Lead with your heart and the food will follow

"Excuse me, I'm curious ... how you cook that?"

The question, from another random shopper at my local produce market, was referring to the plantains (pronounced plan-tins) I was picking over. It's become quite commonplace now that nearly every time I am out scouting for just-the-right plantains, someone inquires about how to cook and/or eat them. So I was actually anticipating her next question ...

"Do the plan-tains taste like bananas?"

The questions began after relocating from New York to the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful part of the country whose people have a genuine passion for food and a natural sense of curiosity. I was buying plantains at a local grocery chain when the cashier asked about the 'funny bananas' as she rang them up from my basket. A few weeks later, a produce stocker began an inquiry citing a need to know what to tell shoppers who asked him about the 'exotic bananas' he hasn't tried yet. While I can recall my favorite plantain-encounters-of-the-first-kind, I've lost count of the number of times I've actually been approached by strangers wanting to know more. 

After all these years, I'm still quite fond of the patacones (twice fried plantains) eaten at childhood family gatherings, as well as the fried platanos consumed daily with black beans and rice in my young adult years. So it's interesting that this big, thick banana is still such a mystery to so many. 

Like the many conversations before it, today's particular encounter ended with a brief explanation of the various types of bananas, methods of cooking in different cultures, tips on how to pick them, followed by a quick recipe, the encouragement to enjoy them, and my card to call with questions. 

This afternoon, she called saying ...

"I spoke to a few friends, and we're wondering if you would do a class on buying and preparing foods we're unfamiliar with?"

Ahhh ... the plantain experience epitomizes my love affair with food. For me, eating it and sharing it are one in the same. Both satisfy from the inside. 

What's your heart connection with food?