Monday, August 2, 2010

More Field Food Failure

When available, I eat fresh fruit at breakfast.  On the first shopping trip in Newman, I was thus pleased to see lots of apples and bananas on the shelves.  There were also green bananas.  I thought, hmmm; better get some of them too.  They should ripen once the yellow ones are gone or too bruised to eat.  So I added four green bananas to the overflowing shopping cart.  I put them in the breakfast food box, and forgot about them.
A week later, the yellow bananas were getting scarce.  I dug out the green bananas.  They still seemed hard.  I tried to peel one.  No dice.  I attacked it with a knife.  Slow going: I could barely pierce its now blotchy green skin.  I broke it in half.  It snapped when it broke, and smelled unbanana-like.  Definitely not ready to eat.  I put the remaining green bananas back in the box, wrapped in plastic.
The bananas continued to annoy me.  They were impervious to any persuasion about becoming edible.  I put them in the sun.  I added a ripe banana to their bag as a role model and as a source of ethylene gas.  I considered putting them on the engine block out of spite.  Field time was almost over.  Tactically, I began to ponder how to use them effectively in their unripe state.  The engine option was a clue.  Heat would be required.
Final swag out seemed to require a final dessert.  I thought about making fried green bananas.  However, when it came time to make dinner (my turn), I was very tired.  The effort of slicing bananas, exhuming the frying pan, heating margarine, and doing the actual frying seemed too taxing, especially when the final product was dubious.  I am sure we had enough brown sugar and honey to make any result edible, but in the moment exhaustion won out.  We had plenty of biscuits and chocolate anyway. 
I ran through this thought train while watching the fire, before cooking.  As Louis and I talked we expressed the mutual regret that we were not able to have a meal of Chernobyl Potatoes on Australia Fifteen.  When we’d last shopped, the Tom Price Coles store had amazingly been empty shelved with respect to root vegetables.  Sadness.  This conversation triggered mental synthesis.  Why not make Chernobyl Bananas?  This had many advantages.  It would use up aluminum foil.  The fire was not large, but we had plenty of wood to create coals.  It would be a lot easier than frying bananas.  It would be revenge.  Finally, it might work. 
I got the three remaining bananas, punctured each one, and wrapped them carefully in foil.  When the coals were sufficient, I made a cavity in the fire pit, inserted the bananas and buried them.  Of course, I had no idea how long it takes a banana to stew in its own juice, or even if bananas will cook this way.  I worked on dinner.  I checked one of the bananas in fifteen minutes.  It was still hard. 
Dinner was served.  I forgot about the bananas.  I assume Louis did too.  I remembered them oh, about an hour later when I caught a silvery glint from the fire pit.  I got the shovel and excavated all three bananas.  They seemed very light.  Their aluminum shells were intact, but stained with soot from the fire.  No steam came from the shells, only smoke.  I knew what was coming.  The shells cooled.  I pried one open.  At its core was a banana-shaped curved blob of carbon.  Oh well.

Opened banana on left; sealed on right

I don’t know if Chernobyl Bananas would have worked, given the right bananas and the right amount of roasting time.  Interestingly, the results of my experiment weren’t just blobs of carbon; the skin and tripartite sections of each banana were still distinct.  I don’t know what this means in terms of cooking potential.  In any event, while this experiment failed to produce something edible, it did succeed in using up supplies, enacting green banana punishment, and teaching me something about cooking.  And biscuits and chocolate is always a fine dessert.

Coda: Field Food Cleverness
Reverse the setting back to that initial shopping trip at the Woolworths in Newman. 
I wanted to make an Indian curry dinner.  No worries; Patak’s sauces are readily available in Australia.  While selecting a flavor of simmer sauce, I noticed packages of naan.  They were fresh, sealed in plastic.  I thought, hmm, can’t exactly be fresh, but would be a change from rice.  I added a package of garlic naan to the cart. 
Two nights later, swagged out south of Weeli Wolli, it was time to use the naan.  I’d looked at the package earlier in the day.  It recommended warming the breads before serving.  I knew this was preferable, for the sake of cuisine as well as thwarting staleness.  Two immediate warming options came to my mind:
  1.  Heat the naan in the fire: temperature control would be tricky.     
  2.  Warm the naan in my frying pan: it was small, and I only had a one burner stove.
As we found and parked at the swag out site, the solution came to me.  The Patrol had a turbocharger, which had a vent on top of the hood.  I check it.  Plenty hot.  I quickly took the naan out of its plastic, wrapped it in aluminum foil, and pushed it into the vent onto the engine.  This worked very well.

Naan - inserted

I made too much food.  Louis finished the naan at lunch the next day. 


  1. combination car-oven, there must be a market there.
    Another nice dessert: Slice bananas in half lengthwise. Place some rows of chocolate in between. Wrap in foil, bake in oven till chocolate is just melted.
    Maybe your green bananas were plantains?

  2. They weren't plantains - the store had those as well....