I say, “A plantain a day, keeps the Cartel at bay.” …assuming The Little Guy is getting fair trade.
Colombians have had a love hate relationship with bananas. They love to eat them and have a huge sense of national pride over dishes such as Cayeye, but there has also been trouble, involving the banana, brewing since the very beginning of the 20th century.
To start with, the United Fruit Company came in and offered the locals a deal for the exportation and sale of their bananas. This deal was more of a steal. Stealing from The Little Man. The Company not only required all shipped bananas to be in perfect condition, leaving many behind unsell-able bananas, they also returned any bananas that didn’t sell, all falling on the cultivator again. This major surplus of bananas and plantains in the area, you can imagine, lead to some considerable creativity in the kitchen.
While that problem was easily enough solved with new and ingenious uses for the bananas, this still left the workers with 7 day work weeks, unhygienic dorms, a lack of medical care, and no compensation for work accidents. Then, topped it all off with very poor pay, which was often times given in the form of coupons rather than money.
Eventually, late in 1928, they’d had enough. The workers in Ciénaga went on a strike which lasted for several weeks and cost the company huge numbers in loss. There was no reaching an agreement. Although they were simply asking for dignified working conditions, the United Fruit Company felt their actions were “communist,” with a “subversive tendency,” according to their telegraphs to the US. In the end the US backed the Colombian government into a corner, threatening to ‘take care’ of the problem themselves, and since no one wants to loose money, The Little Guy ‘took it,’ again. This time to the chest, in the form of a machine gun massacre that killed hundreds, if not thousands, of men, woman, and children, who had congregated in a street after Sunday Mass.
And it doesn’t end there. Since, communism and guerilla warfare have each continued to grow in Colombia, as everyone has an opinion about who is right and who is wrong, government and the people, equal rights and fair treatment. With ‘the good guy’ and ‘the bad guy’ titles up for interpretation, and the human desire to make easy money, we can certainly see where issues that might have began with the banana trade of the early 1900’s may have eventually lead to the drug cartel problems Colombians (and Americans) are fighting today.
Pronounced ‘kay-yah-yah‘ and ‘oh-gou’ this simple yet very nutritious breakfast is fresh and fragrant. It starts with a bed of boiled and mashed plantains, cayeye, which is then topped with hogao, a popular Colombian relish made from tomatoes, green onions, garlic, and cumin. To finish it off, an egg is most often served on top. Although often eaten at breakfast, it is also very acceptable for dinner.
Cayeye with Hogao – Colombian Breakfast
By: Semiserious Chefs
- 2 plantains, peeled
- Green guineos bananas are the most traditional
- water for boiling; 1/4 cup reserved
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 roma tomatoes; diced
- 2 bunches off green onion; chopped
- 2 garlic cloves; minced
- 1/2 t cumin
- 1/2 t sea salt
- 1/2 t ground pepper
- 3-4 eggs
- Boil the green plantain for 2o minutes, then mash with 1/4 cup of the boiling water until smooth.
- For the Hogao: In a skillet, add a few tablespoons of olive oil and saute the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin for a few minutes just until fragrant, over medium-low heat. Next, add the tomatoes and saute for a couple more minutes until everything is warm and slightly soft, but not mushy.
- Plate the mashed plantains, with salt and pepper as desired, topped with the hagao.
- Fry on egg for each dish, to the desire of the consumer. Sunny-side-up or Over-Easy are two popular options.
- Place the egg on top of the hogao for each dish and enjoy!