Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World (Anglais) Broché – 30 décembre 2008
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Présentation de l'éditeur
In the vein of the bestselling Salt and Cod, a gripping chronicle of the myth, mystery, and uncertain fate of the world’s most popular fruit
In this fascinating and surprising exploration of the banana’s history, cultural significance, and endangered future, award-winning journalist Dan Koeppel gives readers plenty of food for thought. Fast-paced and highly entertaining, Banana takes us from jungle to supermarket, from corporate boardrooms to kitchen tables around the world. We begin in the Garden of Eden—examining scholars’ belief that Eve’s “apple” was actually a banana— and travel to early-twentieth-century Central America, where aptly named “banana republics” rose and fell over the crop, while the companies now known as Chiquita and Dole conquered the marketplace. Koeppel then chronicles the banana’s path to the present, ultimately—and most alarmingly—taking us to banana plantations across the globe that are being destroyed by a fast-moving blight, with no cure in sight—and to the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes, in a race to save the world’s most beloved fruit.
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While I could go on at length about technical aspects of banana farming and the endless supply of quirky "did you knows," I think that the most lasting impact that this book had on me is its ability to make me want to learn more. Koeppel's works inform--thoroughly--but they also inspire true wonder and curiosity, and that's where the gold is.
"Banana" is written in a style that, if occasionally austere, is quite quick and energetic; I found it difficult to put the book down. With the turn of every page, I felt I learned something new, and subsequently wanted to learn more: be it about bananas, trade, globalization, science, genetic coding, 20th century marketing practices, the United States' political, cultural, and economic imperialism, the covert domination of "banana republics," violent crackdowns on labor movements--all of it!
Koeppel makes sure to balance the light with the heavy and knows exactly when he's losing those of us that don't exactly find banana DNA the most thrilling topic in the world. "Banana" masterfully weaves diverse issues into a tight, delightful read, leaving the reader excited and hungry for more. I truly cannot give this piece all of the praise it deserves.
More than just a food history, Banana transverses the globe, modern genetics, and past and present political struggles in a fast-paced narrative that reads more like a travelogue than a textbook. Koeppel is one of those rare authors that like Mark Kurlansky, can make any subject come alive. Rather than throw facts at the reader, Koeppel takes you by the hand and walks you through his tale. From genetic research labs in Belgium to plantations in the Philippines, to the creation of banana republics of Central America, to the banana--not the apple--as the most likely fruit in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, Koeppel weaves a rich story, where all these seemingly disconnected pieces come together. Bananas is a remarkable piece of journalism. Anyone interested in the politics and social history of food, or for those just bananas about bananas will appreciate it.
Bananas have traveled around the world, starting from the wild varieties of South China, Southeast Asia, and India, giving hundreds of cultivated varieties. It is surprising that some have textures like apples, and some must be cooked, and many of them have tart or creamy flavors that American shoppers know nothing about. This is because we buy one banana, the Cavendish which has good properties to make it transportable and long-lasting, but that it forms almost all the world's commercially cultured bananas is its weakness, perhaps a dangerous one. We have been through this before; the Cavendish is not your grandparent's banana. The one they ate was the _Gros Michel_ (Big Mike) banana, which was the monoculture banana of its time until, as one-species crops tend to do, it caught a bad disease, Panama Disease, a fungus that was discovered in that country and then spread worldwide. Bananas by that time had become a worldwide trade, and especially in South America the big companies got the dictators to agree about the dangers of rights for the banana workers, and of labor unions, and the American government helped out. There is new bad news for bananas: Cavendish bananas are now succumbing to Panama disease, as did their predecessor, and the disease is rapidly being transported worldwide. Koeppel maintains that there is one prospect of a solution, and that is genetic modification. GM is regarded with horror as producing "frankenfood", but it is in the banana that it could be used with the least risk. Proprietary seeds won't be developed, both because seeds are hard to come by and because scientists working on the banana genome have agreed that any resultant fruit will be in the public domain. Bananas, which have no seeds or pollen, are at little risk for allowing their modifications to escape into the wild.
Something will have to be done if we want our bananas, and we do want them: we eat more of them than apples and oranges combined. No more bananas would mean a gustatory loss for Americans but a nutritional disaster for Africa and other parts of the world where locally-grown bananas are a staple rather than a snack. The Cavendish was in the wings ready to take the stage when the Gros Michel was slain, and now that the Cavendish may go the same way, there is no understudy waiting to take over. Koeppel's descriptions of history and biology are reasoned and thoughtful, and this is far from an incendiary book. It is full of details that are surprising and amusing, as well as troubling. Koeppel shows that we have taken the banana for granted, and that this is part of its current problem; his welcome book will ensure that the banana's complexities are far better understood.
Having visited and/or lived in some of the banana growing regions of the Western Hemisphere, I can tell you the damage is/was real, and continues to this day. The runoff from banana fields contaminates every body of water for miles around an active field.
The writing in here was pretty good. Not great, but not bad. The style is a little breezy in spots, but thats to be expected in a 'popular' book of this subject matter. I really think a few more photos would have enhanced this book tremendously, as well as a slightly more scholarly tone in a few areas. However, I realize that this is personal preference, and does not detract from the quality of the book. It just got a bit 'chatty' for my taste.
I would have given a 4 star, but the book lacks any detailed horticultural information (other than discussion of the use of pesticides), and that seems like an appropriate and needed addition to a book that tries to discuss a fruit that supports millions of lives. Politics, science and history are well discussed, but I really would have liked a little more about the impact of this fruit on lives of individuals who depend on it for daily sustenance. Horticultural info, a deeper discussion of varieties (including some more obscure cultivars), recipes, maps...something that would make this book less disposable.
A good, quick read (2 nights), but not one that is going to have a permanent home on my bookshelf