeled and unpeeled,” I texted him. “They determined that grapes are actually better with the skin on, and not worth peeling.”
"Ha, that's great," he replied.
"What is your response to these findings?" I pressed.
The answer, he said, was complicated. "Will explain on weekend, when I can talk," he said.
Meanwhile, if you'd like to try for yourself, our panelists determined that the best way to skin a grape is with your fingers, not a knife.
CAFÉ ANNE is a free weekly newsletter created by Brooklyn journalist Anne Kadet. Subscribe to get the latest issue every Monday!