I have heard through the grapevine that some of you would like to see more of what I’ve been eating in the past few weeks. Today (Sunday, which would be Saturday for you all in the States; England, I’m not even going to try to figure that one out for you! J), in accordance with this request, I went around the Civale’s kitchen with my camera, photographing with wild abandon. So, for you food-lovers, this is the kind of cuisine that you could expect here.
For our protein department, we have barbequed pork, sausage (which are more like hot dogs), and fish. Yes, all those piggies running around out in the yard have a final, permanent destination! The pigs here are smaller and rangier than their American cousins, looking more like wild boars than anything else, but there’s nothing different about the taste. I asked Hannah how on earth the people tell their own pigs apart from their neighbors porkers, since all the pigs roam free and have no collars, tattoos, brands or microchip implants (hah!). She told me that they ‘just know’, though sometimes certain unscrupulous people ‘mistake’ a pig for their own. For instance, some nearby villagers gave a present of some roast pork to the Civales; naturally, the Civales were delighted and thanked them. A few days later, they noticed that one of their own hogs was missing—and has been missing ever since. Hmmmmm……
Since Samoa is an island, there are a lot of fish. I’ve already seen plenty of fishermen trudging along the side of the road, loaded with their days catch—and that’s just shore fishing. Miss Emi loves her fish, and I’m sure it’s good, but I haven’t tried any yet, to be honest. It’s probably the fact that they serve the fish whole, with fins, scales, and…well, everything, intact, that makes me more squeamish. However, I will have some before I go. What I’ve been having a lot of are the sausages. As I said, they’re more like hot dogs, but they do taste different than those in America. The difference is, not surprisingly, in the choice of meat—a lot of these sausages are made in New Zealand or Australia, so lamb is a main ingredient, with beef lower on the list. Oh, yes, and there’s always chicken, but chicken is chicken; I don’t think it needs a big long explanation.
For our carbohydrate portion of diet (can you tell I’ve been teaching a nutrition class?!), we have potatoes, rice, noodles (more like the ramen type), bread, crackers, and taro root. The bread here is delicious—there’s a bakery nearby that bakes the best bread on the whole island. I’ve seen them delivering it to the stores; the delivery-man arrives, takes out plastic bags full of unpackaged loaves, and dumps them onto the counter! But, despite the inelegant mode of arrival, the bread is fresh and homemade, with a chewy crust that I’m not even tempted to cut off!
Taro root is something not grown in the U.S., as far as I know. It’s like a big potato, about twice as big as your average spud, with more starch and a somewhat purplish color on the outside at times. The Civales have a plantation up on the mountain where they grow taro. We’ll be headed up to the plantation this week, so I’ll take plenty of pictures and let you see it all for yourself.
For veggies and fruits, there’s papaya, breadfruit, pineapple (though right now it’s not really pineapple season), vi (which is sort of like an apple, only not as sweet and more chewy), a native kind of spinach, pole beans, and cucumbers. Tomatoes, onions, and cabbage are available in the stores but not grown on the island. Lots of families have a little vegetable/fruit stand out front; you pull up, honk your horn, and the proprietress comes running, usually with a child or two right behind to see the ‘palongis’ (that’s us!).
As for beverages and sweets, they do have soda here, but it’s expensive. I can see why—they still package it in glass bottles with the old-fashioned bottle cap! Most of the time, I just drink water, which is very pure and fresh—you can drink it right out of the gutter when it rains, though I have yet to do so. Samoan cocoa is very popular here—it’s like coffee, rather bitter, but with a pleasant aftertaste. It’s nothing like Swiss-Miss! I’ve seen no fresh baked sweets since I’ve been here, except for Joe and Tory’s birthday cake. They do have some candy, and a few packaged cookie-type things, Oreo-ripoffs and the like.
Since I’m staying with the pastor’s family, we get special food from the people of the church. Just before I sat down to write this post, Miss Emi and I heard a hesitant knock on the door. Miss Emi called for this visitor to come in, and a teenage boy came into the kitchen, carrying a woven bag full of something. He knelt on the floor, which is the custom here when the younger are addressing someone in authority, and told her it was food from his family. She thanked him, and he went on his way. Inside the basket were some fruits and a can of Spam, which is highly prized here.
Today is Pastor Jim’s birthday, so we had a nice, big meal, with some left-overs and some fresh food. Hannah had made a big bowl of macaroni salad (rather like her mom’s pasta salad! J), and Tory made iced tea. The rest of the food you can see in the pictures.
Well, I hope that answers some of your questions about the native cuisine. Enjoy some McDonalds today for us—Miss Emi and Joe were just talking about how they miss cheeseburgers! J