Imagine if a story started with "Once upon a time on Mars" and it was not fiction.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Both Red and Black will admit that science wasn't their favorite subject at school, but that doesn't stop them from being in awe of "things scientific" – such as the landing of the Perseverance rover (nicknamed "Percy") on Mars.
Red, the straight-A student, got through her science classes with hard work and perseverance (sorry, couldn't resist), but as soon as she could, left the subject of science to others. (Unless you count occasionally watching science fiction movies.) When catching up on the news from last week, she read the AP article Black had sent, and when she read the quote from NASA's science mission chief, "Now the amazing science starts," could only imagine how everyone involved was probably so far beyond being straight-A students that it boggled the mind. So, Red decided to just enjoy the incredible images she found on CNN.
Black, who may not have been the best student (too impatient with that which she thought irrelevant, although she did learn critical negotiating skills in order to pass some classes), started to take issue with Red's comment about everyone being "beyond straight-A students" as she knows passion, hard work, and tenacity (was so tempted to use "perseverance" again) can get you further than just grades. But before she could say anything, Red reminded her of the television show "My Favorite Martian," which had been a childhood favorite.
And although the landing of Percy on Mars generated very different thoughts for each of us, we both agreed that President Joe Biden summed it up best when he tweeted congratulations to NASA,
Today proved once again that with the power of science and American ingenuity, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.
This may be one of the corniest things you’ll ever read.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It’s just a vegetable, so how can it possibly elicit such a strong reaction from Red, while, for Black, it’s more a source of amusement and even, it turns out, admiration?
Corn. That’s what immediately came to mind when Red started receiving emails from Dewberry Farm about its annual fall festival. It was a family tradition when the girls were growing up, and between the fun but often frustrating corn maze (she and the girls were lost for a few hours one year), the corn cannons, and all the other activities, it was a marathon day that always seemed to be the unofficial start to fall (even if the day meant 90+ degree temperatures since, after all, it’s Texas). Of course, enjoying all the incredibly delicious food, like freshly popped kettle corn, from outdoor stands made it even more special.
And Black’s reaction to all these corn-related memories? Red was expecting sarcasm, but not this,
I knew I would get an ear-ful from you but am glad you did not send any corny jokes. Given how much you love fall, and everything associated with it, I expected many kernels of truth in your sentimental memories. However, I have one question, I am sure it was ear-ie when you got lost in the maze, but did you feel like you were being stalked?
The funny (not punny) thing is that Black’s comments, although somewhat out of character, reminded Red of our dad and his endearing sense of humor. So, when Black added that as long as Red had brought up the subject of corn, she might be interested in the Corn Kid, Red thought she was referring to a goat that ate corn. Until she discovered the best corn story – about how a little boy who simply loved corn became a viral sensation. (Red also loved his appearance in a Chipotle video because she, too, loves their corn.)
And Red could relate to the Corn Kid’s love of corn,
I never realized how much I love corn, not only for its taste but for all the memories associated with it. Whether turning a can of cream corn into soup (just add a little milk) when I was recently sick and realizing that I hadn’t had it since our mom made it for me as a kid. I know food triggers many memories; for me, it’s corn (including candy corn), although my love of popcorn is about more than memories!
Are you familiar with Hispanic Heritage Month? If not, maybe it’s time.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It seems like every month has a “national celebration”, and although we both agree there’s so much to celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month, Red initially focused on the strange timing (starting mid-month) while Black focused on the lesser known (yet significant) achievements of the Hispanic community, as well as a name-calling incident that she can’t forget.
Red will admit that she only first heard of Hispanic Heritage Month in 2021, which is pretty surprising given that she loves history (ok, Tudor England is her area of interest) and has lived in Texas (which has a large Hispanic population) for over twenty years! With her first question being,
Like any good straight-A student, I can memorize that it’s celebrated from September 15 through October 15, but that doesn’t make much sense to me. So, I’ve got to ask Black’s favorite question, why?
Well, after a bit of research (by Black, of course, who believes homework never ends, you just call it research when you grow up), Red learned that the unusual starting date of the month-long celebration is in honor of the anniversaries of independence for many Latin American countries. Which led to her next questions,
It’s called Hispanic Heritage Month, but it also seems to cover Latino achievements and contributions. Or is it Latinx? What’s the difference? Is there a difference?
Black wanted to avoid these questions as the answers aren’t black and white (no pun intended, especially as she didn’t want to get into the topic of why AP News decided to capitalize “Black” but not “brown” or “white” when referencing people by the color of their skin). And although “Hispanic vs. Latino” is easier to explain, there’s controversy over the “Latinx” term. Plus, the “labeling of people” reminded Black of an ugly – and infuriating – incident where a friend was questioned about not being “brown enough”. So, she decided to focus on what is far more important,
Are you aware of the contributions Hispanics have made to American history? Or, the breadth of their accomplishments, including patents). Not only are they impressive, but they have had a far-reaching and lasting impact on the country.
Everyone should celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, whether by attending a festival, a concert, a parade, reading about notable Hispanic Americans, or even watching a movie or documentary. Or, if you’re like Red, comparing “In The Heights” to “West Side Story.”
Can we agree to disagree? No, we’re not talking politics – we’re talking pumpkin spice.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Fall has become the season of pumpkin, or more specifically pumpkin spice; which Red absolutely loves for various reasons while, for Black, besides the fact she doesn’t like the flavor, it just screams, well, MARKETING.
Yes, Red will admit that having pumpkin, one of the strongest symbols of fall, appear in August (thanks Starbucks, Dunkin’, and Cup Noodles, yes, pumpkin spice flavored noodles!) while we’re still in the midst of sweltering summer heat is a bit much. But she loves how it reminds her of growing up in the northeast, with the first crisp mornings and the onset of early and chilly evenings. With childhood memories of raking mounds of leaves only to jump in and scatter them, and then repeating the process. (Which Black has pointed out is now deemed dangerous, something Red plans to conveniently forget when she travels down memory lane).
But mostly, the sight of pumpkins reminds her of picturesque pumpkin farms and the brilliance of fall foliage, which, now that Labor Day weekend is behind us and her thoughts turn to fall, is what she misses most. So, short of jumping in the car to take a road trip to see fall foliage, she’ll have to settle for the tastes that remind her of fall, which won’t be difficult given all the pumpkin spice options.
Although this year, there’s one that has special meaning for Red,
When the girls were growing up, even though it was in Texas, one of their favorite fall “treats” were pumpkin spice Oreo cookies. But they stopped making them in 2017, the year that Natasha moved overseas. So, when I learned they’re coming back this year, it made me smile. I’ll be stocking up on them so I can send them to the girls, although I have a feeling I’ll have to ration them.
Black appreciates how much all of this means to Red, and even tracked down some of the new limited-edition pumpkin spice graham crackers Goldfish (a partnership between Dunkin’ and Pepperidge Farms) before they were publicly available as a surprise for her 60th birthday. But that doesn’t stop Black from rolling her eyes at all the people who have succumbed to the pumpkin spice marketing machine, and the seemingly endless list of pumpkin spice products (besides food and beverage, there are air fresheners and candles, but hair color?!).
I am not going to get into the science of why people are obsessed with pumpkin spice or the fact it is a $500-million-a-year business. Interestingly, it started in 2003 when Starbucks introduced the pumpkin spice latte, now commonly called PSL, although pumpkin spice has been around for over 200 years. So, it is not a new concept, but does show you the power of marketing.
P.S. – Given all this talk about pumpkin spice, you might be surprised to learn that it doesn’t even have pumpkin as an ingredient.