Plantains Never Die
The alluring aroma of Yoruba dodo — fried plantains—announcing she is home. Burning sun, overburdened mango trees, fragrances suffuse the air. On hearing the sweet dodo smell, we dash through the open door. We greet her, toss our school bags aside, and sit ready to compete. Who will eat the greatest number of dodo from the huge platter atop the humongous plantain leaf, the disposable tablecloth? Eyes sparkle. Bye-bye table manners. In the twinkling of an eye, we polish off the dodo. I broke the record—seventeen succulent, sweet, savory, super, soft pieces.
It’s been 17 years. The aroma hits me again. I run, forgetting the intervening years. I dash through the open door. Aroma? She is no longer there.
I knew already. I harvested an unusual, heavy bunch of Ghanaian plantains dubbed apEm—uncountable. With apple chunks in a brown bag, parts of a two-headed bunch of green, Nigerian plantains have turned sunshine yellow. I boil yellow plantains served with spiced tomato stew turned green with spinach. I mix plantain flour in boiling water and make Yoruba amala to go with the stew. I mash and spice overripe plantains, frying up fritters. I smash limp plantains firmed up with flour from unripe plantains, add spices, oil, a few optional shrimps, wrap the mix in plantain leaves, and steam—Puerto Rican pastel, Igbo ukpo. I fry dodo—yellow, yielding plantains cut on the slant. I grill plantains—yellow for the sweet-toothed, green for others—served with peanuts.
The aroma entices the children. They eat excitedly. I chortle as a future celebrant, sporting a shirt made of delicate Philippine fabric, spun from plantain tree fiber, unable to differentiate between hunger pangs and overeating discomfort, cries out, “I am hungry!” He promptly sleeps, with dodo in his limp hand.
Nigerian-born Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi, who has taught literature at SLC since 1989, is the 2003 winner of the College’s Lipkin Family Prize for Inspirational Teaching, and the author of several books and articles about African, African American, and black women’s literature.