As freelance journalist Murray demonstrates, even people who have never traveled participate in a global journey when they visit a supermarket.
Their shopping carts, she explains, may contain salmon from Norway, plum tomatoes from Italy, bananas from Guatemala, strawberries from Spain, cheeses from France, olive oil from Greece—and many other items from afar. The author ponders the whys and ways of transporting perishable products for thousands of miles before they reach a dinner table. For millennia, engineers have developed practical shipping methods to satisfy a population’s various food cravings, which have changed, and been changed by, political landscapes. The Roman Empire may not have been founded with gastronomy in mind, but the effect of imperial hegemony was to load Roman tables with grain from Egypt and Africa, wine from Spain, Greece, France and Sicily, preserved fruits from Syria, walnuts from Persia and rare spices from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In the 15th century, Vasco da Gama seeded Portuguese colonies in Africa and Asia when he sought a sea route to India in quest of peppercorns. Enabled by refrigerated steamships, U.S. fruit companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries harvested and shipped millions of bananas to the States, dominating the politics and economies of the tiny countries where bananas were grown. Murray’s ruminations on such topics are interesting and often surprising, as when she explains that it makes economic sense to freeze fresh salmon and ship it to China, where the laborious task of picking out the bones can be done inexpensively before the fish is refrozen and shipped back to the United States and Europe—a trip equivalent to the circumnavigation of the globe.
Tasty tidbits about food on the go, from an amphora of olive oil to a box of Domino’s Pizza.