Thursday, June 30, 2016


So – unless UK politics is even stranger than it currently appears (perfectly possible), and unless Boris Johnson is very, very clever indeed (Ian Hislop would argue otherwise), it seems that “the beast of Brexit” won’t be the next British Prime Minister.  Maybe he’ll be the one after that.

There’s been a quotation from Johnson floating around that I’ve only paid half attention to, which runs. "Left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain."
    I assumed he was denouncing the English working class, and he’d just got carried away and used the word plantain when really he meant potatoes.

But no, I discover that the line comes from an article of his in the Spectator, 2 February 2002, and he’s actually talking about Uganda and the dubious advantages of international aid.
“And don't swallow any of that nonsense about how we planted the 'wrong crops'. Uganda teems, sprouts, bursts with vegetation. You will find fruits rare and strange, like the jackfruit, hanging bigger than your head and covered with green tetrahedral nodules. Though delicately perfumed, it is, alas, more or less disgusting, and not even Waitrose is pretentious enough to stock it.
“So the British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right. It is true that coffee prices are currently low; but that is the fault of the Vietnamese, who are shamelessly undercutting the market, and not of the planters of 100 years ago. If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain. You never saw a place so abounding in bananas: great green barrel-sized bunches, off to be turned into matooke. Though this dish (basically fried banana) was greatly relished by Idi Amin, the colonists correctly saw that the export market was limited.”  This is what matooke looks like:

It’s not clear to me whether Johnson has actually eaten matooke, or for that matter jackfruit, quite possibly he has, but as you see the internet is awash with pictures of him eating one thing and another.  Here he is about to eat camel (who doesn't love a good piece of camel?): 

Here he is eating octopus balls in Japan (ditto):

And here he is, for whatever reason, brandishing a bunch of asparagus, with handwritten commentary in the background:

Also, when mayor of London he launched the “one pot pledge” urging coffee drinkers to use at least one disposal coffee cup as a “mini allotment” and grow food at home or in the office.  This came after the environmental charity Garden Organic, estimated that 88,218 disposable cups were used every 15 minutes in the UK, which seems an odd way of putting it.

It is apparently possible to grow both bananas and jackfruit in a container, but I think you’d need something bigger than a disposable coffee cup. 

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