“I’m going to try something with banana blossom,” I told my friend Andy “It’s the new jackfruit.”
“Fuck you,” came the response “That’s literally the worst thing anyone’s ever said.”
He was right, of course. The very fact that I already had 45 unused tins of jackfruit in my cupboards marked me down as a three-time shitbird. Even by the rank standards of modern food fads, it is a sorry item. The idea that this reedy little fruit is an adequate meat substitute is one of the more persistent myths among the plant pod people. Sure, you can shred it, season it, combine it, stick it in a taco – there are rumours you can even eat it but stick it where a steak should be or have it masquerading as pulled pork? That’s the worst substitution since Graeme Souness slipped in Ali Dia for Matt Le Tissier.
Yes, we canned
Moving on to the next shiny object compounded my folly. I had heard banana blossom had the fleshy, flaky consistency of fish, the one food I legit missed since I ceased and desisted with the corpse chomping. Remarkable things were possible, they said. Eff it, why not? I’d performed minor miracles performed with seitan, tofu, even shitty old tempeh had made passable smoked bacon. How bad could the blossom of the plant Musa sapientum be?
So I shelled out £1.50 on a tin of Plant Pioneers Banana Blossom in Water in Sainsbury’s. The recipe had already been decided – Vegan Recipe Club’s Banana Blossom Vegan Fish ‘n’ Chips. It couldn’t be simpler. Some beer batter, seaweed flakes, lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda and a deep fat fryer – what could go wrong?
The great oil paradox
The first problem was I don’t have a deep fat fryer. Who the fuck does? You’ve got to be a real piece of shit to own one of those. Unless you actually own your own restaurant where you poison the public for monetary gain, you have absolutely no excuse to deep fry anything. And you know perfectly well that if you do troll down to Argos and spend £40 on one of these things, you’ll use it once, feel ashamed and the next time it sees action is when mutant scavengers pull it from the ruins of your home in 3535.
But it is what it is and not, for example, what it ain’t. I kicked it old school – emptying half a litre of sunflower oil into a large saucepan. I congratulated myself on this magnificent kitchen hack. An actual homemade deep fat fryer. Who knew it was possible?
Nosh and Becks
It would be the high-water mark of the day. I first turned my attention to the batter. I don’t really know much about beer as all alcohol tastes the same to me. The moment someone has an opinion on beer, as far as one brand being superior to another or whatever, I pretty much write them off as a human being. I mean, I know I prefer Peroni to Skol but for reasons so arbitrary they can barely be said to exist. I stood at the Co-op’s chilled alcohol section, staring like a tourist in mute incomprehension. Eventually, I went for Beck’s because I had a vague recollection it tasted okay and it was cheaper than some of the others.
Let the chips fall where they may
Then there was the oil. I had done the knowledge, looking up that mushmouth goon Jamie Oliver for his advice on cooking the perfect chip. Blanche, cool, then fry was his advice. I can tell you for free that that was not going to happen. That may work in whatever Essex hovel you were dragged up in but we are from the great City of Birmingham and we don’t play that shit. Still, the tip to drop a test chip into the oil to check the temperature seemed legit. It was a familiar ducking stool logic – if she floats, she’s good to go, if she doesn’t, give her a while longer.
It rang true. I’d heard it before somewhere, in fact. So after 10 minutes on full blast, I dropped in the first tester and it sank like a Kennedy groupie at Chappaquiddick. No dice. Number two went in a few minutes later to the same result. After a good 18 minutes of heat, the third tester went in and floated like a disgusting dirty witch. Time to fry her and her slut Maris Piper buddies to death.
It was here that a lack of apparatus first became a problem. The lack of a dedicated fryer was one thing but I didn’t have a metal sieve that would fit into the saucepan. A gentle descent is preferable for the chip, as is a dignified exit with the help of the sieve. I had no choice. I tipped the uncooked chips into the boiling mass of fat and watched as a wall of flame launched from the saucepan an inch from my face all the way to the ceiling. It was gone in an instant but that didn’t placate me much. Fuck you, Jamie Oliver and your floating chip. Your heuristic sucks a bag of dicks.
My near-death experience focused the mind. It was clear that the oil was now way too hot but there was no way back. The chips were charred to a shit-coloured brown in 90 seconds. I quickly tasted one and it was actually okay. That it would likely give me cancer in 20 years didn’t seem to matter as I’ll probably suicide myself before that and besides, I had other fish to fry. In this instance, the fakest of fake fish: the banana blossom.
Got no beef with dripping
I’ll not dissemble, confidence was not high. I had never battered anything before, you see. It was the practice of the mentally ill and genetically Scottish. Nevertheless, I persisted. I mixed in the required amounts with the flour and whisked it into what I regarded as a reasonable consistency – a belief I now know to be mistaken. It was not at all thick enough. Consequently, when I dipped the banana blossom in, the batter did not adequately adhere to its host. Inadequate adherence – contemplate my shame. My lack of planning was further exposed when I had to transport the dripping blossom fillets across the kitchen to the saucepan. By the time I was done it looked like the aftermath of a Pillsbury Dough Boy Gangbang. Batter jizz was everywhere.
La petite mort
With the oil still at an unforgiving Far Too High, I dropped the blossom in. The foaming cauldron of hate obscured much of what was going on but it was clear that the laws of physics were not on my side. The components were spreading, the centre could not hold – mere anarchy was loosed upon the kitchen. When I fished out the battered blossom, the extent of the calamity was revealed. It looked like the leavings from some E. coli-ridden Glasgow chippy. If this was food porn it’d be a snuff movie.
I wolfed down every bit in the spirit of zero waste and owning my mistakes. It didn’t taste as bad as it looked, which wasn’t saying much. I pondered my predicament and thought of the millions who starved during Mao’s Great Leap Forward. Would I change places with them? In a heartbeat. They are truly fortunate that they never lived to know such a humbling.
Barbarism begins at Homebase
So, who to blame? Me, for my shoddy cooking technique and inability to think on my feet? Banana blossom for its underwhelming physiognomy and stoic indifference to my plight? Jamie Oliver for his wiggedy wack advice and generally existing? It’s so hard to judge.
Here’s what I do know. This is not an easy path that we walk. There will be setbacks, diversions, 49-car pileups and amputations. But continue we must because all else is barbarism.