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THE FRUiT iSSUE: LiME

A QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF FOOD AND WRiTiNG

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A QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF FOOD AND WRiTiNG

Peter Meehan Editorial Director READ MORE AND SUBSCRIBE AT

Chris Ting Editor in chief

LUCKYPEACH.COM

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Contributors: Gabriele Syabile

Jourdan Simmonds Art Director Joanna Sciarrino Managing Editor Aralyn Beaumont Research Editor Ryan Healey Associate Web Editor Rob Engvall Junior Designer Emily Johnson Editorial Assistant Brette Warshaw Chief Operating Officer Priya Krishna Marketing Manager

ALWAYS UPDATED AND UP TO DATE MADE OUT OF PIXELS INSTEAD OF PAPER

Letters, submissions, mangos, pies, pizza pies, etc. Will find us at either of the below addresses

Special Thanks To Sascha Bod, Nikkie Bertrand, Kathline Chery,Jena Derman, Maddie Edgar,Ashley Goldsmith, Mary-Frances Heck, Michael Paul Light, C.B. Owens, Lily Starbuck, Lucas Turner Helping Hands: Suzi An, Tina Battock, Thai Chang-tong, Noelle Cornelio, Michelle Curb, Alexandra Forbes, Tanya Holland, Eli Horowitz, Joseph Johnson, Stephen Kent, Francesca Maniace, Camryn Mothersbaugh, Grace Ngyuen, Rebecca Palkovics, Meghan Patke, Melissa Pinch, Philip Pinch, Paul Qui, Juila Rodrigues, Chad Robertson, Marya Spence, Sheri Warshaw

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EDiTOR'S NOTE:

Fru i ts a re the Uni verse's energy, ado r ned i n f l u ro rscent gi f t wrap and scat tered a ro u nd p l anet ear th. They 're the o r i gi nal re a d y -m ades. Fr ui ts have al so pl ay ed a n i nte g ral ro l e fo r the gro wth o f human e xi s te nc e . Vi tami ns, wi ne, subj ect mat ter fo r pai nti ng cl asses. Fr ui t i s o mni po tent. Onc e c onsi dered a sui tabl e gi f t to the g o d s -o r a sy mbo l o f si n and pl easure, f ru i t i s a n anci ent metapho r fo r i denti t y. Fru i t is the theme o f thi s i ssue's L ucky Peach and here's o ur pai nti ng. -

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ESSAYS

7. My Pink Cast

12. Fruit Barons

22. Relationships

30. Kitchen Tech

38. Strt Mngo

48. Portfolio

50. Coconut Monkeys

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t first I was so proud I was getting a cast. You went 3 weeks with a broken hand? You must be tough. What bullshit. Too much pride is obviously a bad thing. Espiecially a bad thing when you handicap your body for the last 3 weeks of school and make believe the last 3 weeks of school are more important than your friend's breakup or mother's day card. Having a pink cast starts off bad. It made me claustrophobic and slow. Completing tasks sans non dominant hand felt like putting your foot in a shoe that's already tied, doubleknotted. I've also been grunting a lot too. Like a boar getting killed by my filipino uncles. That's important that I told you they're Filipino. Because after the boar is killed, it is cooked and fed for to all my other family members. And something deliciousness comes from struggle and pain. Actually deliciousness must always comes from struggle and pain. And this magazine, this article, I hope will end up so delicous. Here's a poem: Pink Cast, No mast. The smell of bleu cheese

Life boils down to two things to me: the conscious and unconscious, but a third thing manifests when we become conscious of our unconscious and unconscious of our conscious. It's the dark matter of life. The delicous struggle. Art. Poetry. My Spam musubi. Today I'm also so thankful. The weather is great and the pain is fading. I can tell the bones actually healing. I found a good song to listen to: All You Are Going To Want To Do Is Get Back There by: The Caretaker 's So reader, if you ever get a cast ask for it- pink. It will become your art. Fight it, have some pride. You won't like it at first, but you will. It will be delicious. Grrr!!

*Thank you Miranda for your typing help.

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When's the last time you had a long egg?

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A long tamago.

- Conan M

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FRUIT FRUIT BARONS BARONS OF OF BROOKLYN BROOKLYN LAUREN LAURENRO RO

In Southern California, where I grew up, produce is abundant and cheap, if controversial. In school you watch documentaries about Cesar Chavez and learn that Allen Ginsberg poem about the supermarket by heart. Your half-Mexican friend explains that she and her mother don’t buy grapes because of the poor farmers, but you’ve grown up in a Korean household, and fruit, to you, is a gift. It is also

dessert. You bring boxes of Asian pears covered in a lattice of protective foam as housewarming gifts, and a watermelon carved in the shape of a basket to your classroom birthday party instead of a cake. In New York City, produce is sad-looking and expensive; it lacks magic here. But if you know where to look, you can almost always find decent goods at competitive prices courtesy of your local Korean greengrocer. As a child of immigrants, I love getting a good deal, which means

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that I spend a lot of time comparison-shopping. I would rather spend the extra half hour traveling to a second store than overpay for a single item. I travel to New Jersey for H Mart and trek to Costco four times a year for bulk items, but the store I go to the most is also the closest: a tiny, unassuming fruit and vegetable grocer one block from my apartment called Mr. CoCo. Mr. CoCo sits on Myrtle Avenue (once known as Murder Avenue) near the intersection at Vanderbilt Avenue on the border of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. It’s open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and sells fresh

fruit and vegetables at rock-bottom prices. It’s owned by Koreans. I know this because they announce their offerings on neon paper signs that are scrawled in script that belongs to a Korean person. (All English written by Korean natives is identical in the way that French handwriting is recognizably French.)

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Mr. CoCo’s convenience is a plus, but I’d still go there even if it were farther. The real deal is the produce displayed out front. It’s abundant and cheap, usually priced in $1 increments, making shopping fun and easy. Limes are seven for $1, but in leaner times, you’ll only get five. You can get two grapefruits, or three navel oranges, or two bunches of scallions for $1, depending on the day. I pick up bananas for $0.79 a pound, or, if I’m feeling rich, spring for the organic at $0.99. My favorite deal is loose green beans in a crate that you can grab by the handful and stuff in a plastic bag that you tear off from a roll suspended above you by a string, $1

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for a pound. But make sure to get more than you think you’ll need— because tomorrow they’ll be gone. At Mr. CoCo, you never know what you’re gonna get, and not knowing is half the fun. You have to be careful, though. What you get outside is not always going to be the same as what you get inside, and you have to be truthful when the cashier asks, “Inside or outside?” Because the $1 strawberry crates outside are not identical to the fresher looking, more expensive ones inside, and that’s by design. Once you’re lured inside, you’ll find the usual staples of gentrifyingBrooklyn—Kettle Brand

chips instead of Lay’s, Justin’s organic peanut butter cups instead of Reese’s, pet food, Bob’s Red Mill goods, kombucha, beer—but I don’t mess with that stuff. Like most corner stores, the markup on non-produce is high, but if you’re a smart (obsessive) shopper like me, you’ll go elsewhere for those. (In many ways, I am their non-ideal customer.) The Korean greengrocer—and its counterpart the Hispanic bodega—is something of a New York City institution. In recent years, though, many have been forced to close due to the influx of chain stores and rising rents. So I was surprised to see


that same hand-written signage nestled among other storefront produce displays throughout Brooklyn. I wondered if one person was responsible for writing them. (If I have one talent—I would even venture to say that it’s a preternatural one—it’s being able to recognize faces, and, as it turns out, handwriting.) It wasn’t until I got off the B62 bus at the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza Bus Terminal one evening that I had confirmation. I was early to meet people, and I needed to pick up a snack. In front of me I saw those precisely written signs again. I looked up and beheld a cartoon pineapple

wearing sunglasses and a sideways grin, one arm cocked on his would-be hip, and next to him, his namesake: Mr. Piña Fruit & Vegetables. He was the obvious partner to Mr. CoCo, who also wore sunglasses and a toothy grin. I grabbed a clamshell of $2 grapes and went inside to pay. At the cash wrap I recognized two Koreans, a lady and a younger dude, whom I had previously seen working at Mr. CoCo. I don’t think they recognized me. Still, I made a slight bow of greeting, which they didn’t seem to register. They rang me up efficiently and notunwarmly, as Koreans do. Then I was out the door, jostling past the

Hasids and the Polish grandmothers and the hipsters, because another thing about these stores is that they’re popular with just about everybody. Who doesn’t love a great deal? I needed to know: Who was the proprietor behind these stores with sassy anthropomorphic fruits as their mascots? Who was the real Mr. CoCo, and what secrets would he reveal to me? I marched to Mr. CoCo, this time for answers. There, I spoke to D., who said I could find the boss, Mr. Yoon, at Mr. Lime on 7th Avenue in Park Slope.There’s a Mr. Lime?? I thought to myself. I took the B69 to 7thAvenue and 9th Street, where I found

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Mr. Yoon merchandising packages of seaweed snacks. “How much is this?” he calls out to a cashier, holding up a seaweed snack. She looks up with a sly smile. “It’s $1.75, not $1, okay? $1.75!” he says, mock-yelling at her. She goes back to ringing up customers without saying a word. I approach him and explain that D. at Mr. CoCo sent me, and that I would like to talk to him about the store. He’s skeptical, but when I tell him that I’m Korean too, he switches from English to his native tongue: “Is that so?” he asks. Connection established, we go next door to a coffee shop that is also owned by

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Koreans, and he buys me a tea. I do my best to conduct the interview in broken Korean. He is gracious but I can sense a little wariness on his part. After all, I am being quite nosey. His name is Jack, is in his late twenties and manages Mr. Lime. He is the youngest of the five brothers (the leader and boss-boss being June Ha, who is in his mid-thirties) who own the cluster of groceries, of which there are six, all located in Brooklyn. (His family lives in Flushing.) His two eldest brothers emigrated from South Korea to New York City a little over ten years ago and started working in similar stores. After a few years of saving and

learning the business, they were able to set up a grocery of their own. The first one, Mr. Kiwi’s, opened in 2007 in Bushwick. After that came Mr. CoCo in 2010, followed shortly thereafter by Mr. Piña, then Mr. Melon in Fort Greene in 2012, Mr. Lime in 2014, and finally Mr. Berry in Greenpoint, which opened last year. All six stores are open twenty-four hours a day, carry fresh sushi, and, with the exception of Mr. CoCo, have juice bars. Mr. Kiwi’s and Mr. Piña are the biggest of the stores, though Jack says they’re all equally busy. Even as mom-and-pop stores struggle to stay afloat throughout the city, business in Brooklyn


seems to be doing well for the brothers, so much so that they’re slated to open two more stores: one on Knickerbocker Avenue in April, and another on Lafayette Avenue in July. It takes them about two years to find a location, and they consider foot traffic, the number of apartments in the area, the size of the nearest intersection, the proximity of chain supermarkets, and access to public transportation. Indeed, all of them except for Mr. CoCo are either on the same block as—or within a block or two of—a subway station. What I really want to know is what they’ll be called. Jack says that the names of the stores are still pending.

I offer up “Mr. Mango” as a suggestion. Then I wonder if one of them might ever be named a “Mrs.” Fruit. Jack says that since they’re all brothers, they’ve chosen to name the stores “Mr.” They buy their produce from the market in College Point, Queens every morning between 3 and 4 a.m. Four or five of their trucks meet them at the market to pick up the goods, and then bring them to the stores. “We don’t sell fruit to make money,” Jack says. “We think of it as giving it away. When people come to buy fruit, they buy other things.” By selling cheaply, they are able to sell in high volume. I don’t tell him that I rarely buy anything

else besides fruit and vegetables at his store, even though I think he’d understand. I tell Jack that I love their signs, specifically the uniformity of style, the authoritative penmanship. I want to know who writes them. “Whoever’s there that day,” he replies. “But they all look the same!” I blurt in English. It’s difficult for me to express in my barely proficient Korean that it’s those signs that led me to pursue this meeting in the first place, but I try anyway. It’s the consistency of their enterprise that I admire the most, the brilliance I see lurking behind every paper sign and cartoon fruit. I want

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to explain that I love Mr. CoCo as more than just a store, that I am so drawn to their hand-written signs that I am able to recognize them on other stores just by glimpsing them on a drive-by. “I see. Thank you,” he responds, baring no emotion. “I guess if you follow the style of one sign, they will begin to look similar across the stores.” I was hoping for a more revealing answer, but I move on. From what I can see, they must do gangbusters. I want to know specifics, hard numbers, but I know that’s not a polite question I can ask. Instead of being nuanced, I take the opposite approach. “How’s business?” I ask. “It’s enough to make a living,” he replies. I knew he’d say that, so I try another way. “Is your family… rich?” “No way,” he replies, laughing. I ask what lessons he’s learned while running the business with his brothers. “I’ve learned how to do business, definitely,” he says. “But it’s very hard, the physical work.”

Be f ore I went l o o ki ng fo r M r. Co Co , I fantasi zed a bo ut bei ng asked to g o o n a r i de -al o ng to the pro duce mar ket o ne m o rn i ng and l ear ni ng the s e c rets o f r unni ng a mi ni f ru i t sto re empi re. But the s e c ret i s that there i s no s e c ret. O nl y hard wo r k. I think back to summers in middle school when I reluctantly worked the cash register at my grandmother’s café. I’d leave the house with her at 5 a.m. or earlier to drive to the produce market downtown to buy crates of lettuce and tomatoes and potatoes. When the café closed in the evening, I’d count the

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cash twice and stack plastic utensils neatly in boxes as she did the biweekly shopping at Sam’s Club. Sometimes I’d have to shred chicken, or peel hot potatoes by hand (never with a peeler). Back at home, she’d ask me to massage her feet, which were still soft despite decades of backbreaking work, but I didn’t much want to because they were still feet. Then I’d remember that she’d been doing much harder work for the past three decades, running eleven different business at one point, after losing her husband at thirty-six and coming to the United States as a widow with three young children so they could have better life. It’s because of the struggles of both my grandmothers, and of Jack’s family, and of countless other immigrants, that their children and their grandchildren—me, basically— could one day waltz into a convenience store to politely inquire, “What price bananas? Are you my angel?” LUCKY PEACH


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Relationships in Hospitality Anonymous

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his is a love story. Kinda. It was the beginning of a lovely relationship—that didn’t actually happen. But it was a sweet beginning and so I look back at that summer with rose-tinted glasses. It’s also totally typical of how relationships just don’t work in hospitality. The night started off with the junior manager coming up with an ingenious idea: cocaine breaks. Lucky


Coke breaks when changing the beer barrels. We worked in this restaurantbar in the middle of the city. Lunch times were busy because we were the kind of place that served good, simple food. It was the perfect place for both secretaries to lunch with their friends and their bosses to nip in for a quick bite. In the evening, especially on Thursday and Friday night, it was chaos. The tables all got moved back and the bar became five people-deep from 6 PM to 9 PM (at least!). We were right beside a big consultancy company and so all the big, dick-swinging city boys came in. We mainly sold pints of lager

and Pinot Grigio, then 9 PM would mean trays of tequila—it was that kind of crowd. Most Friday nights, we would pop pills. It would keep us going, get us pumped. There was always a lot of dancing going on behind the bar. Plus, drugs help you deal with the morons, which is inevitable in the city. But it could get messy, someone would take one pill too many and the whole thing would fall apart with hundreds of guests to be served. Fucking disaster. The night started off with the junior manager coming up with an ingenious idea: cocaine breaks. Coke breaks when changing the beer barrels. So, this particular Friday

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night, my manager decided that it all needed to be organised. Pills were a bit of a liability, so why not just do coke? The coke was laid out in the cellar by the beer barrels and we all took turns throughout the night to change the barrels. This was clever, as it meant that we all took turns doing a job we didn’t like. I think that was our manager’s real motive! The main outcome of this was that by the end of the night, we were all buzzing but not fucked up—a first. I confess, I would often get excited and swept away with the moment and then be completely wasted and have to go home. Tonight was different. So we headed to one


of the big nightclubs nearby (we and make sure we’re all OK. knew people there so always got So it got to that time when straight in—and into the VIP we had to go—but I couldn’t bar). find the guy. We hadn’t swapped There was this really lovely numbers yet. French boy working behind Oh well, I parked it in the the bar. I had eyed him before “fun night to remember” box and and was always too shy, but the hoped he’d remember me when steady flow of coke that night we came back. gave me the edge to approach Our restaurant was closed at him and bat my eyelashes. We the weekend so I would work till talked all night and had a little close on a Friday night, but open dance when he was on his break. on a Monday vmorning. This Now the rule with our crew meant a 7 AM start on Monday. is that we all go home together. Gross. The next Monday, I was Even if you pull, you exchange putting out the outside furniture, numbers and meet up another when I see in the distance a guy time, sober. It’s a cool rule, it on a BMX circling around. He keeps everyone safe, and we disappears, and then reappears look out for each other. We at the end of our little road. It’s crash out at someone’s house the bartender!

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He had remembered I opened on a Monday morning and vaguely where I worked, so once he finished at 6 AM that morning at the club, he had ridden around the streets till he found me. It was super cute. I made us a coffee, we sat down and chatted, swapped numbers, then he rode off. We texted back and forth but hospitality is such a tough bunch of hours and we worked in such different establishments that we couldn’t actually arrange to meet up. We couldn’t even get the sexting to work (it really doesn’t flow if you have hourlong gaps between each filthy message). But, for three weeks, he would finish his shift on a


Monday morning and come visit me for an hour, bring coffee and breakfast, and we would have these mini dates. We’d make out a little—it was PG-rated but it was all so nice. Work had been pretty ridiculous, so we hadn’t gone back to the club since. But finally, after three weeks of these morning coffees, we rocked up one Friday night. I made sure I wasn’t too wasted, even though we had pretty much installed the beer barrel coke breaks into our Friday night regime.

O n hi s fi rst break, I g a v e hi m a hand j o b o n t he dance fl o o r. O n hi s s ec on d break, we j ust sno gg ed . O ne hi s thi rd break , w e fucked i n to i l et s . Then he went home to France for a holiday for two weeks and my shifts changed. So we had a few more dance floor dates over the summer, but nothing really happened in the real world—it was just too difficult to organise. Sometimes I do think, If we met properly, we didn’t work in hospitality, would we be married and happy by now? Was he the love of my life? I’m still single and he’s in China now, being a DJ. VICE

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Is Kitchen Technology Bullshit? Aiden Byrne

At 22 years old in 2002, Aiden Byrne became the youngest chef to pick up a Michelin star for his work at The Commons restaurant in Dublin. He is currently executive chef at Manchester House as well as owning several establishments in the North West. The restaurant’s £2.5 million development and recent opening was the subject of 2014 BBC documentary, Restaurant Wars: The Battle for Manchester. Cooking is a fairly simple art—or at least it should be—but there seems to be a strange and unrelenting

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obsession with technology in kitchens, restaurants, and people’s homes. Food is so fashionable at the moment that it’s making chefs and the general public fall for buying stuff that they really don’t need and waste a load of cash in the process. The coming and going of cooking sous-vide is a classic example. It’s a total wind up. I recently went to a restaurant and had a piece of chicken that was cooked sous-vide. It was like eating chicken paste out of a fucking squeezy metal tube, like that horrible synthetic cheese stuff you used to eat at college. It’d probably been cooked for about


700 hours in a water bath so it had absolutely no texture. It was about £30 for the main course. It’s a trend, and we as chefs can be like sheep on that front. As soon as we see someone at the top of the food chain—like Thomas Keller at The French Laundry or Ferran Adria at elBulli—do something, our first reaction is, “Ooh, I want one of those.” If you’re a high-end restaurant and you can afford to buy it, that’s fine. Sort of. But then demand goes up, the products get mass-produced, and the boys at the bottom of the chain—no disrespect intended—are over the moon because they can get all that kit

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for much cheaper. They get themselves a water bath and then start cooking absolutely everything in it. Kitchen technology is a trend, and we as chefs can be like sheep on that front. As soon as we see someone at the top of the food chain with new equipment, our first reaction is, “Ooh, I want one of those.” The problem is that the quality differs massively. If there are two versions of the same thing and one costs thousands whereas the other costs hundreds, you’re never going to get the same results. Not in a professional kitchen. A water bath can cost anything from


£300 to £1000 depending on power and quality, so it’s a big layout. But when they first came out, they were two or three grand and people were just buying them because the top boys had them. I worked in one place where we had seven water baths. A year later, we had one in the kitchen and six in the garage gathering dust.

The n you g e t p ho ne c a l l s f rom a ll the s u p p l i e rs s a yin g , We l l , he ’s g o t on e d own the ro a d , a nd

I ’ ve j ust so l d o ne to XYZ . Par t o f y o u thi nks, Shi t, I ’d bet ter get o ne. Peer pressure. Lots of lower-end restaurants are being sold the dream, investing in a water baths and then being told that they have to invest in a vacuum machine and loads of other stuff. Before you know where you are, you’ve spent seven or eight grand. But if I’m being honest, the most annoying part of it is that average punter probably won’t

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know the difference. The latest one is centrifuge machines. They emulsify and clarify sauces by whizzing them round really, really fast. But if you don’t use it in the right way, you can strip all the flavour and substance out. If you don’t actually know what you’re doing, you’ll do more damage than good. I had some bloke sat at my chef ’s table in Manchester House the other day proudly telling me he had a vacuum pack machine. At home. You fucking what? It’s all “boys’ toys,” and loads of us fall for it. It’s tech for tech’s sake. At Manchester House, we only use kit if


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it’s absolutely necessary, not for the hell of it. That being said, I can’t live without my Thermomix blender. I’ve got two of them. They cost me £1000 each and they do everything. All the soups, sauces, and purees; they all go through the blender, so they’re on the go constantly. They work harder than some chefs I know, so you can have that one. I had some bloke sat at my chef ’s table in Manchester House the other day proudly telling me he had a vacuum pack machine. At home. You fucking what? I just had to smile and say, Oh, that’s nice. It’s restaurant kit, for crying out

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loud. What on earth is he doing with one of those in his house? It’ll be sitting in the fucking garage with his Xbox in a year. If he’s got enough money to buy something he can show off to his mates when they come around twice a year, fair enough. But I had to wonder. So here’s the thing: you probably don’t need half the kit in your kitchen. You need a pan, a stove, and an oven. That’s the same if you’ve got a restaurant or if you’re just a home cook. Learn to cook. That’s the best tip. Because if you can’t, there’s no amount of kit in the world that’ll make an ounce of difference. VICE


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Aaron Thier

The Problem with Coconut Monkeys


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Across Southeast Asia, pigtail macaques are trained to harvest coconuts. This has been going on for hundreds and probably thousands of years. In an 1883 account of her time in Malaysia, Isabella Bird says that the coconut monkey was “an inmate of most of the houses.” Lest we imagine a good-natured monkey retrieving a refreshing coconut for his human friend, here is her description of the process:

hen I’m trying to harvest coconuts on the beach in Miami, my main problem is that I’m not a monkey, which is especially irritating because I am almost a monkey. I have ears on the sides of my head, eyes on the front, strange dexterous hands, a tendency to rebellion and malice. But my legs are too long and my arms are too short and I weigh too much, so I can’t do the thing that monkeys do so well, which is climb trees.


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“A band, to which a long rope was attached, was tied around the body of the ape, and then the animal was chased up into the tree,” she writes. “If he dallied too long over his work, the strap around his body was jerked unsympathetically. How the ape knew which nuts he was to pick remained a puzzle to me, but a fruit never dropped that was not fully ripened.”

Anna Weber-van Bosse tells a similar story in her account of a trip to Sumatra in 1888. She calls the monkeys “apes.

“[The macaquewp] is fierce, but likes or at all events obeys his owner, who held him with a rope fifty feet long. At present he is only half tame, and would go back to the jungle if he were liberated. He was sent up a coconut tree which was heavily loaded with nuts in various stages of ripeness and unripeness, going up in surly fashion, looking round at intervals and shaking his chain angrily. When he got to the top he shook the fronds and stalks, but no nuts fell, and he chose a ripe one, and twisted it round and round till its tenacious fibers gave way, and then threw it down and began to descend, thinking he had done enough, but on being spoken to he went to work again with great vigor, picked out all the ripe nuts on the tree, twisted them all off, and then came down in a thoroughly bad, sulky temper. He was walking erect, and it seemed discourteous not to go and thank him for all his hard toil.”


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No doubt there are plenty of people who treat their coconut monkeys well. The PETA article is just sensational speculation. Still, I can’t find any account, contemporary or antique, of these

Even so, the practice seems to be spreading. The macaque’s facility is its misfortune; a trained monkey is much better at this job than a human laborer, picking between six and twelve times as many coconuts per day.

In the videos I watched, Somporn does appear to radiate love and kindness. The problem is that he could not have controlled the way the monkeys were treated once they left his care, and it appears that abuses have continued. A recent petition urged Whole Foods not to stock coconut products sold by companies that used monkeys; a plan to use monkeys in the Indian state of Kerala, where there’s a labor shortage because humans are less and less willing to hazard their bodies, floundered over concerns about animal cruelty. A article on PETA’s blog claims that an angry coconut monkey in Thailand killed his owner by dropping a coconut on his head.

His First Monkey School is still operational, although Somporn died in 2002. A statement on the school’s website proclaims its mission: “The first task of the teacher is to make the monkey feel itself comfortable in its new surroundings. This is the most important and difficult part of training monkeys. This is established by taking good care of the monkey and never punish or hit it.” The training course takes three to six months, and the two important tasks a monkey has to learn are rotating the coconut so the stem will break and untangling a tangled line, because even here the monkeys are tethered.

In 1957, a Thai coconut farmer named Somporn Saekhow, who had grown up with these monkeys and had been distressed by their poor treatment, founded a training school dedicated to kindness


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LUCKY PEACH

There is an obvious solution: Let the monkeys go, pay human coconut pickers more, take steps to ensure their safety, and shift the cost to the consumers. But global capitalism does not tolerate such solutions, and this is as unimaginable in practice as it is simple in principle. The monkey story is a grim fable: We have created a system in which it doesn’t make economic sense to pay laborers anything, let alone a living wage, as long as there are people or animals who can be made to work for free.

This is a hard problem. If the monkeys always have to be restrained, are they not unwilling participants? Would humane treatment make this practice acceptable, or more acceptable? They are not like dogs. And they are smarter than dogs, too—they’re our genetic cousins, which makes their servitude less palatable. But what if their employment spares poor human laborers a dangerous task? Why should we privilege monkeys over human beings?

monkeys gathering coconuts willingly or choosing to remain on the coconut estate when they aren’t leashed and restrained. History doesn’t inspire any optimism. Humans have always shown great enthusiasm for coerced labor, both human and non-human. Coerced labor is the rule, not the exception.


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