Bananas are Evil, Organic or Not (with a Nod to Bittman)

15 Mar

It’s 7:59 and this day is off to a late start. I set my alarm for 5AM with the best of intentions but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get up for the group swim. My body seriously would not let me get out of bed.

It’s no use dwelling on what could have been. No use thinking about how, if I HAD gotten up, I’d be done with my swim for the day already. There’s no use because if I HAD gotten up and I HAD gone for a swim, I would be totally useless right now. And I’m already feeling useless enough on this, day 3 of Operation Coffee Ween. And yes I know I’m spelling it wrong but I like it this way and I like the band Ween and oh, did I mention that my BRAIN DOESN’T FUNCTION ON FRIGGING HALF-CAF?!??!?!?.

Sigh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. I’m not mad at you. I hope you know that. I am a monster, right now. I am listless and foggy-headed. My muscles burn when I walk up the stairs. I can’t concentrate. I can’t make small talk. My head hurts all the time. I am exhausted by the end of the day and then miraculously, I can’t seem to fall asleep at night. I’ve also been really sad, which I was NOT prepared for.

I’ve also been really hungry. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the lack of coffee (which it might since coffee has been known to suppress appetite) or if it’s  because I’ve eliminated three food items that I normally consume mass quantities of throughout the day: 1) aged cheese 2) peanut butter and 3) bananas.

I’m doing fine without the cheese mostly because all I was eating was the pre-shredded, totally-fake “lite” crap I could buy 2 for 1 at Publix. It’s not really cheese anyway. I actually did have a tablespoon of peanut butter last night. I used it in a recipe pulled from Runner’s World for soba noodles with chicken and scallions. I’m not quite ready to give up on PB but I am not slathering it on bread or apples like I used to.

But the banana situation is bad because they’ve always been an on-the-go source of filling fuel for me. Yes, they’re great for the potassium and sugar post-workout but they’re also so handy. And when I buy too many and they ripen to the point of mush, I make Perro Grande muffins or pancakes out of them.

I’d already heard all the rabid dieting hoopla about bananas–TOO MUCH SUGAR! HIGH GLYCEMIC! Blah blah blah–but extensive interweb research over the course of the last TWO HOURS  has yielded some additional interesting factoids about the banana:

  1. They may not be super “green,” according to Mike Berners-Lee, author of the book and the blog, How Bananas Are Bad. For full disclosure, I glanced through various posts and couldn’t find anything related to the banana specifically. But…
  2. …surprise, surprise, according to writer Joseph Aaron Skloot, “U.S.-based companies that control banana cultivation the world over employ a cocktail of toxic fertilizers and pesticides known to harm human beings and animals.” You can read his excerpt from the book The Sacred Table, Creating a Jewish Food Ethic, here.
  3. Also, bananas are apparently bad luck for fishermen.

Yesterday, I walked right by the nanners and bought three apples instead. And I splurged! I bought the $2.69/lb organic Fuji’s. Mostly because they’re smaller than the non-organics (I have a long-standing distrust of massive fruit and vegetables. It all began with a story my mother told me once about the A&M program at UMass in the mid 1960s farming HUGE carrots that were later served in the cafeterias) but also because organic is better, yes?

I also splurged and bought the $6.99/lb free range/organic chicken breast because free range/organic is better, yes? All this coffee detox has got me to thinking that I’d better thoroughly clean up my act and stop consuming so many chemicals. Especially since I have a tendency to get all high and mighty about big pharma. If I refuse to ingest those chemicals, shouldn’t I refuse to ingest the chemicals contained in the VAST MAJORITY of what’s on offer at the local supermarche and buy only organic?

Well, this just opens up a whole new, nasty, line of thinking about the corporatization of organic farming here in North Uhmerikah. From an article by Hillary Bain Lindsay at The Dominion:

Kellogg owns Kashi, a supplier of organic whole grain cereals. Kraft has bought out Boca, a maker of organic soy burgers. The corporate interest in organics goes beyond food to include things like organic cotton and organic seeds. Select Walmart stores now sell a limited line of organic cotton supplies for yoga, bath and baby. M&M/Mars has bought Seeds of Change, an organic seed company. ‘Many organic seed varieties are now available only through a giant seed company called Seminis, which earlier this year was acquired by Monsanto,’ reports Howard.

Um…did someone say Monsanto? None of these companies have jumped on the organic bandwagon because they are particularly concerned with the healthy eating habits of Americans nor our friends to the North. People are interested in organics which means that organics are a potential revenue stream. I get it. Capitalism. Free market. Financial solvency for all. American dream! Rah rah rah.

In his amazing NY Times article, Eating Food That’s Better for You, Organic or Not, my food hero and yours, Mark Bittman, who also happens to be an avid runner and regular contributor to RW, questioned whether or not the organic debate isn’t totally beside the point. The point being that Americans eat shit and adding an organic tomato to your shopping list won’t make a lick of difference if everything else in the cart is made of white flour, high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

Bittman writes that the term “organic”:

…under the United States Department of Agriculture’s definition, means it is generally free of synthetic substances; contains no antibiotics and hormones; has not been irradiated or fertilized with sewage sludge; was raised without the use of most conventional pesticides; and contains no genetically modified ingredients.

Those requirements, which must be met in order for food to be labeled “U.S.D.A. Organic,” are fine, of course. But they still fall short of the lofty dreams of early organic farmers and consumers who gave the word “organic” its allure — of returning natural nutrients and substance to the soil in the same proportion used by the growing process (there is no requirement that this be done); of raising animals humanely in accordance with nature (animals must be given access to the outdoors, but for how long and under what conditions is not spelled out); and of producing the most nutritious food possible (the evidence is mixed on whether organic food is more nutritious) in the most ecologically conscious way.

The government’s organic program, says Joan Shaffer, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department, “is a marketing program that sets standards for what can be certified as organic. Neither the enabling legislation nor the regulations address food safety or nutrition.”

The USDA is happy to market organics to us but they could care less about whether certified-organic food is actually nutritious. And you can bet your GMO that those standards for certification will only get looser and more vague as your favorite big box companies and food corps. continue to crash the party.

Seriously, just Google the term “organic farming lies” and enjoy a full day of reading. There’s a lot coming from both sides of the argument. Obviously, this topic is far too complicated and I am far too lazy to dig into it completely. But start here: read all the stuff I linked to, watch Food, Inc. (great work in spite of and because it is total propaganda) and buy direct from your local organic farmers whenever possible (those of us in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Fran, have no excuse). Also, just stop drinking so much G-damned soda and eating so many snack crackers!

I, for one, will continue to steer clear of El Chiquita.


6 Responses to “Bananas are Evil, Organic or Not (with a Nod to Bittman)”

  1. iwanttobeatriathlete March 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    I’m sorry, I can’t get passed the Perro Grande muffins… I’ll continue to read later…

  2. Amir March 15, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

    Phew! Glad I left when I did. Sounds like you’re in hell right now. I’m hoping that this is the roughest part of the ween. Ween implies a slow process, so I hope the effects aren’t also long-lasting. Yikes. As for the banana, as one who has banana in his nome d’email, I’m not sure how I feel about all this hostility towards it. I suppose if I gave it up, I’d curse it too. Damn you banana. Can you still use it for oral innuendo? As for organics, I went shopping yesterday and turned down $2/bunch of organic scallions in favor of $0.30/bunch of chemical-soaked scallions. If my salsa gives me tumors, then I have a nice excuse to drink the pain away. Again and again and again.
    Fight hard Edith. Use those gloves.

    • Amir March 15, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

      Dammit, nome shouldn’t have an e in it.

      • mymultipersonality March 15, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

        don’t worry about it. still a very nicely done comment.

  3. sexyflexi March 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    Love this post; the doc touches on this, as does a book series I’m helping to edit right now.
    Have you seen King Corn?

    • mymultipersonality March 16, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

      I have seen King Corn. Totally frightening. It’s all so confusing and frustrating. I just want to grow my own damned food.

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