Bananas in the mist…

This week, I received an order for a pie that was was to be intended for a birthday present. My client wanted either a banana or coconut cream pie. These are pretty exotic flavors! Using exotic fruits for a special occasion is the right idea toward buying imported foods. Bananas are grown in monoculture plantations in the tropics. The bananas sourced by the local co-op are from Peru. They're labeled as organic and fair trade. Interestingly, I paid less than $2.00 for five, normally-sized bananas. I'm not sure what to think of that because I'm not familiar with their trade value and the cost of fuel for their transportation and storage. Also, let's not forget the main problem with the banana trade: intense cultivation of a single variety! You can read denizens of pieces on the tragedy of the banana industry that our culture supports by commoditizing it, like the one by Mike Peed in a 2011 issue of The New Yorker.

While traveling in South America, a couple of years ago, I bought a variety of bananas from the open markets and rarely did I ever eat anything like the familiar Cavendish, as far as tastes went anyway. Perhaps some of the bananas I ate were of our standard sort but every one of them tasted DELICIOUS!

I want to take a second to draw your attention back to the New Yorker article I linked to in the first paragraph. Near the end of the article, Peed names some scientists that were/are busy working on a genetically modified variety that can withstand the devestatingly, pathogenic fungus referred to as Tropical Race Four, which is responsible for wiping out banana crops on these highly industrial 'farms'. It's interesting that the solution decided upon is to just engineer a new plant that can produce a for-now-resilient fruit when the cause of the problem, monoculture, holds a seemingly more resilient solution: biodiversity. In terms of agriculture, biodiversity is not economic, lucrative, or practical on a large scale…right? Changing a a monoculture to a polyculture overnight is certainly not any of those things. However, are we interested in making a quick buck before we leave work or we interested in building a retirement 'fund'?

Experimental botanist are implementing diverse banana-cultivation techniques and their experiements yield interesting results that give insight into sustaining commodity. Keep in mind that science is a method, not an act that can be subjected to judgement (I often hear people use the phrases, “bad science,” and “good science,” when referring to one's opinion of a chosen solution; scientists use those phrases to distinguish research that is conducted with proper methodology as opposed to that which fudges data). Geneticists, botanists, agriculturalists, are those who posess technical or specialized knowledge of specific fields. They employ science when they use the scientific method to explore hypotheses and are often referred to as scientists. Roughly speaking, 'scientist' that work on 'solving the problem of banana disease' (as exemplified in Peed's article) implies that certain individuals who specialize in plant genetics and genetic modification of organisms are using the scientific method to 'answer' the hypothesis of: If 'x' genes were [modified], would the overall plant show resistence to [disease]? The botanists' efforts, explained in the linked article in the first sentence of this paragraph, also are scientists because they use the scientific method to answer hypotheses. I assume theirs goes a little like this: If there were more biodiversity in banana agriculture, would pathogenic fungi have less of an impact on banana production/economy.

The main point, I'm trying to make, is that science is not to blame for what industry chooses to do with its knowledge. Scientists, themselves, may have economic interests in mind. Some are hired by agricultural agencies to conduct specific research. Some are proponents of GMOs for their research has convinced them that it is worth studying and implementing as a solution to a larger problem. Some scientists are proponents for not implementing GMOs into agriculture for their research has convinced them that it is not a solution. It is much the same with doctors. Wouldn't you get a second opinion from multiple doctors before agreeing with a final solution to a major health problem? I encourage you to read up on a variety of scientific conclusions before deciding how you agree with our interpretation of natural phenomenon. While you read through articles that talk about scientific findings, keep the real definition of science in mind.

Alright, I don't mean to bum you out, goodness knows that thumbing through the internet's vast expanse of news and information can bring one down in a very short amount of time. But here's something you can do. Be informed and shop wisely. Be aware of where you put your money. Support a healthy import-export economy by helping to shape a niche market for specific goods, foods, crafts. I totally want to be able to buy imported goods as much as you do. If your favorite thing in the world is a banana cream pie, make sure you celebrate it's most unique ingredient by obtaining only the best. If you're an activist, like me, once or twice a year, if you really want to throw down, buy a bunch of amazing bananas and honor them with a special song and dance…by that I mean make a pie or the like. Yes, I am an extremist and my intention is to impart awareness, not to make you feel terrible about whatever it is you choose to buy. Obviously, I jumped at the chance to create a masterpiece with the sacred bananas of Peru.

I used teff flour and corn starch to make the crust. For the pie filling, I used the eggs that my hens laid, cream and half and half from our beloved Straus Creamery, and bananas from Peru….and amongst other things, love.

It was received with joy. XOxoxXo

 

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