FOOD & DRINK
02/09/2017 05:57 am ET Updated Feb 12, 2017

The Unique Way Somalis Eat Bananas

Sometimes, a banana is not just a banana.

As the Muslim ban heads to court, one way for us to navigate these times is to educate ourselves ― to learn what we can about the cultures of the affected nations. Today, we’re looking at a Somali culinary tradition. After all, food is the distillation of community and culture to its most basic form. We hope you’ll follow along with us in support. 

when you want to eat everything and nothing at the same time 😂 (seriously banana with fish? ) #somalianfood

A photo posted by Julia Racz (@juliainstructor) on

The Somali people are one of the most displaced ethnic groups in the world, according to the United Nations. Some two million Somalis live outside of their homeland, and close to 150,000 are settled in the U.S. The largest Somali population stateside resides in the twin cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, while Columbus, Seattle and San Diego are also home to big enclaves of Somali refugees.

As a result, there is a rich Somali dining scene happening here. And if you happen to find yourself dining in a Somali restaurant in the near future, there is something you should know: You will most likely get a banana served with your meal, and it is not meant for dessert. 

Banana and rice homie y'all sleepin on that 😂 #Somalianfood #bananaandriceisnice

A photo posted by Mo (@mo3nvy) on

One reporter learned this the hard way when he tweeted a photo of his meal at a Somali restaurant in Minneapolis and referred to the banana as an appetizer. Somali twitter quickly corrected his mistake.

Somalis serve an optional banana to be eaten with lunch and dinner ― that is, sliced up and mixed into the rice or pasta, not enjoyed separately. (Yes, pasta. Somalis have a strong pasta culture as a result of Italian colonization.)

We suspect the country’s strong hold in the banana trade is probably responsible for this tradition. Before the civil war that wreaked havoc on the country, Somalia’s banana industry was the biggest in Africa.

A vendor displays bananas at his stall in Somalia.
Feisal Omar / Reuters
A vendor displays bananas at his stall in Somalia.

Eating bananas with a meal is such an ingrained part of Somali culture that it even provided material for a sad spoof of a Donald Trump tweet.

We say the addition of a banana sounds tremendous. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred to Somalis as Somalians.

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