Growing up in an extremely rural area meant that, as a child, I was not exposed to very much “culture.” The area I grew up in offered cow-tipping, hanging out at Starbucks, and meeting up at Wal-Mart as “things to do,” and any city or more diverse area was at least 30 to 40 minutes away. As a member of one of the few families of color in the area, I often longed to know what culture was like. What did other ethnicities do? How did they live?
I especially longed to know about the cultures of my heritage- African American and Cuban cultures. From what I saw, everyone in my area pretty much lived the same way, and I longed to know what parts of my culture my family and I were missing by living in such a sheltered, racially homogenous region.
When I went away to college, I took the first class I saw with the name “Cuban” in the title- a class about street film and urban photographers in Cuba. It was a fascinating course, and helped me to learn three very important things.
#1. People in Cuba do not think of themselves the way Americans think of them. I know that’s a “duh!” concept to people who are much more cosmopolitan and worldly than I was, but I only knew the American liturgy I had been taught- that Cuba was a poor, awful country that everyone wanted to get away from because Fidel Castro was a ruthless and despicable ruler. I was astonished to find that, although most do not have all of the luxuries that we take for granted, people in Cuba have a fierce pride in their country, their livelihoods, and in Fidel. Many call Fidel “father,” and the people adore him.
#2. Street film is awesome! I had been conditioned to think of “film” as Hollywood movies, professional photography, and special effects. Instead, the street photography we saw was raw, real, and personal. And it was beautiful. I felt like I was getting an authentic look at the country and the people. I felt like I was physically in the houses and cities where the camera was. It was a fantastic look into a world I had been longing to know more of.
#3. In trying to learn what it was to be “Cuban” and what things are integral to cuban culture, I realized I had had those things all along! Frequent consumption of black beans and rice. Loud discussions with family in Spanish. Family recipes passed down from abuelas. Holistic, natural medicinal remedies instead of traditional medicine. Fried platanos. A strong emphasis on family values and closeness…
I sheepishly realized that, although they had never been pointed out to me as “cuban cultural elements,” the way my family had been living for as long as I could remember matched exactly the culture I saw in these films! I had searched for so long to find “Cuban culture” without realizing I had been living it the whole time!
It was a great and beautiful moment that really opened my eyes to how culture can be represented. It’s not the dramatic things you see in international displays or the intellectual explanations described at cultural shows; culture can be found in the little nuances of how you live your life and in the things you and your family hold dear.
So today I bring to you my absolute favorite paleo and AIP snack featuring a staple of Cuban cuisine- the plantain.
Since eliminating chips, popcorn, and all grain based snacks, plantain chips have been my go-to snack for quite some time. And I LOOOOVE them.
They’re a fantastic grain, legume, and nightshade-free popcorn and chip replacement. I especially love that they’re easy to make, healthy, customizable, and are loved even by those who don’t eat paleo!
So I bring to you a simple, delicious recipe to show you how to make plantain chips. After this, you’ll be hooked. Enjoy!
- 1 green plantain
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cover a large baking sheet with foil.
- Slice the ends off of the plantain and cut the plantain in half crosswise. Cut two slits into the skin from end to end (trying not to cut into the yellow part) on both the top and bottom of each plantain half. Peel the skin off from these slits.
- With a sharp knife, cut thin slices crosswise down the peeled plantain halves, as thin as you can make them. Alternately, you can use a mandoline slicer on the thinnest setting to slice the plantain.
- Add the slices to a bowl with the olive oil, rosemary salt, and fresh rosemary. Toss with your hands to evenly coat all of the slices with the oil and seasonings.
- Lay the plantain slices in an even, single layer on the foil-covered baking sheet. Try to leave a little space around each slice, if possible.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook until the plantain slices are slightly browned and crispy, about 20-25 minutes. Remove each chip as it finishes cooking to avoid overcooking or burning.
- When all the chips have finished cooking, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Let the chips cool for a few minutes, then proceed to stuff your face. Nom!
What elements of your home and upbringing contribute to your familial “culture?”