The Whole Spiel

In a World Gone Bananas, They’ve
Now Fund Torture & Remove Splinters

And you thought there’s no tamer fruit than a banana. These clones that used to be your monkey’s favorites are now best-sellers in the global fruit market’s hit parade. From the tropics, where they’re originally from, to Alaska, the snowy foot of Mount Fuji to scorching deserts of North of Africa, bananas became our favorite, potassium-rich snack food.
But there’s more to this picture than meets the many eyes of the poisonous spiders that happen to have been hitching hiking aboard those big green bunches since the Discovery era and the navigators began trading across the seven seas.
Take Chiquita Brands, for example, the American giant corporation created in 1899 to explore banana crops all over Central and South America. No matter how sweet bananas may be, Chiquita has shown throughout its history a very bitter streak in the way that it conducts its business, constantly at odds with labor organizations and literally beating the local competition to the punch.
Now, for instance, it’s been accused, in a class suit moved by thousands of Colombians, of helping to fund paramilitary groups that engaged in torture, committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, and targeted trade unionists and leftist activists during Colombia’s civil war.
The suit contends that Chiquita made payments between 1997 and 2004 totaling $1.7 million to right-wing paramilitary groups, for which it has pleaded guilty in March 2007 and was fined $25 million. In its defense, the company argues that the suit should be dismissed because it was blackmailed into paying so to protect its employees.
A U.S. District Judge has rejected the request to throw out the claims and the suit will proceed.
No shortage of banana is expected by U.S. consumers anytime soon, though.
That is, as long as you’re not in the U.K., because there, it’s a different story. Then again, the British are different. From the get go, they were partial to the Cavendish, which is one of several thousands of types of banana around but it’s been cultivated with a passion there since the 1940s.
First grown in the Chatsworth greenhouse of the William Cavendish, sixth Duke of Devonshire, it got catapulted into the mass market and it fast became the U.K.’s big banana, so to speak. Now, it also accounts for 99% of international consumption. Now the famed Cavendish has found a match, in the form of a fungal disease that threatens to put a damper in the discriminate British demand.
“Tropical Race 4,” the fungus named most likely after some kind of racing car competition, has already destroyed crops across Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia, and it’s been recently found in South and Central America too. With the ability to linger in soil for decades, the prospect of an outbreak could be catastrophic to plantation owners and the economies of the countries that export bananas.
It’d be even worse for the remaining dukes and aristocrats of England, the majority of which have actually acquired their nobility titles for stiff prices. For much less, they and everyone else in the U.K. have been consuming more than five billion bananas per year, more than any other European.
If Race 4 has its way, though, not even for those nobility title prices will they be able to afford their daily consumption of the tropical delight.
Which would be a shame, really. How else would they, and everyone else if the parasite continues to spread, be able to remove splinters and sooth those nasty bug bites so common during the summer months? Say what? We bet you didn’t know anything about the healing properties of the banana peel, did you? And we’re not talking about those acrobatic falls that used to be a staple of slapstick comedy.
We’re talking about enzymes found only in the outer layer of the fruit turned into a pop icon by Andy Warhol. All you have to do is to soak the area into the peel and voilá, the splinter will be easily dislodged. And the bite will start to heal. It’s awfully good for warts too. Just call us in the morning and you’re good to go.
But wait. There’s also something far more sinister going on about bananas these days (and wouldn’t you know it?) We don’t know whether it’s all part of a conspiracy to force us all to shed some pounds and skip dessert. Or there’s more than meets the eye here too.
All we know is that it did happen in Florida. And those involved were not happy campers about it. Since we just gave you a medical recipe to heal, we may as well go ahead and give you now a dessert recipe too.
If you like bananas, chances are you love Bananas Foster. And probably know how to make it too, just bananas, butter, cinnamon and sugar in a pan or skillet. And then some rum. It’s usually prepared by the table side in not too fancy restaurants.
You know all that, of course. The thing about the rum is that it’s always better when the waiter hasn’t tasted it before. That’s what probably happened in Florida. The waiter poured a bit too much on the hot skillet, the thing ignited and seriously burned four people.
Again, we don’t know exactly what happened. But after this whole story about torture in the jungles of South America, of poisonous spiders, spreading fungus and warts going awry, you may want to lay off the bananas for now. And the rum. Or just the rum. Definitely the flaming bananas. We no longer know what we’re talking about. There was probably something in the last shot.

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