Friday, November 28, 2008

Give Us This Day Our Daily Banana

In English, "bread" can be a synonym for "meal" or "food" (and for "money", though that's a later innovation), as evidenced by the line from the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread."

In Japanese, "gohan" is both (cooked) "rice" and "meal": "Gohan wo tabeta?" "[Have you] eaten a meal?" (Transliterated; a more natural rendering would be "Have you eaten?")

An article in a recent issue of Science, talking about bananas, informs me that in Uganda the word for "banana" is the same as the word for "food". Sadly, the article didn't give the word for it, or even name the language (presumably Swahili).

I read the article on the train on the way home yesterday, and when I got home I was dying for a banana. Fortunately, Mayumi had bought bananas. Unfortunately, my girls managed eat all of them before I got home :-).

That's perhaps an allegory for what's happening worldwide: the Cavendish banana, the most common around the world, is under attack by a fungus all over the planet. The plant can be grown only by cloning (it's sterile) and since all the plants are genetically identical, they are all equally susceptible.

Other strains of bananas might be less vulnerable, but are suffering from neglect. (The most fragrant bananas I've ever had were in Nepal, some small variety that smelled of cinnamon.) Let's not let the world's fourth-most-important staple crop (behind rice, wheat and corn) get away from us, people!

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