Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Yes, We Have Bananas

"Personally, I have never seen anybody slip on a banana peel."

Jay, the Home Inspector

Bananas are a very well-known fruit in our society. 

I say fruit, but technically they are an herb.

Nonetheless, this is a food used in so many contexts, it is hard to imagine our lives without it!

But bananas were not always so common!  Our country was around 100 years before the banana, very well known in other parts of the world, was as part of the American diet.

Bananas were introduced to America during the 1876 International Centennial Exhibition, in Philadelphia PA.  We might now refer to this celebration as The World's Fair.

The theme of the exhibition was to demonstrate how the United States, and the world, had progressed from an agricultural society and into the Industrial Revolution.  It was described in newspapers and magazines as "organized chaos and clutter."

The most popular exhibits involved peoples, art, and many new inventions, particularly electronic, as that was an industry entering its new age.  More people lined up to talk on Mr. Bell's newfangled device than any other exhibit - the telephone.  Everybody wanted to be able to speak with someone else on the other end of the "line."

The second-most popular exhibit wasn't a device at all!  It was a new food!  Served warm, wrapped in tin foil, on a plate with silverware, was the BANANA!  

There was nothing special about the offering, just a warm banana on a plate!  A simple dish and a wonderful new taste.

And people lined up to eat one!  I expect most went back for more.

America's cooks probably went home and began figuring out hundreds of delicious ways to incorporate it into the daily diet.  Stores filled up with the new fruit.

And today, the three top banana-producing countries are India, Brazil and Ecuador.  Together they offer the world over 23 million metric tons of bananas annually.

> But the countries, and companies, that farm bananas do not ship them.
> And the shipping companies do not produce the boats or trucks that deliver them worldwide.
> And the distributing companies do not manage the wholesale distribution companies and warehouses.
> And this chain, from international farm to your bowl of cereal continues with everyone operating together, but entirely separately.  It's as if they were all shepherded by an invisible hand!
> Your grocer almost certainly does not know a single person with a machete that harvests the bananas he buys to sell to you.

But the BANANA is produced, distributed and sold worldwide so consistently that every grocery store in America has a regular, ripe and delicious offering.  And of more than one type of banana!

The bananas are so efficiently managed, and free enterprise reigns so supreme, that they come to us at extremely cheap retail prices.

Those bananas in the photo above I bought, as a pack of 7, for $1.27, including tax.  That's 18 cents a piece, retail.

Free enterprise works every time.

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