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Would you like fries with that?

POSTED AT 11:50 PM ON Aug. 21, 2012  (UPDATED AT 01:03 AM ON Aug. 22, 2012)

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Welcome Week is about reunions. We fill in friends on life’s latest ordeals, file into our favorite B-town restaurants to cure cravings conjured during the summer and share snacks with company. 

For me, there is no better way to start a meal or share an ordeal than with a plate of fries.

Let’s be real — potatoes are the celebrities of food, and the best way to enjoy them is fried and dipped in all sorts of spectacular sauces.

Before traveling abroad, I constantly craved sweet potato fries. While traveling, I found in the same way we have excess potatoes, other countries use and abuse the foods most easily accessible to them and come up with an overwhelming number of variations to reel in every tasty possibility.

Since traveling to Dominica and Ghana, I have yet to find a dish as delicious as fried plantains.

Riper than bananas, plantains are easily prepared in West Africa and in South America, where they grow to a perfect texture. The riper the better, and, unfortunately, a banana with too much mush just won’t do.

This delicious delicacy seems easy-peasy to prepare — the plantains are sliced, fried with oil for a few minutes and seasoned with salt. The method highlights the sweetness and makes for a crunchy and soft snack you can’t get enough of.

The best part is experimenting with different dipping sauces, another great food category in which cultures like to show off their unique specialties.

After a week in Ghana, I asked for a plate of fried plantains whenever I had the chance and still wasn’t sick of it.

I miss my favorite African treat terribly, but I have experimented with making them right at home.

Unfortunately, the exact texture can’t be as easily replicated in Bloomington, but the idea is brilliant. Making fried chips out of different vegetables and fruits has proven successful in most cases.

Banana chips are spiced and seasoned in several ways everywhere from Ecuador in South America to Dominica in the Caribbean.

Carrots, squash, beets and apples are all delicious variations of our favorite starter and might save some extra calories.

Try baking these fruits and veggies after slicing and dicing them into short strips for another tasty variation.

The seasoning can be the most exciting part. As I found in Ghana, some locals loved to load their plantains with spicy peppers to add an extra kick and an exciting combination with the sweet and salty side.

My friends and I jokingly call ourselves the condiment crew because there are never enough ways to add flavor to a staple snack food.

Sample different salad dressings, spices and sauces to see what will be the next best American food.

With some time during Welcome Week, surprise your friends by finding a few new potential chip staple ingredients and double dipping sauces.

Make a fun, bold statement to your friends as you catch up with a new colorful and cultural snack.

­— espitzer@indiana.edu

 

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