👀 Me to my food: How did you get here?
#249 | The life and adventures of major food crops
"How come Kolkata is the cheapest metropolis?" asked a colleague who lives in a different metropolis in another part of the country. (We were on a workcation in the Himalayas).
If I was in a joking mood, I might have said, "We're a poor region because the Brits took everything." Which isn't even a joke, sadly.
But instead, I told him about the East Kolkata Wetlands - a 125 square kilometre area of marshland and lakes that act as a natural sewage disposal system for the city. The EKW is home to a community of farmers and fisherfolk who recycle the sewage to nourish and grow their produce, which then makes way to Kolkata's bazaars.
The transportation cost, therefore, is very low - making food prices a lot cheaper in comparison to other major cities.
So, if you're lunching in Kolkata, gorging on a typical Bengali spread - Bhaat, Daal, Alu Posto, Machh Bhaja (rice, lentils, potato and poppy seed curry, fried fish) - you're most probably eating local.
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But so much of the food we eat comes from all over the world, and we seldom stop to think about their origins. If your curiosity has been piqued after reading this bit about Kolkata's wetlands, you might want to check out Where our food crops come from, a collection of three interactive maps that help us visualise the complicated journeys our foods make to reach our tables.
Based on a study conducted by researchers at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in 2016, these maps tell us the native origins of major food crops, where they are now eaten worldwide, and where major production hubs are located at present.
Now I'm waiting for someone to make an interactive map of the journey a piece of fish makes between the EKW and my plate here in Kolkata. Get on it, data visualisers!
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