I’ve just come back from some travels that included parts of Africa and Malaysia and I can tell you it was a feast for the eyes, ears and brain.
Some aspects — the poverty — were terribly painful to see, heartbreaking, eye-opening.
But so much was extraordinarily beautiful — rainforests thick with palms and thousands of different kinds of orchids. A mama rhinoceros and her baby crossing the road within ten feet of us. Chameleons with such bright aqua, orange or vermillion skin they looked fake, like some high-end souvenir from a natural history museum.
One of the biggest surprises were the banana trees. I shouldn’t actually say trees because although the local people we met called them that, bananas do not grow on trees. They are large herbaceous plants and the thick stalks and huge leaves only look like trees.
No matter. Bananas were everywhere. We were driving along any old road in the Seychelles when I noticed the banana flower in the photo and had to stop and take a picture. That purple, rounded triangle at the bottom is the part that produces flowers. Female flowers will develop the fruit, which grow in clusters that will eventually become “hands” of bananas like the red ones in the photo (each banana is called a finger).
There are many types of bananas and most of what we get in this country are the large Cavendish. Some markets also sell different kinds of small, fat bananas and occasionally I’ve seen some red ones. But in Africa and Asia there are so many different varieties available I stopped counting or trying to remember each one. No big Cavendish type. All the ones we saw were small, fragrant and sweet.
The worst part of the whole banana thing for me is — I am allergic. I can’t eat or even taste one!
I love bananas. I remember them from the old days (Ed says I ate my fair share by the time I met him). I remember what they taste like. I like the smell. I like to look at them. I like to cook with them. I’ve made banana bread more times than you could imagine.
I couldn’t eat any of the bananas. But one day, my cousin who was traveling with us, ate 6, as if to make up for my lack.
She said they were very delicious indeed.
If you see any of those small bananas in the store, give them a try. They look, smell and, from what I hear, taste different than the common Cavendish. Don’t be put off by the brown spots. That’s the way they’re marketed throughout the parts of the world I just visited. That’s the way you’re supposed to eat them.
Sweet enough for a Valentine’s Day treat.
Or, if you wish, dressed up with ice cream and fudge sauce.
Banana Split with Honey-Fudge Sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 large or 2 small bananas
2 scoops vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup whipped cream
1/4 cup chopped almonds
2 fresh raspberries or strawberries
Place the honey, butter and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter has melted and bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Stir in the chocolate and remove the pan from the heat. Whisk the ingredients until the chocolate has melted and the sauce is smooth. Let cool. Slice the bananas and place the pieces on the bottom of two dessert plates. Top each with the ice cream. Pour the fudge sauce on top. Place half the whipped cream on top of each serving. Scatter the almonds on top and garnish with a raspberry or strawberry. Makes 2 servings