The Banana Riot — a.k.a. my backyard
My backyard is filled with banana trees; my landlord Rachel calls it the Banana Riot. Their leaves flutter with tropical winds and daily bend over into the neighbor’s yard. We have bunches and bunches of bananas. It’s absolutely awesome. Yesterday, inconsequentially, I found myself down the rabbit hole of banana history. Consequently, I’ve separated today’s newsletter into two sections: Not bananas and Bananas.
If you have no interest in bananas, feel free to read about the hidden costs of streaming music, or think about opening your heart to Trump supporters who ‘speak Fox’. Facebook sucks. Plus, more on social media and the death drive!
“Time is not infinite. None of us can afford to spend what is left of it dallying with the stupid and bland.”
Oliver Burkeman’s eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life is also nice, especially if you’re as into lists as everyone else is.
And because we all need it: A Dose of Optimism, as the Pandemic Rages On.
I have long heard of the abuse of power and industrial colonialism imposed by the banana industry — mostly of the banana massacre in Colombia and Sam the Banana Man’s Honduran coup — but I was under the impression that it was decades behind us. Naive of me to assume that American industry would now hold themselves accountable to the well-being of third-world farmers! It is still indeed a dark world. Corporations made payments to paramilitary in Latin America as recently as this past decade (it’s probably still happening, but I’m no journalist and I’ve already spent enough of my time on this).
It would seem that the better people in our world are finally coming to hold them somewhat accountable. Most recent issues have dealt with pesticides and fungicides and the health effects of spraying excess chemicals (that are banned in the U.S.) over farm workers and adjacent households and villages. I need not lay it out; watch this hour long documentary explaining it all here.
The main culprit here, United Fruit Company (now Chiquita), was headquartered here in New Orleans in the 20s — and what remains is a gorgeous facade on an otherwise drab bank building with a sinister history.
United Fruit Company facade at high noon — St. Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA
After a quick search, it does appear that Chiquita has made some efforts to provide an organic option — though from what I can tell, that doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides.
Vice News put together an excellent video (see below) explaining the current state of the banana industry and its homogeneity problem. I hope that in the future we’ll begin to see banana diversity, because if plantains are any indication of what we’re missing out on, this is important y’all. Speaking of plantains, one of my favorite recipes of all time is fried sweet plantains. They’re called Maduros and you can make them at home, or if you’re in New Orleans, Maïs Arepas and Barů both do them justice.
As mentioned in the subject, I am giving away a print — of bananas, of course. An 8x10 matte print of our lovable banana riot will be sent to the person with my favorite answer to this question: What’s the most important thing you’ve ever learned? Just reply to with your answer for a chance to win. This print will look great in your kitchen as you feast on homemade Maduros. Keep in mind that only about 200 people will see this — so your chances of winning, if you reply, are pretty high.
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