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Comfort-Food Fried Plantains

19 August


Have you ever noticed that “comfort food” seems to be synonymous with “bad-for-you food”? Mac ‘n cheese, French fries, ice cream, chocolate bars, chips, steamed hamburgers, chocolate cake, and on and on.

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with all of those foods {well, maybe except for the steamed burgers}; depending on where you are on your healing journey, they can be nice, and probably rare, treats.

The problem is with their title: “Comfort Food.”

Those foods are a pretty cheap definition of a very real need for relief when things feel out-of-control, dark and hopeless.

A bag full of greasy hotness from a fast-food joint at the end of a really bad week doesn’t make you feel better; it’s like a bandaid on a broken bone, an empty promise of a cure that just ends up getting in the way. Plus, too often, it starts a downward cycle of misery and self-loathing: We feel bad, therefore we eat food to comfort us, but it makes us feel worse, therefore we eat more “comfort”, therefore we feel worse, etc, etc, etc.

I thought a lot about this cycle and the cheap definition of comfort we use with food during my terrible week last week when somehow I couldn’t find any peace or joy, I was horribly lonely, and I wanted to climb out of my own skin to escape the sticky misery inside of me.

It was the kind of deep dark that seeps into everything, like instead of wearing rose-colored glasses, you put on your lenses made of coal-ash.

I ate left-overs that were a day away from molding without warming them up. I walked around thinking, “God, I just feel so freaking bad. WHY do I feel so freaking bad?!” Everything felt wrong, ill-fitting and useless.

It wasn’t depression {though after a few days of it, you do start to wonder…}, it was a heavy funk that settled in, and I didn’t know how to make it go away. Every idea I had seemed to make it worse: not only “comfort” foods, but isolating myself, telling myself how bad I felt over and over, watching tear-jerking videos on Facebook, eating more chocolate, watching trashy TV.

At one point, a few days into the misery and with my husband and daughter away for the weekend, I found myself in the grocery store, wandering around as if I’d never been in there before. I had finished all the nasty left-overs, and was now faced with the dreaded task of feeding myself dinner.

 And that’s when I saw the plantains. Perfect and black and ruined-looking.

I love plantains, but for some reason, I rarely buy them. When I saw them there I immediately remembered the taste of them sliced and fried in coconut oil with a sprinkle of salt, and my mouth watered.

And then I thought, “No, they’re too good, I should wait ‘til Bryce and Zora are home.” Seriously, when I saw a food I loved, that also happens to be healthy, Real, and even organic!, I thought that I wasn’t good enough for them; that it was only me eating, and something delicious shouldn’t be wasted.

That thought finally woke me up a little bit. Because no matter how crappy I felt, my brain knows that THAT isn’t the way I want to live my life: denying myself pleasure and nourishment, plus being a hypocrite {I mean, Rye and I constantly talk about Food Joy and deliciousness and freeing yourself from a life of punishment through restricting yourself!}

So I bought the damn plantains, 2 of them because I’m stubborn and rebellious, even against myself.

And those plantains did NOT save my life {mostly because it wasn’t in danger of being lost, this was a deep unhappiness, not a crippling disease}, but they tasted awesome, and that made me feel a little bit happy, and that was a comforting feeling to have.  From there, it took a few days to feel like myself again.

The plantains were a first step because they gave me pleasure and helped me feel a glimmer of good about myself.

Those plantains told me I’d made a choice that was in line with who I truly am: the me who strives to love and nourish herself.

It’s hard to sum up the moral of this story. But what I want to say is that all the work you do trying to be healthy and eating Real Foods has a larger purpose besides weight-loss, or better digestion, or a healthier planet, or even decreased disease symptoms.

Eating well for your body is building a strong foundation that can support you when those jesters, your emotions and your thoughts, aren’t doing it. That glimmer of happiness the plantains produced in me was relatively small, especially compared to the sledge-hammer of a pint of ice cream, but it was REAL, not sugar tricking my brain into sending out the happy juices.

Those plantains gave me a quiet moment to make the choice for my own worthiness, my own pleasure, and, yes, my own health.

And that glimmer of relief was just enough to break my spinning cycle of misery. Those plantains were truly comfort food – they helped me find a space to breathe through my unhappiness so that I could see a next step back to the light.

I also want to tell you that pan-fried plantains are delicious, and you should try them {recipe below}.

What foods truly comfort you with nourishment and pleasure?  I’d love to hear you share below in the Comments.

Ryanna’s Pan-Fried Plantains

Very ripe plantains {plantains with black skins}
2 -4 Tb coconut oil
sea salt to taste
Plain, full-fat yogurt, or mashed avocado, for dipping {optional}

1. Peel plantains, and chop into 1/4 – 1/2″ thick coins.
2. Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat {more oil is better, as the plantains will soak it up, and cook to a nice crisp}.
3. When oil is hot, lay the plantains in the skillet in 1 layer, and let sizzle and cook until browned.  Then flip to brown the other side.
4. Sprinkle with sea salt, and enjoy plain or dipped in something creamy like yogurt or mashed avocado.  They’re best hot off the skillet!

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Liz Flint-Somerville, Nutritional Consultant

Liz was a partner in Grub for 3 amazing years and helped author many of our most beloved recipes and posts. She is now dedicating her time to caring for her family, writing poetry, and continuing to cook delicious Real Foods.

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6 Responses to “Comfort-Food Fried Plantains”

  1. Katelyn August 20, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    I have always loved fried plantains when I traveled in Latin American countries but I’ve never made them myself, I can’t wait to try these! Where did you buy organic plantains? Also I love popcorn with coconut oil (or butter) and sea salt as a legit comfort food! I enjoyed and agreed with this whole notion you wrote about real comfort foods, so good. Also chocolate peanut butter banana smoothies…2 frozen bananas, 1 cup raw milk, 1 tablespoon raw cacao, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 tablespoon maple syrup in a blender mades two smoothies!!

    • Liz Flint-Somerville August 20, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

      Oh, yes, plantains, Katelyn! I bought organic ones at Tidal Creek Co-Op.

      And that smoothie is one of my favorites, but I use hemp milk and/or water, and it’s still creamy, but not as creamy as yours, I’m sure.

  2. Dana August 20, 2014 at 3:03 am #

    Couldn’t be more timely… I found myself at Food Lion after work today – a place I usually reserve for beer runs only – with a basket full of starch. I felt embarrassed as the items were being scanned, having not gone “full comfort” like this in a very long while, and being a somewhat militant organic/Eco-conscious shopper; but it was all out there on the table: 1 packet of potato flakes, 1 box of assorted donuts, 1 box of organic Mac n cheese and another box of the blue stuff – you know the one; (I’m not sure why I bought that organic box, knowing full well the Kraft was the one I’d be devouring tonight) – and yes, a six pack of beer. I was surprised at how cheap it all was!! I got home, popped open a beer and was gobbling up my mac n cheese / fake potato dinner in no time, washing it down with a chocolate donut. I had so much guilt afterward that I immediately did about 40 minutes of yoga and even powered through some uncomfortable sit-ups I thought might reverse it all!! I used to do this once a month, until I got keen on the fact that the cravings could be satisfied in better ways. I caved to them today, after finally allowing myself to recognize that I’m stressed and I’ve been stressed for about 2 weeks. Did they take my stress away? Nope, but they did force me to do some much-needed yoga;).

    • Liz Flint-Somerville August 20, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

      Thank you for sharing, Dana. I know exactly what you mean (and a sheepish “yes” to most of those “comfort” foods).

      And I think it’s awesome how even those less-than-stellar foods still gave you an opportunity to make a choice that was loving for your self. You’re awesome!

      • Dana August 22, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

        Thanks Liz. I love this blog…been traveling like mad this summer – looking forward to settling down into the fall and seeing you soon in some way! Dana p.s. You’re awesome!


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