Unless you’ve been living in a cave or recently crawled out from under a rock then you know this is an election year. Personally with the fiasco this election is turning into I wouldn’t mind crawling IN under a rock until its over. I’ll be glad when the adds stop ( not that I watch enough TV to see them ). I’ll be elated when my roadways can reclaim their landscapes from the over-littering of campaign signs. ( is it REALLY necessary to put ten of the same sign on the very same corner? I’ll be honest, it’s that guy I’m NOT voting for. He’s either desperate or doesn’t give a monkeys butt about the environment; both of which are automatic disqualification in my booth.
This quad-annual election my tiny little town of Tampa, Florida has the prestigious honor ( or not ) of hosting the “Republican National Convention”.
It’s times like these I am soooooo greatful my job allows me to work completely from home because I would not want to be driving anywhere close to the city for the next couple of weeks. From accounts of Tampa PD stopping in to see Mr.Sweet Butter, our fair city resembles something akin to a horror, freak show circus. Let’s see, with the influx of loyal voting Republican Americans, the beefed up security, the Secret Service, the protestors, the merchants, the entourages, the military, oh and of course the actual “Republican officials” themselves, throw on top of that a tropical storm-soon-to-be-a-hurricane moving this way, and uh ya I’d say their assessment sounds pretty accurate.
Tampa = Zoo
Anywho I got to thinking about what visitors to our city might like to eat; something authentic to give them a flavor of the city. Two things came to mind; a Cuban sandwich and fried plantains.
There is a big Latin influence here. In fact you can stroll through many streets and still watch the great great grandchildren of Latin immigrants, sitting behind their shop windows rolling authentic Cuban cigars by hand; exactly as they have been for generations.
Lucky for us they also brought their amazing food.
Many people are familiar with the Cuban sandwich so I thought I would introduce you to plantains.
Plantains are part of the banana family and in the top photo I’ve laid the two side by side. You can see the banana is brighter yellow, straighter and has softer edges where the plantain is much curvier and edgier.
Inside they look very similar other than their color. Plantains have a much deeper orange hue to them. But what you can’t see is they are also a bit sturdier and dense than their more delicate cousin.
The real difference is in peeling them. Bananas tend to shed their skin relatively easy and stay in one piece. Plantains, not so much. Unless they are really really ripe they take more coaxing to peel. In the photo above you notice the banana peel stayed together whereas the plantain looks like it went through a shredder.
The skin of the typically Caribbean food is thicker and much more fibrous.
I’d really like to get creative with plantains and create some unique dishes. Their taste is similar to a banana but they have much less sugar in them.
In fact where bananas are rarely eaten until ripe and almost always as a dessert or sweet treat, plantains can be cooked in many different ways depending on their stage of ripeness.
In their greener stage they are firm and actually resemble a potato in starch and texture. As they ripen they sweeten. So they can be cooked with onions and veggies in early stages and as a dessert in later. They’re quite versatile.
The most common way to eat them here is fried and served as a side dish or as a snack on their own. The key is to make them when the peels are nearly black. See when a banana is that dark overall it’s beyond ripe, pretty much mush and as useless as an anti-government protestor.
A plantain, on the other hand is just hitting its peak. It’s still colorful and firm but sweet. Once they hit this stage they are ready to go and cooking them couldn’t be easier.
They can be stored and even frozen for later but if you do reheat them, do so in an oven or toaster oven.
Certain cities are known for a signature dish.
New York has its bagels and hot dogs;
Philadelphia has its cheesecake.
New Orleans, crawfish
Here in Tampa it’s the Classic Cuban sandwich (ordered simply as ‘a Cuban’ ) ( and yes they’ll know you want the food and are not actually trying to purchase a human being protected by American civil liberties and certain inalienable rights. )
and of course fried plantains. To really impress the locals order ask for them appropriately pronounced as “plan tan ose”
As for the election I’m told my political views align with the only female candidate, Jill something or other. LOLOL I guess I should get to now my candidates a bit better huh? Well I won’t be doing it in person this year, that’s for sure. But if asked about my views I’m happy to say they usually center around what’s on my plate and would willingly recommend a good Latin restaurant.
Is your town recognized by a specific food or dish? I’m always curious to know. Drop a comment below to share.
Peace & Enjoy
- 3-4 Ripe plantains
- Canola oil for frying
- Brown or white sugar for coating
- Add approximately ¼-1/3rd of an inch of oil to a pan and heat to 360 degrees.
- Peel plantains and slice on a biased angle about ⅓rd inch thick.
- Roll slices in sugar, coating lightly.
- Fry plantains for 60 to 90 seconds on each side.
- Remove from pan & serve.