I am banana-challenged. It doesn’t matter that it’s been explained to me repeatedly; it doesn’t even matter that my name rhymes with banana. I can’t tell them apart.
There are platanos, then there are guineos, then there are bananos (from my extensive Spanish knowledge, I’ve discerned these to be boy bananas.) There are green and ripe versions, and some that taste like potatoes. Sometimes they’re fried in little round chips. Other times, a whole banana is boiled and salted, much like a starchy vegetable. Other times, they’re cooked with sugar, like a dessert. In the corner stores, you can buy guineo or yuca chips, either salted or sweetened. And don’t forget the regular, fresh bananas a la carte.
On the street, sweaty men in fútbol jerseys push carts with bananas hanging from the edges, dangling over the piles of mango slices and bags of fresh fruit juice. If you lean out of the bus window and wave a few thousand pesos, you might score one before the bus rumbles onward. I’ve seen it done at the newspaper stand on the corner.
Whether it’s a starch or a fruit, bananas (and so on and so forth) are omnipresent on the table of costeño culture. For a place where food is central to the soul of a culture, bananas appear to be a multi-dimensional staple item. But whatever I’m eating, it’s nevertheless delicioso, so please pass the salt!