A plea from a foodie
I was studying with my friend the other day and all of a sudden got a craving for plantains (for these purposes we will call them platanos, which is Spanish for plantains). I longed for the taste of platanos, prepared in both sweet or savory ways, so much that my mouth began to salivate at the very thought of having any kind of platano dish in front of me. I took out my phone and tried to find places that sold any type of platano in Ann Arbor, and I learned that, despite having many Latin and Spanish food places, the closest place that would appease my craving was in Detroit — an hour away from Ann Arbor. My heart dropped.
Now, you are probably just thinking to yourself: “So what? Just eat a banana, they are practically the same.” Even though I could have satiated my craving for something sweet or savory with another food that is similar, it isn’t the same. It is taunting to have so many Latin and Spanish themed food places in Ann Arbor that only sell burritos, tacos, rice or beans. The food culture of Ann Arbor is just one of the small ways in which the current culture misrepresents the Latin culture.
Food in Latin America is an art. Our entire culture surrounds our food. While that food does contain rice, beans and goya seasoned meat, it means so much more than just these ingredients to our community. Growing up, every adult in my family, male or female, was an incredible cook. We are masters of goya, platanos, meat, rice, beans and so much more. We create dishes made for sharing around a large table. Our food brings us together. After long days of work and school, my family always made sure to sit around the dining room table with our arroz y habichuelas to unite once again in the presence of the aromas of cilantro, culantro, garlic and pepper.
Our food is so much more than rice and beans and meat. It is seasoning, it is all of these ingredients and more that go masterfully together in a stew-like dish called sancocho or seafood and rice in a dish called paella. And it is platanos.
Educating ourselves about other cultures starts with food. With the amount of people in Ann Arbor from around the globe, we need to make sure that everyone can find a taste of home 20 minutes from their doorstep, rather than an hour away in Detroit. Food is an art that is not only central to the Latin culture, but to most other cultures as well. My hope is that one day when I am studying with a friend, craving platanos, I can order mangoo or maduros to go as easily as I am able to order feta bread.