Yes, We Have No Bananas: Struggling to Eat Locally

By , July 16, 2015

Sorry to quote the title of a rather annoying old song, but the line came to me as I uploaded a photo of “Mom’s” chocolate cherry cake for the last post. I hesitated to include the photo, taken on our beach on an evening in July 2013, when we celebrated Aly’s birthday with one of her favorite cakes. While it illustrates one of my best efforts at making that cake, the photo also shows bananas on the “homestead”.

I’ve been waging a campaign against bananas in our household, the success of which may be indicated by the photo.

We try to live locally, restricting our food purchases and consumption to local produce. “Local” to us means from our own garden, land, and surrounding waters primarily, from Haines secondarily, or at least from the North American continent.

Obviously, this is not a hard and fast rule. Michelle’s tea and my coffee cannot be locally sourced by any means. We rely heavily on sugar for preserving our produce in jellies, jams, and wines. The list expands quickly and embarrassingly. Much of what we consume comes from somewhere else, as the bulk of food Alaskans consume must be raised elsewhere and imported.

Nevertheless, we shop consciously, and strive to reduce or eliminate products that come with a hidden cost of transportation.

To do this, we eat seasonally, which leads us to think of food and other aspects of our lives differently from many people (see Food Value).

We also try to avoid tropical fruits, such as mangoes, which we both dearly love, and the ubiquitous banana.

The latter causes the most problem. Bananas may be our culture’s most ironic fruit. Because of the nature of the banana, as cultivated by years of genetic manipulation (take that, Kirk Cameron!) bananas must be shipped green, sometimes in special, gas-filled containers, to arrive at their destination before ripening. Most consumers have been trained to want bananas at the peak moment of ripeness, with yellow, unblemished skins. Any banana on either side of the scale becomes useless. If grocers don’t throw them away outright, they put them on sale.

At this point, our frugality urges us to buy. We do love bananas, after all, and never fear the bruised or mushy overripe fruit. Michelle sees a “red band” sale as nearly irresistible, despite my tutting and frowning.

To me, a tropical fruit is a tropical fruit, no matter how low priced. While we may enjoy cheap bananas in the short term, our willingness to buy bananas at any stage perpetuates the wasteful export practice.

We know we can train ourselves to go without favorite foods. We almost never eat bacon, although we love it dearly. We’re slowly learning not to eat bananas as well.

The dichotomies represented by bananas—eating locally vs. globally, frugality vs. ideals, working toward change vs. avoiding wanton waste—weigh heavily on us. We may never resolve them, but we do try. We don’t always manage, but most of the time we can honestly use that odd old phrase, “Yes, we have no bananas.”

4 Responses to “Yes, We Have No Bananas: Struggling to Eat Locally”

  1. Charity says:

    while I also try to eat seasonally for the majority of my fruit and vegetables, I also don’t mind ocean shipped staples, which would include coffee, cocoa, pineapple, bananas, spices, etc. Food trade has happened since the beginnings of agriculture. (I found some interesting history about the impact of piracy in the Mediterranean which impacted the regional wheat trade in Roman and post Roman times.) Working in international agriculture, I know the small global farmers, laborers, and their families that those commodities support. Don’t feel bad about the occasional banana!

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Charity, are you saying we can eat bananas guilt-free? What a gift!

    This recalls a story I once heard on the radio, about a young American who lived with South American Natives for a time. His village headman sent him to the “big” village nearby to get bananas. He selected a whole branch of fresh bananas and went to pay. When he asked the proprietor how much he owed, he said, “The man got a really crafty look on his face and said, ‘ten cents!’ So, I gave him a quarter and went home.”

    If only we could go to the source and pay the grower, cut out the middle man!

  3. Angie says:

    “Sorry to quote the title of a rather annoying old song”

    Not half as annoying as “Seasons in the Sun.”

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Every age has its groaners, my dear!

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy