Solomon Islands Food 2
Last summer (2007) I spent a few months in the Solomon Islands, teaching on a remote island with no electricity or running water. See my post here for more.
Before and after
One thing I was dying to see (and eat) on Lata was a coconut crab. They are strange creatures: the largest land crustacean on earth (only those giant scary deep sea crabs are bigger, and of course they are sea-dwelling), they climb coconut trees and can open up coconut with their giant claws, and they drown in water. They only live on tropical islands and can take 20-40 years to grow to full size. Like I said before, they are only caught during the waning of the moon (natural conservation or strange phenomenon I don’t know). The doctor’s housemaid found a couple at the market for us and bought them. They’re bought fresh (alive!) with rope on them and you tie them up in the house until you want to eat it. We kept ours overnight (:() and the rotten thing escaped and climbed up the mosquito netting outside out room with its giant claws. We heard much commotion at 4am with the girls trying to catch it again without having their fingers chopped off. The coconut crabs absolutely scared me, and when Julie put it on the lawn for me to take a picture of I was terrified it’d come and get me!! They had to be killed, of course, which involved boiling a massive amount of water and pouring the boiling water over the crab. It died fast (if you boiled enough to kill it in one go). I didn’t enjoy seeing its legs slowly seizing up, but I wanted meat and I needed to take responsibility for the fact that whenever I eat meat something has been killed. After a minute the crab was well and truly dead, at which point you grab hold of it, yank off the legs and pincers and throw them and the abdomen/head into the pot with some salt and pepper. You boil, it’s done.
The barbecue in full swing
When we first visited the hospital, and on our departure, the hospital put on a wonderful (and very western) buffet for us. The bread alone must have been quite an outlay, not to mention the biscuits! You can see the tuna and spring onion sandwiches, the giant discs of cucumber and the triangles of melon and papaya:
We didn’t eat an awful lot, but we saw people ferreting away sandwiches away for later/family. It was very touching for them to put on such a spread, but so scary being the first to help themselves (especially on the first day).
On our final day we went to see a custom dance at a local village and although we were unexpected they, naturally, had food to offer. We were ushered over to a covered area and given some food. The dancers, being even higher status than us, convened in a separated leaf haus (I wouldn’t have been allowed in on account of being a woman!) and I believe they had pig. We were offered baked tuna and potato (silver bowl) and ‘taro pudding’. Taro is greyer than it looks in this picture. It looks like wallpaper paste and it tastes like it too. I couldn’t really get to grips with it, but scooping some up and slapping it on top of a torn off piece of tuna seemed to work. Obviously, we couldn’t have left the taro pudding even if we hated it because it’s quite the delicacy. They make it by baking the taro, then grating it, then binding it with coconut milk. It’s extremely good for you (and Dr Gunter tried to make us eat it more often!)