I thought I’d leave it to my second post to be controversial, and, possibly, culturally insensitive. It was going to come out eventually; I am Australian after all. And it’s all coming out now, and it’s you, Plantain, that’s to blame. You hear that, huh?
Before coming to Colombia, I thought that “plantain” was a geographical term – something like “prairie,” “steppe,” or “tundra” (anybody else use, ply, employ or wield Thesaurus.com?). Rolling plains as far as the eye can see; and possibly, the chance to see a cute family of meerkats. I was all for it.
Bafflingly, it turns out I was wrong. This is actually what a plantain is:
OK, so here come the disclaimers. Being a hungry man by nature, it is very rare that I come across a food I don’t love; let alone one I actively dislike. I’ve eaten dog, snake, cow blood soup – hell! even silkworm pupae! – with gusto. And I love the vast majority of Colombian cuisine I’ve tried. Ajiaco? Yes, please. Tamales? Send ’em this way, thanks. Empanada? Come hither, my love. Arepas? Let me profess my undying adoration right now. Furthermore, I’m aware of, and thankful for daily, the delicious miracle of nature that is the humble banana. So I was stumped when I came across a sad, brown, sweaty, slightly bent, cigar-shaped object hiding beside my delicious chorizo-and-arepa-late-night-snack (and I know what you’re thinking, but please get your mind out of the gutter: we’re discussing important matters here). It just wasn’t nice!
Soft, pasty, slightly sweet, and looking suspiciously like a banana? I tried; oh Lord! how I did try. But it was beyond me. I just couldn’t enjoy it. Every time I order a delicious mound of perfectly barbequed meat, with an arepa, rice, and maybe that magical fruit, avocado, thrown in for good measure, a shamefaced bit of big banana seems to sneak its way on the plate somehow, much to my chagrin. The worst thing about this is that everyone else seems to love it. Could it be – perish the thought – that it is I, and not the poor plantain, who has it all wrong?
If I sit down and consider it calmly, I think it may be just a visual hang-up for me. I see banana, and think, “that should be an uncooked, room-temperature, slightly firm after dinner treat; and decidedly not an imposter masquerading as a vegetable.” Here’s evidence in this theory’s favour:
1. I love the plantain chips you can get anywhere on the side of the street.
2. Upon visiting Salento, I was surprised to discover that the thin, crisp, golden-brown strip of deliciousness I was enjoying with my trout was actually my old foe, the plantain.
3. I find patacones, especially when smothered with sauce, meat and other amazing tidbits – as can be found in Cartegena and surrounds – scrum-diddly-umptious. And I do mean diddly.
Is it not you, but me, Plantain? Am I the one being pig-headed and discriminatory? Are you actually a perfectly delicious accompaniment to any meal? Surely not! Surely…?