Monday, June 23, 2008

Bananas: The ultimate insult.

To a locavore (one who eats only local food), the banana is the ultimate insult. It's a piece of fruit that has traveled thousands of miles in a refrigerated container, was picked long before reaching peak ripeness, is available in only one variety, and costs next to nothing.

I stopped buying bananas in January when I began learning about the value of eating local food, but then when we joined Costco, I honestly couldn't resist the cheap fruit. I mean, $1.41 for a huge bunch of perfectly ripe, non-bruised bananas? I've been withholding Chilean and Mexican-grown grapes from my kids, waiting for some American grapes to hit the shelves, but I knew I'd never get domestically-grown bananas, so I gave in. Now, here I sit, eating a banana and typing this post. How ironic.

I've been thinking about reading the book, Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World, by Dan Koeppel, but I really didn't think I could handle it. I knew that if I read the book, it would mean crossing bananas, one of Callie's staple foods, off my grocery list. Between the ridiculously poor treatment of banana workers (which I've known about since my Latin American Studies class in 1997 but chose to ignore) and the amount of fuel required to get bananas to Colorado Springs, Colorado...I just know that I shouldn't be buying bananas. But, still, $1.41?

When I saw this op-ed piece in the New York Times today by Dan Koeppel, I thought, "Okay...maybe I won't read the whole book, I'll just read this little article. This one little article. How much damage can that do?" We'll...I've crossed bananas off my grocery list. It's either got to happen now or 5-20 years from now. According to Koeppel, that's how long bananas will be available in our grocery stores before they return to being the "exotic fruit" that they should be.


Ben said...

Really!! I can get you bananas for 71 cents a pound, and for $12 I can get you 5# of delicious USA grown red grapes!! Let me know when I can get the Dickman house hold these wonderful "happy" fruits.

Court & Nick said...

Irony... this was on my google homepage today.
Just in case you want to add them to your garden. LOL

Hillary Dickman said...

Ben, quit being a pain in the rear. :) I think the Costco bananas might actually be cheaper than 71 cents a pound. Not math's not great. But, it was like eight or nine bananas to a bunch for under a buck fifty.

I think I'll take Courtney's suggestion. Maybe I can grow a potted banana in my house! I've never been able to keep any other houseplant alive, though, so I'm not going to bet on it.

dad said...

In Mexico bananas are "Home grown" in the southern part of the country and there are several varieties available at the supermarket. I'm guessing the life of a banana worker is not great, but probably no worse than other Mexican agricultural workers. I think you can eat bananas here and not feel bad about it.