Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Remembrance of Lost Bananas

I've a piece in today's Canberra Times, 'Tastes that narrate our lives'.

Inspired by my longing for (expensive) bananas, I'm discussing what the absence of fruits & vegetables can teach, and celebrating their symbolism.  A sample:
The French author Colette, in her seventies, described her wartime longing for absent fruit. In an essay, ‘Flora and Pomona’, published in Nazi-Occupied Paris, she wrote of drooling at the idea of an orange. ‘Many a one who doesn’t bat an eye at the sight of a bar of chocolate,’ said the famous scribe, ‘weakens at the mere thought of a fresh orange still wearing a little leaf on its stem.’ It was suddenly rare, precious, exotic. 
Obviously, this is a reminder: we too often take our foods for granted. There is nothing straightforward about fresh oranges in wartime Paris, or bananas in suburban Melbourne. Our fruits and vegetables are often imported from interstate or overseas, for a number of reasons: climate, soil, labour costs, weather. We moderns are now used to all-year-round ingredients – kept in cold-storage by supermarkets, or flown in from China, Vietnam, Spain, Portugal, Italy. Tens of thousands of food miles, and a cast of thousands, bring fruits to our shelves, ready and waiting. Everything’s just ‘there’.

But this logic, what the philosopher Martin Heidegger called ‘pure availability’, comes at a cost. We can easily forget the delicate balance of botany, horticulture, meteorology and dumb luck that gives us these goods; forget the continual labour, from man and nature, that gives us a single bunch of ripe Cavendish bananas. Absence can be an education in appreciation.
(Photo: Shinealight)


Rachel Power said...

Ooh, yes, my employer supplies a box of fruit each week and it took them a while to realise that the inclusion of a couple of coveted bananas among the piles of apples and mandarins was not proving positive for staff relations... As you might expect, bananas are no longer included.

Daniel Fielding said...

How very true. Ilive in Michigan in theUSA now. Grew up in canberra and North-Eastern India, before moving to Michigan. And I sure do miss tropical fruits like Jackfruit, Guava, Papaya, fresh Coconut, plentiful fresh water fish, multiple varieties of Bananas. The list is endless.