When you think of culture, the first thing that pops into your mind may very well be food. The different types of food that help define a culture are an important way to unify people from the same place and provide them a means to celebrate their heritage and the things that make the similar. But often times, we don’t think of the foods that unite a lot of us. Foods that transcend borders. Food that is so delicious it cannot be confined to one group. There is one food that you should most definitely be drooling over right now.
And that food is sweet plantains.
You may know these sweet and crisp wonders as platano maduro, kelewele, or aloco. Sweet plantains, simply put, are bananas that are large and over ripened. These magic vessels of flavor can be fried, mashed, boiled, or roasted. You name it, and sweet plantains can be cooked that way. In many Caribbean countries, plantains are eaten as a staple starch. In Ghana and other West African countries, it is eaten with fish or cabbage, as well as mixed with a host of other ingredients to make eto. And in the Southern United States, you are sure to find them tossed on the grill.
It is likely that you are wondering to yourself, how do all of these different places use this same ingredient so heavily? Believe it or not, there is an actual historic reason for this. When people were kidnapped from different parts of Africa, specifically West Africa, they were taken to different places of the world such as the Caribbean and the Southern United States to be slaves. These people didn’t leave all of their culture behind, however. Food was one of the main ways that these people in different areas of the world were connected.
So long story short, sweet plantains are more than just a food. They are a marker of one of the largest diasporas in human history. So next time you bite into your eto or your platano maduro, remember its significance.