Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Signs that the world may be ending:
Safeway ran out of bananas, both organic and conventional.
There were only huge, empty tables where the bananas used to be.
How does it happen that a major supermarket runs out of something as basic as bananas?
What would cause such an unprecedented run on them?
Bananas are America's #1 fruit.
They are harvested every day of the year, and are available year-round. Except at Safeway.
I know that they will run out of cranberries because they only carry them at Thanksgiving. Since I love cranberries, I buy as many bags as I can cram into my freezer and enjoy them for months. Fresh figs are savored as much for their seasonal availability as for their scrumptiousness.
But I can't freeze bananas, or hoard them. Nor has there ever been a need to do so. Bananas are not exotic. They have been readily available all my life, unlike mangoes, papayas, and carambolas.
I asked the produce clerk where they had been moved and he spread his hands, beaming broadly. "They are all gone, Senora. Sold out."
"Why?" I asked.
"At 99 cents a pound, I did not think this would happen," he said, shaking his head at the profligate wanton wastefulness of North Americans.
Horticulturists believe that the banana was the earth's first fruit. Banana plants have been in cultivation since the beginning of recorded history, dating back to Alexander the Great's conquest of India where he first discovered them in 327 B.C.
In ancient Hawaii, bananas were sacred. Under penalty of death, women were not allowed to eat them until abolition of the taboo in 1819.
The banana is considered a perfect food. It has four times the protein of an apple, twice the carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals, and is also rich in potassium.
It is not a tree, but an herb. Its trunk is soft and tender at the core, yet strong enough to resist strong winds. Patient and enduring, the banana produces one majestic flower loaded with a complete food. New shoots emerge at its sides. After the fruit reaches maturity, the parent, reassured, simply dies.
Now there's some food for thought.