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Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World Paperback – December 30, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
The world's most humble fruit has caused inordinate damage to nature and man, and Popular Science journalist Koeppel (To See Every Bird on Earth) embarks on an intelligent, chock-a-block sifting through the havoc. Seedless, sexless bananas evolved from a wild inedible fruit first cultivated in Southeast Asia, and was probably the apple that got Adam and Eve in trouble in the Garden of Eden. From there the fruit traveled to Africa and across the Pacific, arriving on U.S. shores probably with the Europeans in the 15th century. However, the history of the banana turned sinister as American businessmen caught on to the marketability of this popular, highly perishable fruit then grown in Jamaica. Thanks to the building of the railroad through Costa Rica by the turn of the century, the United Fruit company flourished in Central America, its tentacles extending into all facets of government and industry, toppling banana republics and igniting labor wars. Meanwhile, the Gros Michel variety was annihilated by a fungus called Panama disease (Sigatoka), which today threatens the favored Cavendish, as Koeppel sounds the alarm, shuttling to genetics-engineering labs from Honduras to Belgium. His sage, informative study poses the question fairly whether it's time for consumers to reverse a century of strife and exploitation epitomized by the purchase of one banana. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“Required reading.”—New York Post
“Ambitious in scope… both fascinating and disturbing... I’ll never walk through the produce aisle the same way again… [Banana] is at once a political and economic treatise, a scientific explication, and a cultural history.”—The Boston Globe
“Clear, engaging… admirable… part historical narrative and part pop-science adventure.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] brilliant history.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“A fascinating and surprising history of our most ubiquitous fruit.”—Edward Humes, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Monkey Girl and Mississippi Mad
“The history of oil has nothing on that of the yellow fruit.”—Salon.com
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Koeppel's book emphasizes dessert banana issues. However, the World primarily relies on bananas and plantains as a vegetable crop. In the Dominican Republic they eat cooked green plantains 3 times a day and prefer it to potatoes. Next time you are in New York stop by a Dominican restaraunt and try mangu de platano for breakfast or fresh tostones hot off of the skillet. For those of you that have lived or visited Panama or Colombia, tostones are called patacones.
For my taste, the author concentrates a bit too much on the research part, describing the efforts to come up with a genetically engineered, disease resistant banana much too detailed.
On the other hand, he also conveys some very useful and (at least for me) new information. The historical section, with all the machinations of the big banana companies in the 20th century, is a little short and too general. But to be fair, this would fill another book, or two, and he had to make a cut somewhere.
All in all, I can say that I now know more about the banana, and its effects on the world during the last 150 years or so, than before. I learned something here ...