Saturday, October 17, 2009

Vegan MoFo Day 17: Plantains and Hurricanes

When I moved from Nashville to the Bronx in 1987, I had never heard of a plantain, much less seen one. I noticed the boxes of large, strange bananas (labeled platanos) at local bodegas, but I was too busy with New York's other attractions to explore. Some months later, a Jamaican coworker of mine invited several friends to dinner at her apartment in Brooklyn. A hurricane was moving up the Atlantic coast toward New York. Despite the weather warnings, I headed to Brooklyn. The hurricane veered off in another direction, and I was introduced to the wonder of fried ripe plantains - soft, sweet, and caramelized.

As plantains were cheap and filling, they quickly became a regular part of my diet. When I didn't want to prepare them myself, the all-night, bullet-proof Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood offered a big serving of fried plantains for only $1. I later branched out into green plantains, and dishes such as mofongo (easily veganized) and tostones. Peeling green plantains can be annoying, but there is now a gadget which makes it very easy (despite being alarmingly phallic).

Decades later, I can't eat plantains without thinking of hurricanes, Brooklyn, and Jamaican food. I'll be enjoying those memories, and some plantains, this weekend.

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