James Bond food Gleaner

Ian Fleming’s food manifesto

How does a nation make the most of its food resources? How does it ensure that people have enough to eat? How does it keep livestock safe? These are the questions that Ian Fleming addressed in an article in Jamaica’s Daily Gleaner, published in March 1948. In the piece, he offered a few suggestions for the island’s development in the face of economic uncertainty.

As now, the world in 1948 was experiencing an economic crisis. The Second World War had cost nations dearly. European states were heavily in debt, unemployment was high, and industry was still reeling from the war effort and the destruction of infrastructure. Recovery followed the implementation of the United States’ Marshall Plan in 1947, but it was slow, and in 1948, the world’s economy remained turbulent.

Ian Fleming recognised that Jamaica had not escaped these difficulties, and so he offered some advice on the what steps the inhabitants of Jamaica could take to lessen the impact of the ‘economic hurricane’ that was approaching.

Supporting a plea from the Gleaner for Jamaica to make more use of its natural resources, Fleming suggested that for every tree cut down, two more should be planted, thus allowing the country to develop a sustainable resource. More wood could be used for shoes. The people in Europe, he said, had largely rejected shoes made with leather soles, preferring instead shoes with wooden soles and heels. This presented a basis for a thriving industry. Such shoes could readily be made in Jamaica and sold to visitors.

Ian Fleming paid particular attention to the island’s food resources. More use, he suggested, could be made of the island’s fish and shell fish. French restaurants would pay handsomely for the fat mussels normally used as bait by fishermen. A list should be prepared of all the edible sea food available in Jamaican waters, accompanied by advice on how to cook it. And a greater range of fish could be salted and preserved; Jamaicans need not rely solely on salted cod to get them through times of reduced fresh fish supply.

To ignore such measures risked empty shelves in the village shop and queues for goods akin to ration-hit England, where housewives queued up for the ‘ounce of butter’ or ‘monthly egg’.

Ian Fleming also urged people to look after their livestock more carefully, for instance by keeping them off the road. Animals were an important economic asset and had to be protected. Fleming thought that native plants, another asset, were unreasonably regarded by the local population as weeds. Money could be made by selling the cuttings and seeds of those plants.

Finally, Ian Fleming suggested that the inhabitants of fishing villages collect the seashells brought in over the year and sell them at wayside stalls. The shells make excellent garden and household ornaments and souvenirs for tourists.

How Fleming’s ideas were received has not been recorded in the Gleaner, though one of the ideas was put into action – in fiction, at least!

In Ian Fleming’s 1958 novel, Dr No, Honeychile Rider memorably emerges from the sea onto the beach of Dr No’s island and meets James Bond. She clutches some seashells and tells Bond that she is collecting them for a dealer in Miami. Fleming wrote the novel in 1957, but clearly it was not the first time that he had thought about the economic value of seashells.

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