Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A family secret

Anna's Fried Bananas

My great grandmother Mai was a street vendor who sold fried bananas. She was known throughout the region for her fried bananas which were made with a recipe she learned when she was a young girl in the early 1880s. Relatives and neighbors were always asking us for her recipe because they were the very best fried bananas.

Great grandmother Mai was very old when I was growing up but she was still selling fried bananas until well after she turned 100. Sometimes I got to help her after school. I would make bags out of newspapers like they use to serve fish and chips in England. If there were banana leaves I would make containers from them, pinning the leaves together with bamboo slivers.

The bananas were fried in the biggest wok I have ever seen. It could fry one-hundred bananas at a time. My great-great grandfather made the wok for her. It was too large to fit inside a restaurant kitchen but it was just big enough that she could meet the enormous demand for her fried bananas with only the one wok.

Great grandmother Mai always ate one fried banana every day and she lived to be 107. When she died I was holding her left hand and my mom was holding her right hand and together we kept Mai's recipe secret. At the funeral people were still asking for her recipe and when my mother died in 2000 they asked again. I'm sure they will do the same at my funeral but it won't do them any good because it's a family secret!