Learning to fry plantains represents a coming-of-age ceremony for many young people across the African and Latinx diaspora. My Haitian grandmother officiated my first lesson, during a time when I so badly wanted to be a chef. I was in my first year of culinary class in high school and, after a few months, I realized that learning the art of this technique would not come from my chef instructors. While I adored my teachers, their identities presented roadblocks to a broader cultural exploration—whiteness permeated all aspects of my high school culinary curriculum, from the recipes to the techniques and even the equipment. But I knew that learning to fry plantains held just as much weight as perfecting the French mother sauces. Thankfully, I took comfort in knowing that my grandmother stood as a resource to teach me.
Fried plantains show up on every occasion in our community, with a variety of dishes. They're added to plates packed with diri kole, Haiti’s national rice and beans dish, and stewed chicken; pikliz, a spicy, pickled Haitian condiment, always involves banan peze, or crispy fried green plantains. While the starchy disks come together within a few minutes, getting every step just right is crucial—especially the pressing. If the plantains are smashed too thin, they will be hard; too thick, and you risk an undercooked bite.