Monday, August 4, 2008

Still Eating My Way Around The World

We are getting acquainted with Alex's cousin, John-Lee Williams and his wife Cathy. They had us out for lunch yesterday. A simple bar-b-que fish, rice, coconut cream sauce, etc. Cathy has a little Chinese background (from the Tuamotu's of French Polynesia ???) so cooked a small bowl of fish jerky with ginger and oil in the top of the rice. It was really nice. Trinda took the remains of the banana bread she made for our trip here from Penrhyn.

They invited us back for Sunday lunch/dinner today after church. They are catholic like Alex and his family. But only go once, from 10-10:45 where Alex goes twice on Sunday for an hour each time. Turns out the fish we had is Alex's favorite and one which doesn't exist at Penrhyn. John teased him un mercilessly about it. Alex called his cousin John last night to see if we made it OK and wondered if we had found him yet. I don't know what he told them about us, but they are sure nice to us. John also
invited us to tour his fathers pearl farm Monday afternoon after the Cook Islands Constitution Day celebration in the morning.

Any way, back to lunch. You will never guess what the main attraction was. Trinda made a pasta salad and a Wacky Cake, but left out the chocolate and added extra vanilla. It was not quite a white cake, but purdy good! They cook Sunday dinner in an 'in the ground' oven filled with coral rocks. They fill it with coconut husks, burn it down and then when all the rocks are really hot, put in all the food and cover it over till Sunday morning. They make a bread-ish sort of thing they call flour, that
is wheat flour mixed with coconut cream and maybe some spices, then bake it in a deep pot. Also a chunk of tuna fish was baked in a pan, another separate just above the coals. Also in a pan, bar-b-que chicken, the local free range kind. Baked long enough they are really tasty and tender. The 'boiled then fried whole' ones we were served on Fanning and Christmas were not cooked long enough and thus were quite tough, although still tasty. John's grown son got up early this morning and collected a few
coconut crabs, the biggest ones we have seen so far. The claws must have been 6 inches long each. They were boiled this morning along with the rice and such. Oysters cooked 3 ways, bar-b-que, curried and raw with lime juice.

They also have little use for silverware. Trinda says "Larry, if only your kids could see you now, eating with your fingers, slurping the rice soaked in coconut cream out of your hand and sucking the water from a fresh green coconut! And all the time you yelled at them for not using their forks correctly in the restaurants!"

There are usually serving spoons and lots of folks can come up with forks and spoons for us, but raw fish with the bones still in them MUST be eaten carefully, with the fingers. It often gets a little sticky, and I am a little embarrassed to grab the serving spoon with my sticky hand to get more, but that's the way they do. They do have a knack for only getting one hand really sticky, reserving the left for drinking, holding the dry part of the fried fish or the bread or breadfruit or whatever. But
to eat rice on a plate with half a cup of coconut cream sauce (with lime and onions added) poured over it, enough to dip a morsel just removed from a whole fried fish, you just get a little sticky. When in Rome, do as the Romans! They do always have a finger bowl ready when you finish, and I have learned to ask to wash my hands before we sit down to eat.

Give up yet? Would you believe 'Blue Footed Booby' on the menu! Yes that's right, the crazy little birds that attacked our fishing lures all through Mexico. A delicacy only occasionally enjoyed. They skin them so they won't be too greasy then put them in to bake with the rest. It is a little gamey and tough. Really reminds me of quail or dove we use to eat on the ranch. They sent the leftover one home with us since I seemed to enjoy it. They were sure surprised that I tasted everything and liked
most of it. I think they are a little surprised also that I dig right in and eat the way they do.

It was a quite tasty meal. After we ate all that, we had a cup of coffee with Trinda's cake and sat around the table grazing most of the afternoon.

Like I said, still eating my way along ...
from Manihiki, Northern Cooks - 10 25S x 161 02W

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