Banana BLISS

Banana BLISS


Ten-year-old Akshay was visiting his grandparents in Palakkad for the first time during his summer vacation. There were so many relatives to meet whom he had not met since he was a little baby. The highlight of the trip was his cousin's wedding, which he was eagerly looking forward to. At the wedding feast, he sat down on the ground next to his grandmother or Paati, as he called her. He was surprised to see a plantain leaf placed before him. The caterers hurried past one after the other heaping food on the leaf. First came the paayasam, or kheer, and then there was pickle, ghee, rice, sweet and salty banana chips, and many other delicacies and curries. Then there was the piping hot sambaar, with drumsticks and ladies finger. When he finished the yummy first course, the servers brought tomato rasam. The third course was curds. In between, they came around with dishes asking the diners if they wanted more helpings of anything.

Later, as he was sitting with paati, he asked her, "Paati, why did they serve the food in banana leaves?" Paati smiled and answered, "It is how we used to dine here before plates and spoons were invented. It is the most eco-friendly and safest plate." "Oh!" said Akshay, his eyes round as saucers, as he digested that bit of information. "There are some things you don't get to learn when you live in Bangalore" said wise old Paati, her eyes twinkling. "It is good for health to eat from the banana leaf; we imbibe the nutrients of the leaf when we eat from it. And disposing is not a problem, as it is a natural waste." "The yummy elai adai, the sweet dish with jaggery is cooked in the banana leaf." added Seethu Chiti who had just walked up to the both of them. "It is not only the leaf; the entire plantain from top to toe can be consumed. Let us list them out," said Paati. "We eat the banana fruit!" piped Akshay, wanting to contribute to the list. "We also use the raw banana as a vegetable, to make curries" said Chitti. "We can make thoran, a curry using the flowers of the banana. You can also have the sweet nectar from the flower." said Paati. "The banana blooms only once in its lifetime. After the bananas have been consumed, we use the stem to cook another curry, after peeling off the thick outer layers." Seethu chitti said.

"Pazham pori!" chimed Akshay excitedly, referring to banana fritters, coated in flour and then fried in oil. "Yes, that is one popular banana delicacy. What about the roasted banana?" said Chitti. "Absolutely, and don't forget the banana chips that Kerala is well known for. The sweet chips and the salty chips, although the salty variety is better known outside Kerala," said Paati. "The fruit is also cut into pieces and boiled with jaggery, and is eaten as a side dish" said Chitti, counting items off her fingers. "There are different varieties of the fruit itself, the small variety, the long nendram fruit, the medium sized banana, and many others. The banana has many nutritious properties to it. It contains 75% water, and 25% dry matter. It has a high potassium content, which helps prevent high blood pressure. Having bananas while you are attacked by loose motions stops you from losing your essential liquids, something that 'Electral' does." said Paati, sounding like a college lecturer. "It also helps prevent acidity. It is also good for the eyes, as it helps prevent night blindness. The kidneys are also benefited by adding banana to your diet."

"Wow Paati, how do you know all that?" asked Akshay, quite surprised by the facts his grandmother had reeled off. "I did my B.Sc in botany, that's how!" said a triumphant Paati. "None of the parts of the banana go waste; all of it can be used. The peels and other residue are used to feed cattle. The new plant grows out of the stub of the old one, thus ensuring the continuation of the cycle." said Chitti. "Remember this the next time you see a banana. Think of all the health benefits you will imbibe when you have it, so never think of saying no to a banana." said Paati, getting up to join the guests for the Nelangu, the fun ceremony of a Tamil Iyer wedding. Akshay, still amazed by all the gyaan he had just received from his grandmother and his aunt, hurried to keep pace with the others.

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