It wasn’t very long ago that a banana was just
a banana – just a curved, yellow fruit. All you knew, if you bought a
bunch in 1986, was that they cost around 97p per kilo. You weren’t told
if they were organic or pesticide-free. You didn’t know if they came
from Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic. And you certainly weren’t
invited to worry about the farmers who grew them – or if their children
went to school, or whether their villages had clinics. You just picked
up your bananas and walked to the next aisle for your coffee or tea or
chocolate, none the wiser about where they came from either, or about
the people who farmed them.
Tag Archives: Food
It wasn’t very long ago that a banana was just
The Soviet-American company Dialog, created in 1987, was the first Russian high-tech company to attract Western capital investment. Dialog was the mother company of the first Russian investment bank, Troika Dialog, which a recent investigation revealed as the source of a number of suspicious offshore money flows used by powerful Russians. But Dialog also founded another company: Astro Pizza, a pioneer of Western fast food in the Soviet Union, which sparked nostalgic reminiscences in the Facebook group “Yes, Moscow” shortly after the publication of the Troika investigation. Meduza tells the story of Astro Pizza, which opened in Moscow long before Pizza Hut or McDonald’s — but ultimately failed to compete with them despite its initial success.On April 12, 1988, a GMC truck pulled up to Moscow’s Sparrow Hills, then still called the Lenin Hills. It was not unusual to see trucks like this one in the city: they used to deliver Pepsi. But this one was even more outlandish than the quirky soda vans: its silver body glistened, Soviet and American flags could be seen on its sides, and slogans in both Russian and English slogans flashed red underneath them.
L’incrocio delle Quattro strade, crocevia fondamentale per i contadini
dell’Alfina, è circondato da campagne che si estendono a perdita
d’occhio. Dai terreni intorno, ben allineate e quasi invisibili, sbucano
centinaia di piantine alte appena pochi centimetri. Sono noccioli e in
cinque anni diventeranno alberi da frutto e trasformeranno radicalmente
il paesaggio dell’altopiano che si estende tra il lago di Bolsena e di
Orvieto, finora composto soprattutto da campi coltivati a cereali e
ortaggi, uliveti, castagneti e boschi. La regista cinematografica Alice
Rohrwacher, che è nata da queste parti e vive vicino allo snodo di
stradine che collega il Lazio con l’Umbria e la Toscana, confessa:
“Quando nella primavera del 2018 sono cominciati i lavori di sbancamento
non riuscivo a capire perché tra la gente del posto ci fosse chi se la
prendeva con i noccioli”.
Con il tempo ha capito quanto avessero ragione a temerne l’avanzata sull’altopiano. Dalle pagine del quotidiano la Repubblica ha lanciato un appello
ai governatori delle tre regioni, dicendosi “preoccupata” per le
conseguenze della monocoltura delle nocciole sull’economia,
sull’ambiente e sulle persone. “In pochi anni sarà stravolto il
paesaggio e distrutta l’economia che sostiene questi luoghi. Per questo
ho chiesto se siano stati fatti degli studi sull’impatto di una
trasformazione così importante”, spiega.
L’odore si sente prima ancora di entrare: un miscuglio di cacao e
nocciole tostate che risveglia ricordi d’infanzia. Dentro il capannone,
un macchinario fa scivolare su un nastro pannelli di cialde concave, che
vengono riempite una a una di crema di cioccolato. Su un nastro
parallelo scorrono altre cialde, su cui sono fatte cadere delle nocciole
intere. Il processo è totalmente meccanizzato. Ma a ogni fase due
operai controllano che non ci siano sbavature: che la crema di cacao non
tracimi, che le nocciole siano della giusta dimensione, che le forme
siano perfette. Poi le cialde sono chiuse e i gusci sono inondati da due
colate di cioccolato fuso e granella di nocciole. Alla fine del
percorso, confezionati nel tipico incarto color oro, compaiono i Ferrero
La fabbrica della Ferrero è a due passi dal centro di Alba, la
cittadina piemontese dove più di settant’anni fa cominciò l’attività di
questa impresa familiare che ha conquistato il mondo. Dallo stabilimento
escono alcuni dei suoi prodotti più famosi: oltre al celebre
cioccolatino alla nocciola, i Kinder Bueno, le Tic Tac, i Mon Chéri. E
naturalmente la Nutella, la crema spalmabile più venduta nel mondo.
Beijing-based film-maker Jian Yi, now 43, clearly remembers the arrival of fresh milk in his life. It was an image of it, not the real thing. “It was the 1990s, and I first saw it in an advert on TV. The ad said explicitly that drinking milk would save the nation. It would make China stronger and better able to survive competition from other nations.”
Like most ethnic Han, who make up about 95% of the population, Jian was congenitally lactose-intolerant, meaning milk was hard to digest. His parents did not consume dairy at all when they were growing up; China’s economy was closed to the global market and its own production very limited. Throughout the Mao era, milk was in short supply and rationed to those deemed to have a special need: infants and the elderly, athletes and party cadres above a certain grade. Through most of the imperial dynasties until the 20th century, milk was generally shunned as the slightly disgusting food of the barbarian invaders. Foreigners brought cows to the port cities that had been ceded to them by the Chinese in the opium wars of the 19th century, and a few groups such as Mongolian pastoralists used milk that was fermented, but it was not part of the typical Chinese diet.
As China opened up to the market in the 1980s, after Mao’s death, dried milk powder began appearing in small shops where you could buy it with state-issued coupons. Jian’s parents bought it for him because they thought it would make him stronger. “It was expensive, I didn’t like it, I was intolerant, but we persuaded ourselves it was the food of the future,” he said. “You have to understand the psychology here – there is a sense in China that we have been humiliated ever since the opium wars, but that now we are no longer going to be humiliated by foreign powers.”
It is the most important news humanity has ever received: the general collapse of life on Earth. The vast international assessment of the state of nature, as revealed on Monday, tells us that the living planet is in a death spiral. Yet it’s hardly surprising that it appeared on few front pages of British newspapers. Of all the varieties of media bias, the deepest is the bias against relevance. The more important the issue, the less it is discussed.
There’s a reason for this. Were we to become fully aware of our predicament, we would demand systemic change. Systemic change is highly threatening to those who own the media. So they distract us with such baubles as a royal baby and a vicious dispute between neighbours about a patio. I am often told we get the media we deserve. We do not. We get the media its billionaire owners demand.
Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there grew a magical fruit. This fruit could be squeezed to produce a very special kind of oil that made cookies more healthy, soap more bubbly and crisps more crispy. The oil could even make lipstick smoother and keep ice-cream from melting. Because of these wondrous qualities, people came from around the world to buy the fruit and its oil.
In the places where the fruit came from, people burned down the forest so they could plant more trees that grew the fruit – making lots of nasty smoke and sending all of the creatures of the forest scurrying away. When the trees were burned, they emitted a gas that heated up the air. Then everybody was upset, because they loved the forest’s creatures and thought the temperature was warm enough already. A few people decided they shouldn’t use the oil any more, but mostly things went on as before, and the forest kept burning.
This is a true story. Except that it is not magic. The fruit of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis), which grows in tropical climates, contains the world’s most versatile vegetable oil. It can handle frying without spoiling, and blends well with other oils. Its combination of different types of fats and its consistency after refining make it a popular ingredient in packaged baked goods. Its low production costs make it cheaper than frying oils such as cottonseed or sunflower. It provides the foaming agent in virtually every shampoo, liquid soap or detergent. Cosmetics manufacturers prefer it to animal tallow for its ease of application and low price. It is increasingly used as a cheap raw material for biofuels, especially in the European Union. It functions as a natural preservative in processed foods, and actually does raise the melting point of ice-cream. Palm oil can be used as an adhesive that binds together the particles in fibreboard. Oil palm trunks and fronds can be made into everything from plywood to the composite body of Malaysia’s national automobile.
NEW DELHI – Confounding the grim prediction made by the British economist Thomas Malthus in 1798, the world currently produces more than enough food for a population that has increased almost tenfold since then. Today’s food problem is not absolute scarcity. It is that food is so unequally distributed and irrationally consumed that there is widespread malnutrition at both ends of the spectrum: the world’s most deprived people die or suffer from cognitive impairment because of undernutrition, while others face death or disease because of obesity.
Im Laufe der vergangenen Jahrzehnte ist Reis in Afrika vom Luxusgut zum Grundnahrungsmittel geworden. Der Konsum nimmt südlich der Sahara jährlich um 3% zu. Die lokalen Bauern können mit der wachsenden Nachfrage nicht Schritt halten. Besonders frappant ist diese Diskrepanz in Nigeria, dem mit 190 Millionen Einwohnern bevölkerungsreichsten Land Afrikas. Die wachsende Nachfrage nach Reis hängt mit der Verstädterung und einem schnelleren Lebensrhythmus zusammen. Die Zubereitung der traditionellen Nahrungsmittel ist arbeits- und zeitintensiv; Reis hingegen lässt sich rasch kochen und ist trotzdem günstig. Aber der Reisanbau in Nigeria ist relativ unproduktiv. 90% der Reisbauern verfügen über weniger als eine Hektare Land. Sie besitzen weder Zugang zu Krediten noch zu verbessertem Saatgut, Dünger und modernem Know-how. Sie produzieren für den Eigenbedarf; nur was übrig bleibt, verkaufen sie. Da ihr Reis qualitativ schlechter ist als der aus Asien importierte, muss er billiger verkauft werden. Die Regierung verkündet, Nigeria werde bald keinen Reis mehr einführen, sondern sogar exportieren; der Import auf dem Landweg wurde verboten. Aber bis jetzt werden erst etwa 40% des Bedarfs durch einheimischen Reis gedeckt.
Are you getting enough protein? The question provides its own answer: if you are worrying about the amount of protein in your diet, then you are almost certainly eating more than enough. This is the paradox of our new protein obsession. For many people, protein has become a kind of secular unction: it instantly anoints any food with an aura of health and goodness. On the menu at the gym where I go, a salad niçoise is now repackaged as “high-protein tuna”. It comes without the usual capers or olives – those are items that merely add flavour, and who needs that?
On Pinterest, the lifestyle-sharing site, you can now choose “protein” as one of your interests in life, along with “cute animals” and “inspirational quotes”. In 2017, there were 64m Google searches for “protein”. Anxiety about protein is one of the things that drives a person to drink a flask of vitamin-padded beige slurry and call it lunch.
You merely need to visit a western supermarket today to see that many people regard protein as some kind of universal elixir – one food companies are profitably adding to anything they can. “When the Box Says ‘Protein’, Shoppers Say ‘I’ll take it’” was the headline of a 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal. In addition to the ubiquitous protein balls, protein bars and protein shakes, you can now buy protein noodles, protein bagels, protein cookies and – wait for it – protein coffee. Even foods that are naturally high in protein such as cheese and yoghurt are sold in protein-boosted versions. Strangest of all might be “protein water” – clear, fruit-flavoured drinks laced with whey protein, as if ordinary water was insufficiently healthy.