This week’s theme made me revisit my school days when I was in 8th standard. It’s still a mystery to me, how I vividly remember that day when for the first time I tasted banana peels.
It was the last week of Ramadan, I had returned from school, hungry and devastated at the thought that I will be cooking for iftaari (time of dusk when the fast is broken).
I went ahead with my usual routine. I cooked French fries, cut some fruits and prepared a handful of other eateries.
Iftaari is an unspoken tradition, where food is exchanged amongst people who live in the same neighbourhood during the time of iftaari and anybody who doesn’t contribute to this is usually a bachelor living alone or may be a stingy and anti-social person.
The food I had prepared was only enough for three people. But to fit in with the customs, I took half the quantity of the whole and gave it away to my neighbours, in exchange always getting the type of food I didn’t like.
But that day there was something new in one of those bowls. The sun had started to set, and my curiosity overpowered me every passing second. I tried dismissing the thought and persuaded myself in thinking that what I saw was nothing more than a bhajiya made of fried potato, which I surprisingly never liked.
The adhaan (call for prayer) was called out and I attacked the food. I ate the entire plate of those weird looking bhajiyas in one go, as my curiosity took over me. I had no words to describe the enticing taste. The first thing I realized was that it wasn’t an aaloo bhajiya, rather an imposter! I was so busy eating it that I forgot to check the contents. It was spicy, not hard or soft but a perfectly balanced, as a surprising mix of mild creaminess and pulpiness hit my palate. The item was fried in coconut oil, prepared with the same ingredients as any other bhajiya would be made out of, but unfortunately, I was unaware of the major component.
How could I possibly know? I had never come across it. Being a foodie, I was troubled. I didn’t like going to my neighbours place; a never ending barrage of questions would start and as a reward I would be burdened with embarrassing things about myself which I didn’t want to answer, or worse I could end up saying something bizarre and end up in an awkward situation, like most times. But then, the taste, textures and spicy pangs of culinary delight made me overcome my initial unwillingness, and I decided that I would ask her about it when I go to exchange the food again. Amazingly, my curiosity overpowered me so much that I found myself running down the stairs and standing in front of my neighbours in a matter of 15 minutes.
I knocked thrice, the door opened with my cheery neighbour and her handsome son at the entrance. But to me, solving the mystery of the palatable imposter was more important than that smiling face. Greetings were exchanged, and I was invited inside, I pushed passed her son and entered.
My nostrils happily inhaled the aroma of the culinary imposter which was in the air, a smell that I have still not forgotten.
The lady asked, “What happened Iram, this is the first time you have come inside, what’s the matter?” Then she started laughing.
I gave out a nervous chuckle, “You made those bhajiyas. How did you make them?”
“Aah. Mujhe pataa tha you will ask, but I expected you to come tomorrow.”
She didn’t answer the question and I knew what she wanted, so I gave it to her.
“They were really good, very delicious. Tell me how were they made?”
“Banana peels. Made it the same way any other bhajiya is made.”
“Aunty mazaak mat karo! Please bataao na. (Please stop joking aunty, I want to know!)”
“Arre I am serious, it is made of banana peel.”
I stood there silently for 60 seconds, hoping she’d laugh and tell me it’s a joke but she didn’t.
She broke the silence, “There are some left. You want them?”
I was shocked; there were some left?! Of course, like a shameless hoarder I nodded. She giggled and walked towards the kitchen, I followed. Along with the three pieces, she prepared 4 more pieces for me to take home for family. Obviously, I ate them on my way up and didn’t inform them of this incident.
Next day after coming from school, I wasn’t devastated at the thought of cooking, I was excited. I tried making banana peels bhajiya but I ended up…..uhm well let’s not go into that part.
There are several recipes to cook banana peels; it can be sweet and spicy. Banana peels which we consider as universal food waste, are rich in nutrition and are useful in various ways. You can eat them raw after the fruit has ripened as it is much thinner and easier to chew. You can also eat the peels after boiling them for ten mins before eating them or blending them with other fruits and making smoothies or juices.
Here are some facts about Banana Peels that will make you reconsider these treasures of the dustbin:
The peels are high in vitamins B-6 and B-12, magnesium and potassium, but also contains some protein and fiber. Dietary fiber promotes digestion and bowel movements and can reduce blood cholesterol levels. Banana peels also contain tryptophan, which increases the serotonin levels in the body and affects mood, much like the drug Prozac does. That means banana peels can make you high, in a non-psychedelic sense of course!
Tripped Out Fact: According to the “Prescription for Nutritional Healing,” researchers in Taiwan, banana peel extract can ease depression because of its effect on serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for balancing mood and emotions.
Others found that eating two banana skins a day for three days increased blood serotonin levels by 16 percent.
Further, banana skin contains lutein, a potent antioxidant that protects the eye from free radicals and harmful frequencies of UV radiation from the sun. Lutein has been proven to reduce the risks of cataracts and macular degeneration, as cited in “Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition.”
Well, I hope you go bananas after reading this.