Saturday, November 12, 2005

Friday at the Market

In season:

Limes (Mexico, Brazil)
Rocket (Israel)
Beautiful Figs (Turkey)
Custard apple, aka Anona (Granada)
Papayas (Brazil)
Spring Onions (Egypt)
Parsnip (England)
Broccoly (Spain)
Courgettes, Cauliflower (Country of origin unknown)

All made their way, across mountains, oceans and highways to South London, where they are gracefully chucked in the bin.

Before I started going to the Wholesale Fruit and Veg Market, the terms globalizaion, or free market, conveyed for me a sense of a levelled world, in which transport, communication and commerce go in all directions, to reach all corners of the world, and bind them into a web of constant buzz and flow.

During my repeated visits to the market, I soon realized that like any spider web, the globalized web has its centrepoints; points of power and control. Ultimately, a web is a way to make dinner for one party; somebody is doing the eating, while others are being eaten. The system has its metropolitans and the provinces, its rulers and ruled. It is about hierarchy: the flow is going everywhere, from everywhere, it's frantic and crazy. But there is a clear and one-sided logic to it all. Look in the bins atthe Wholesale Market, and you will understand it: No one in Egypt and Mexico will be eating parsnips for Christmas (they don't know what they're missing).

With figs and cusard apples, I find it difficult enough to get them home unsquashed; importing them from the other side of the world - just seems so stupid. No wonder so much is thrown out. Such levels of excess and waste make sense only in terms of crude profit (figs are sold 2 for a pound).

One day, of course, everybody will be rich and happy; after we win the War on Terror, and we'll have peace and capitalism, everybody will have money to import whatever they want. And so the good people of Granda could import english turnips - just to chuck them in the bin.

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