Indonesia’s abundant variety of fruits is just one example of the country’s richness, writes Afia R Fitriati.
Having been born and raised in Indonesia, I often overlook the richness of my own country. Sometimes, it takes an outside perspective to make me realise this archipelago’s plentiful bounties.
It was a foreign student who was staying at my aunt’s house who opened my eyes to a simple yet amazing blessing of my homeland that I’ve taken for granted all my life: bananas.
Piper loved this creamy fruit. She liked to eat it the American way (or so I suppose): chocolate-dipped and frozen. To my amazed cousins and myself, she used to say, “You guys are lucky to be blessed with so many types of bananas. Back home we usually only have one variety at the grocery store.”
Only one? I started counting off the bananas I knew with my fingers. We have Cavendish, Ambonese, lady finger bananas in addition to a slew of other types with local names. We have yellow, green and red bananas. We have ones that are as small as my thumb and ones that are as big as my forearm. There are bananas that are eaten as sweets or desserts as well as starchy ones used for cooking.
My father used to have boiled banana, banana stew, banana soup and all things bananas for breakfast, lunch and dinner
Looking back at my childhood, I remember growing up with all sorts of banana delicacies: banana chips (sweet, savoury or chocolate powdered), mouth-watering banana pastries and simple fried bananas for teatime. We are indeed blessed with this potassium-rich fruit!
The banana plant was central to my grandmother’s household where my father grew up. My aunt told me that she used to take shelter under large banana leaves when rain was pouring down on her way home from school. At home, she used to play with dolls made from the small limbs of fallen banana trees, while her brothers played with ‘rifles’ made from the larger ones.
With such fond memories of bananas, it came as a mystery to me why my father – of all people – disliked bananas. Once in our dining room, he even went as far as to declare that “banana is not a fruit” and thus should not be served on our dinner table.
Curious with his peculiar attitude, I asked my aunt for some clues. A trip down memory lane revealed that apparently, due to the constant surplus of bananas in my grandmother’s kitchen, she used to serve bananas all the time – and I mean all the time! My father used to have boiled banana, banana stew, banana soup and all things bananas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In other words, the foods that came out of my grandmother’s kitchen had gone literally bananas! No wonder my father no longer liked bananas. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, after all.
Fortunately, none of my father’s children inherited his abhorrence for this curved yellow fruit. Just as Piper said, we are lucky to have bananas. They are cheap, nutritious, delicious and available in Indonesia all year long in all shapes, colours and sizes. Despite my father’s instruction, I do serve bananas on my dinner table (although not all the time!).
Banana pastry, anyone?