Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Goin' Bananas

Article by Dan Koeppel in today's Times, about the strange situation of having bananas be a frugal fruit (something that comes from so far being cheaper than apples, which come from next door, relatively speaking), and the possible interruption of supply by rising fuel prices and disease overtaking what is essentially a mono-crop.

The solution is clear: We must wean American from its dependence on foreign bananas! The government must fund alternate sources of bananas - wind bananas, solar bananas, maybe even nuclear bananas! And anyway - Why can't we drill for bananas in Alaska?

All of which is to say: I plead guilty. My grandmother (of blessed memory) always said that I had to eat at least half a banana per day, "for the potassium." (And this was a woman who could make a quarter chicken last nearly a week.) Bananas, along with apples, remain staples on our shelf, and on our shopping list. If we buy too many and they spot, we bake banana bread, which is very popular with our little ones.

Which is why this article is really troubling. I mean, I know a little bit about the history of US domination over Latin America, and a lot of it has to do with our friend the banana. All you need to know is contained in the term, "banana republic." This is really one of those times where we put to the side the knowledge of what international trade has wrought in the lives of those who live where the fruit is grown, as well as knowledge of the ecological footprint of a fruit that has to be transported such distances in such a short amount of time - we put all that to the side, for no other reason than we like the fruit.

Barbara Kingsolver wrote about this in her book. (Fantastic, excellent book, by the way.) One of the kids' friends wants a banana, and she has to explain why they can't have one. Her focus was on keeping her food purchases local (I don't have it in front of me, but it was something to the effect of, would I give up all the benefits of locally grown food for the sake of a banana?), but I'm quite sure Kingsolver's aware of what the banana has wrought internationally as well.

I can get over coffee guilt by buying fair trade coffee. Is there such a thing as a fair trade banana? This is something my family and I are going to need to look at - I shiver even to think of it - or, if Koeppel is right, the decision may soon be made for us.

1 comment:

Mary T said...

gosh, I just read your last few posts and had to think about it. I think-- we look at all that our buying habits do to 'cause damage' but we don't see what things would be like if we didn't buy. Like what would banana republics be like with no international trade? I know we don't see this the same, but I honor your commitment to your values--it is always best I believe to live as you believe and to keep some common ground with those we may not always agree with.