This morning began as any other Thursday morning would have. I was hungry, in need of coffee, and in Slack, sifting through the garbage fire news cycle for a morning blog. Like magic, a coworker shared a link to a blog titled “Optimal Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches.”
The blog focuses on the perfect peanut butter and banana sandwich. It’s the brainchild of Ethan Rosenthal, a data scientist at Square, and it details one man’s noble quest during quarantine to create a machine learning model to “maximize the coverage” of a single layer of banana slices in a classic, Elvis-approved PB & banana sandwich. The problem, as Rosenthal describes, is that bananas are not a straight fruit. They’re elliptical, of various sizes, meaning it can be irrationally annoying when cutting bananas into uniform slices.
Rosenthal’s solution was to create a machine learning model that would analyze a picture of a slice of bread and a banana, tell you what angle to cut the banana, and where exactly to place the banana discs on the bread for optimal coverage. Is this silly? Yes. Did it appeal to my inner, irrational perfectionist? Absolutely.
You see, I, too, share Rosenthal’s inexplicable rage at uneven banana slices. It nearly ruined a perfectly good banana cream pie I baked a week ago. Also, it was approaching 9 am, and my stomach was growling. My editor suggested I download the program, try it out for myself, and then blog about it. I will do almost anything for the blog, but, I thought to myself, at least this one will also get me breakfast.
OR SO I THOUGHT. I neglected to remember my dumb ass has nearly failed every single programming or computer science class I’ve ever taken. The instructions Rosenthal provided on GitHub were gibberish. I messaged my best friend, a web developer who is not an idiot at coding, for help. Because she’s a saint, she walked me through downloading GitHub, HomeBrew, Anaconda, Cmake, and Boost—though not without several errors on my part. I still don’t really understand what a pip install is but you know what? It doesn’t matter because by 1:20 pm—I took a break to write another blog—I had successfully installed Rosenthal’s nannernest onto my computer and it was time to get to slicin’ a motherfuckin’ banana.
First, I had to take a top-down photo of a slice of bread and a banana. Done and done. Then I had to upload the photo onto my computer. Easy peasy. Then I had to type a command into terminal. Boom, after several hours, even my dumb ass knew how to do that now. After about a minute, I had a photo titled perfect_sandwich.jpg that would blueprint me to maximum banana slice coverage for the optimal peanut butter and banana sandwich.
I was so excited, I crowed about my stupendous accomplishment to my coworkers by uploading this very same photo. Almost instantaneously, the roasting began. Everyone zeroed in on the fact that banana slice 1 was technically not optimally placed on the bread slice. “Get to cutting with your one lame slice ass out over the crust,” said my editor. “Just mush the banana by flattening the bread with your hand. This is the definition of over-engineering,” said another editor.
Starving—I had stubbornly refused to eat until I’d gotten this thing working—I then proceeded to fuck up the optimal peanut butter and banana sandwich.
First, it was kinda hard to match the slicing pattern to the actual banana in real life. Also, I forgot to keep track of which banana slice was which. I then had 10 banana slices that I had to arrange based on the picture. Which I did. Except I had forgotten to spread the peanut butter first. I had to remove all the banana slices, spread the peanut butter, and then rearrange the slices yet again.
Still, I had a sandwich. I uploaded yet another photo to Slack, where several people commented on how sad my open-faced peanut butter and banana sandwich looked. “Did you at least toast the bread?” yet another editor asked. No. In my ravenous hunger, I also forgot to toast the bread.
Whatever! You know what? When you’re really hungry, anything will be the perfect sandwich.
Would I do this again? No. Normally when I make a peanut butter and banana sandwich, I toast the bread, schmear the peanut butter on both bread slices, add the banana slices on one bread, drizzle a ‘lil honey, sprinkle some flaxseed because fiber is good for you, and then smoosh it all together. Turns out, the perfect peanut butter and banana sandwich was inside my heart all along. And I could’ve eaten it at 9:30 am like a normal person.