Brain Food Alternatives for a Bananaless Future

When it was exam time at high school, my mother would always shove a banana in my mouth as I walked out the door.

It’s brain food,’ she’d yell after me. ‘Good luck with your exam.’

This was always hor­ri­fy­ing for two rea­sons. Firstly, how could I pos­si­bly do well on my exams when I’d been study­ing for them all year with­out brain food? And sec­ondly, I now had banana breath. Which, con­trary to pop­u­lar unbe­lief, is almost as bad as gar­lic breath. An acci­den­tal banana-breath whif­fer will invol­un­tar­ily recoil from the pun­gent odour of dry, stringy, fruit-flesh. Thus, at a time when my hor­mones were most hormy, any notion of high-school romance was dis­pelled. A shame, because right before an exam is when peo­ple think only of love, lust and hormyness.

The big, fat bully-of-a-storm Cyclone Yasi caused wide­spread dam­age in North Queens­land this week and wiped out many of the banana plan­ta­tions that sup­ply 90% of Australia’s bananas. And while it’s ter­ri­ble when homes and schools and busi­nesses are destroyed by nat­ural dis­as­ters like Yasi, it’s often the long-term affects of dis­as­ters that jog into our mem­o­ries in later years.

For exam­ple, one of the main asso­ci­a­tions that come with Cyclone Larry, which hit North Queens­land in 2006, is that it caused banana scarcity for quite some time. When Vic­to­ri­ans think back to the Esso Long­ford gas explo­sion of 1998 that cut off the state’s main sup­ply of gas, it’s hard to not recall the weeks there­after of cold show­ers. And think­ing back to 2008, when Hawthorn won the AFL pre­mier­ship, the asso­ci­a­tion is one of absolute blank­ness. It’s hard to remem­ber that it even hap­pened. But it did. Check for your­self.

So as the north­ern state cleans up after Cyclone Yasi, one of the long-term asso­ci­a­tions we’ll have with this cyclone looks set to be That Time After That Other Cyclone When There Were No Bananas Again.

What will we do for brain food in the com­ing banana drought, then? It’s the potas­sium in bananas that makes them so good for the brain. It aids the sup­ply of oxy­gen to the brain and helps with clearer think­ing and bet­ter recall. Although not when it comes to that 2008 grand final, which was won by…well, who­ever it was.

Sur­viv­ing the banana drought sim­ply means upping our intake of other foods that are rich with potas­sium. That’s right, there’s more than just one brain food out there. Here are some you could try first thing in the morn­ing to stim­u­late your brain for the day ahead:


It has three times as much potas­sium as bananas, it looks awe­some when you drip it from a spoon and it’s just like eat­ing maple syrup pan­cakes, with­out the pan­cakes and with maple syrup that’s ten times stronger than usual.


It’s twice as good for the brain as a banana and is pretty much the same as drink­ing a tomato juice in the morn­ing. Except it’ll taste more like a cold lasagne miss­ing a few key ingredients.


No need to bake it into cook­ies or muffins. Just a table­spoon of this stuff before walk­ing out the door of a morn­ing will make for a day of clear think­ing, pro­duc­tiv­ity and using your tongue to clean bits of bran out from between your teeth.

Sure, there are other brain foods, high in potas­sium, that you could also indulge in – like apri­cots, sul­tanas and raisins. But you’d prob­a­bly eat those fruits any­way. Replac­ing bananas will require some think­ing out­side the square. A con­cept for which brain food will def­i­nitely be required, so that we can wrap our brain-heads around it.

Getting to know Ophiuchus

Firstly, an apol­ogy: I’m a bit of a space geek. OK, that apol­ogy didn’t really sound like I meant. Which I guess I don’t. But it’s a fact, a dis­claimer per­haps, which I thought I should begin this post with. And my space geek­i­ness doesn’t usu­ally extend to astrol­ogy, but I couldn’t resist read­ing all the recent news reports about how we need to add a thir­teenth star sign to our astrol­ogy guides.

The story is basi­cally gumpf see­ing as this new ‘rule’ only applies to peo­ple born after 2008 and any­way the cur­rent astro­log­i­cal sys­tem owes more to tra­di­tion than the actual zodiac of the sky.

But the thing that inter­ested me was the so-called ‘thir­teenth star sign’ itself – Ophi­uchus (pro­nounced Oh-few-cuss). Who is Ophi­uchus? If I were to adopt Ophi­uchus as my star sign, what exactly would I be get­ting myself into? We all know that Leos are stub­born and cre­ative and that Pis­ceans are empa­thetic and pop­u­lar and that Capri­corns com­plain about hav­ing their birth­days so near to Christ­mas. But what does Ophi­uchus mean for the Ophi­uchuses out there?

It may be the most disgusting-sounding of all the zodiac signs (chest infec­tion, any­one?) but as far as con­stel­la­tions go it’s kind of boring.


If any­thing it resem­bles a badly-drawn house with the crap­pi­est veran­dah you’ve prob­a­bly ever seen. Luck­ily, how­ever, most con­stel­la­tions sig­nify some­thing that they don’t in any way visu­ally resem­ble. And this is the case for Ophi­uchus because Ophi­uchus is not a rec­tan­gle with a pointy top but a mus­cu­lar greek-god-looking war­rior dude wrestling a giant unruly snake. Yeah!

Ophi­uchus means busi­ness. He is a war­rior who’s not afraid to get all tan­gled up in ser­pent. Not unlike this guy:

Now before you decry poor old Ophi­uchus as being just another guy obsessed with the phal­luses of life, you should know that he is based on the Greek god Ascle­pius, who was the healer and med­i­cine man back then. Ophi­uchus is wrestling with the ser­pent because snakes rep­re­sent anti­dotes (as well as poi­son, but this guy was a healer so we’ll put the empha­sis on the med­i­c­i­nal sym­bol­ism). So really, Ophi­uchus is not so much about Hollywood-style snake wrestling and much more about heal­ing the sick. Visu­ally, he’s more like this guy:

Which gives us a clearer under­stand­ing of what Ophi­uchus stood for and what the star sign might mean for any­one will­ing to dump the tra­di­tional zodiac and go with the alter­nate (and sci­en­tif­i­cally accu­rate) ver­sion. Although it’s impos­si­ble to tell from all this what char­ac­ter­is­tics peo­ple under the sign of Ophi­uchus might dis­play. But if they’re any­thing like para­medics they’ll be  incred­i­bly decent human beings who are pro­fi­cient at what they do and who look awe­some in a jump­suit. That’s right, a jump­suit! And sud­denly you’re a lot more inter­ested in being an Ophi­uchus, aren’t you?

Merry/Unmerry Christmas!

The year is almost over but before I log out for 2010, here’s a few thoughts I wanted to share with you this ‘hol­i­day season’.

1. Merry Christ­mas
2. Unmerry Christ­mas (for the hum­bug­gers out there)
3. Happy New Year
4. What­ever New Year (for the unsu­per­sti­tious out there)
5. Please enjoy this clip taken from Stephen Colbert’s Christ­mas spe­cial of a cou­ple of year’s ago.
6. Have a happy, safe and good-will-to-all-men-(and-women)-esque Christmas.

Pigeons in the Post and Meeting Toni

So the Pigeon Let­ters project has come to an end. I first blogged about par­tak­ing in the project back in June of this year and as of this week the project has come to a close. The project is over because the book Pigeons: Sto­ries in the Post II has been launched and is now out. The book fea­tures the sto­ries of each writ­ing team (which con­sisted of an author and a stu­dent from Footscray City Pri­mary School), as well as a cou­ple of let­ters from the cor­re­spon­dence that went on between stu­dent and author.

You’ll soon be able to buy the book online and all the pro­ceeds go back into Pigeons so they can keep doing these projects.

The great­est thrill of the whole project for me, came at the launch of the book ear­lier this week when all the authors and stu­dents, friends and fam­ily, gath­ered together at the Footscray Com­mu­nity Arts Cen­tre and I was finally able to meet my co-author Toni. Check us out!

Don’t we look happy with our­selves! Hav­ing writ­ten our let­ters back and forth for half a year — and get­ting to know each other a bit — noth­ing beats the excite­ment, awk­ward­ness and relief of meet­ing a pen pal in per­son. Toni also did a short read­ing from the story we wrote, which appears in the Pigeons book, and is called ‘Vaseket­ball’ (Psst — that’s a com­bi­na­tion of Vases and Bas­ket­ball). She even got a few laughs dur­ing her read­ing. Well done Toni!

There are some other great sto­ries in the book includ­ing ‘The Adven­tures of Night Shadow’ by Tony Wil­son and Skerry Palanga, ‘Forgery of Emo­tions’ by Mar­tine Mur­ray and Alice Noo­nan and ‘The Sword of Rodithal’ by Michael Pryor and Ari Boyd.

So well done Pigeons! A fan­tas­tic and incred­i­bly worth­while project indeed.

Going Old School with Mrs Tullo

I had the slightly sur­real, but com­pletely won­der­ful expe­ri­ence recently of doing a school visit to the school of my old prep and grade one teacher — Mrs Tullo.

Mrs Tullo was my first ever pri­mary school teacher back in what I now call The Day. Back then Mrs Tullo ruled the class­rooms of Wat­so­nia Pri­mary School. These days she teaches at Bun­doora Pri­mary School in Melbourne’s north-east, which is where I went to see her and talk to the school’s stu­dents about writ­ing, being pub­lished and being a grad­u­ate of the school of Tullo.

As the Bun­doora P.S. newslet­ter said when it was adver­tis­ing my author talk, ‘His mother and Mrs Tullo always said he would write a book and he has.’ In many ways Mrs Tullo was my first pub­lisher and she recalled to the Bun­doora stu­dents some of my ear­lier sto­ries includ­ing this title about my then new baby sister.

Wat­so­nia Kids was Mrs Tullo’s imprint and I sure was excited to be pub­lish­ing sto­ries with her in those early days. Espe­cially since she was happy to pub­lish risque and exper­i­men­tal stuff such as this page from My New Baby.

And despite Mrs Tullo insist­ing that I now call her by her given name of Mar­i­lyn, I couldn’t. You just can’t relearn infor­ma­tion like that, when it has been absorbed dur­ing those for­ma­tive years.

The stu­dents at Bun­doora were also awe­some and keen to hear my sto­ries from the past about Mrs Tullo and my sto­ries from now about my glam­orous authorly life. I talked about how I come up with ideas and what to do when you get stuck. And the group of grades four, five and six and me did a small writ­ing exer­cise and came up with a most delight­ful story called Bob the Rap­ping Vam­pire Bat, which would surely be wor­thy of being pub­lished as a Bun­doora Kids book.

And here are the inevitable now and then pho­tos of stu­dent and teacher.

Now: Me and Mrs Tullo at Bun­doora Pri­mary School, Novem­ber 2010.

Then: My pri­mary school grad­u­a­tion in 1994. Please dis­re­gard my ears and my bow tie.

Mrs Tullo was the first influ­en­tial teacher I ever came across and it really was a joy to see her again, influ­enc­ing the stu­dents of 2010 in all the right ways.

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