All posts filed under: Oceania

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Samoan Tropical Salad

Summer can’t come soon enough – the heat of sun on my shoulders, the way my skin smells with sunscreen on, hot evenings under the stars. So today we’re going to Samoa. There’ll be drippy sweetness: papaya and cantaloupe. There’ll be richness, too – buttery avocado and moody – almost bitter – spinach. And to finish it all off? A puckering of lime juice – as bright as a Samoan seascape.   Typically known for rich, coconut milk-laden recipes, this Samoan salad is a healthier twist on island fare. The version I based mine on even won a Samoan recipe challenge! I chose this salad for sentimental reasons – something to set the scene a bit for the release of my new book Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. I went to Samoa 2 months before I was born (as a real life stowaway, I suppose). Scientists believe our taste preferences can be affected by what our mother’s ate while we were gestating. I like to think I carry a bit of Samoa with me today. It was an …

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Going “Down Under” with an Easy Kid’s Lunch

Throwing together a Down Under lunch requires just a few fun ingredients. My kindergartner loves a good cheese sandwich (don’t we all!?) so this week I smeared her sandwich bread with sticky, salty yeast extract like they do in Australia and New Zealand (I couldn’t find Aussie’s preferred version, Vegemite, so I used Marmite, the version preferred in Britain and New Zealand). Let the record state: ooey gooey cheese paninis with yeast extract are also grand! The salty smack goes a long, long way; don’t overdo it! Next, leftovers came to the rescue. On the side are leftover sweet potatoes drizzled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. In New Zealand and parts of Australia they call sweet potatoes “kumara.” The shining star of the meal came from the fruit basket: one shiny Granny Smith apple. These green beauties were first cultivated in Australia in 1868. What an easy, authentic addition to the lunch box. The container came back empty, so I’d say her lunch “down under” was a success! Tips & Tricks: Ava’s lunch is vegetarian but others might enjoy tossing the sweet potatoes …

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Monday Meal Review: Vanuatu

Last week someone asked me if I was going to cook with rocks because that’s how they cook in Vanuatu. It was a fair question and one that, about two years ago, would have gotten me all sweaty and stressed out. I would have asked myself if I was treating the people of Vanuatu fairly by not  digging a pit in my back yard, scavenging large rocks from local hiking trails, then cooking the meal beneath our Oklahoma red dirt. But now, three years and seven months into this Adventure, my answer comes without any regret. No. Over the last years, this blog has helped me figure out who I am and what I am capable of. Right now, I have at my disposition a standard stove/oven combo.  When the kitchen gets too hot, I have an old gas grill in the back yard. Once in a while we use my chimnea to roast marshmallows. In Vanuatu, you work with what you have.  You celebrate what you have. And that’s no different here, in my little corner of middle …

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Green Papaya Salad

  What do you do when you’re running low on inspiration? Do you sip a cup of tea, take a walk, paint, write a poem, cook something? Or do you freeze up, unable to create? Writing a book for the last several months has had an interesting effect on my brain-space. The book is incredibly daunting and takes all my creative juices. I find myself sopping through my house like a wrung out rag. I once read that we are only capable of making a certain number of decisions each day. After that time, we’re pretty much worthless.  Sometimes, after a particularly long book writing session, I can’t even decide what pajamas I want to curl up in to decompress.   Thankfully, the world is a resource. It’s a constant inspiration. Remember, even on those nights you’re too tired to pop popcorn, the world is there, whispering sweet nothings to you. Inviting you to try something different. And so here we are… today, Vanuatu is doing the whispering. Since I spent yesterday grating a mountain range of …

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Sweet Potato Simboro

It only takes five minutes of grating sweet potatoes to make me wax poetic on the brilliance of the food processor. Friends, I certainly don’t have biceps of steel. Most days, I don’t even see my biceps beneath the jiggle. Today’s recipe for Simboro gave them a work out. I first learned about Simboro from a reader named Benjamin who spent some time in Vanuatu. This comforting side dish is made with a grated starch, like cassava, sweet potato, or yam, wrapped in “island cabbage,” then simmered in coconut milk. As much as it pained my muscles… I treated the grating like a ritual – a rite of passage – a way to imagine myself in Vanuatu telling tourists “THIS way to the beach.” Thirty minutes later, only my pride had kept me from pulling out the food processor. Because, the fact of the matter is that the sweet potato could just as easily be run through the grater attachment on your food processor, then ground finer in the processor bowl to achieve similar results… leaving …

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Menu: Vanuatu

“A woman is like a stick you throw.” Proverb from Vanuatu On the surface, this proverb from Vanuatu does not exactly sound flattering. But it turns out it is. In fact, it’s a term of endearment. In Vanuatu, there’s a plant called nanggalat, which takes root and thrives wherever you throw it – even on the jagged edge of a cliff.  Comparing a woman to a thrown stick – in Vanuatu – is saying she can adapt and thrive anywhere. (Source) It’s all about context. This week we’re making two recipes from Vanuatu to learn more about this culture. Enjoy and, when it’s all over, may we all be more like thrown sticks. Recipes and meal review will be posted throughout the week. Simboro [Recipe] Grated sweet potato wrapped in leaves, then boiled in coconut milk. These tidy little dumplings make a lovely side dish in the autumn. Green PawPaw Salad [Recipe] A tropical salad brought to you by Vanuatu’s most popular produce: shredded green papaya, coconut, green onion, and fresh lime juice. Done and done.

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Port Vila treescape, Vanuatu. Photo by Phillip Capper.

About the Food of Vanuatu

Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. But what about those who live in wood, bamboo, and palm leaf houses?  In the 80 islands that make up Vanuatu, the hot, humid weather makes for an entirely different living experience, one where – traditionally speaking – thatched roofs keep out the rain instead of tile. While stones aren’t exactly thrown, in Vanuatu they are heated and piled on top of food. This traditional method is typical of Oceania. Lap lap the most notable of dishes, made with either yam, cassava, plantain, or sweet potato that has been grated, wrapped in banana leaves (with coconut milk), then roasted under hot stones. Reader, Benjamin, who spent some time in Vanuatu, told me more about the dish, how they add chicken on top of the grated starch: …they take a couple of the hot rocks, each about the size of a baseball, rinse them of ashes and then place them in the center of the Laplap. During cooking this creates a well like crater in the center. They …

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Monday Meal Review: Tuvalu

  In times of plenty, it’s easy to forget about times of scarcity. When we have electricity, we forget what it feels like to read by candlelight (or not at all). When we have food, we forget what it feels like to not know where our next meal will come from (if we ever knew what that felt like at all). When I was a tiny tot, I spent some time in a homeless shelter. My mom was a single mom, doing the best she could (I love you, mom!), but one thing led to another and we found ourselves on the street. I don’t remember those days – I was too little, but mom does. She remembers, in particular, the long lines to get into the shelter, and the congestion once inside. She remembers not knowing what the next hour would hold, let alone the next day. Soon after, a friend took us in and mom gradually saved up enough money for us to get our own place. We persevered with assistance; I remember …

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Coconut Banana Fritters

I don’t usually pick my Friday afternoon snacks based on Prince William’s and the Duchess’ eating habits, but this week I couldn’t help myself. The royal couple were fed these amazing fritters during their stay in Tuvalu. What an endorsement. If they’re good enough for royalty, they are good enough for me. Trust me on this: each bite will transport you to magical Tuvalu, way out in the Pacific, where the sun shines brightly, the water sparkles like a smile, and every day feels like a vacation. They are indulgent in the most unapologetic way possible. The fritters contain many local ingredients, most notably coconut and bananas. Not just any bananas, my friends. These are nice, ripe, bananas. After a quick dip in bubbling oil, the fritters emerge soft in the middle and crisp and nut-brown on the outside. A heavy dusting of powdered sugar later and they become the perfect tropical doughnut. Makes 8 large, 12 small Ingredients: Vegetable oil, for frying 2 ripe bananas, rough chopped For the batter: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 …

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Tuvalu Tuna

If you ever make it to Tuvalu, you might as well snatch the Tuna straight out of the water, fillet it in the boat, and enjoy the mild fish right then and there. No cooking required. That’s the local way. But for those who are looking for something a little more tame, Tuna Curry is an authentic, delicious option. The recipe is very typical of the Pacific: it includes locally caught fish and coconut milk from harvested from the in the back yard, plus a bunch of imported ingredients. Imports are necessary because very little can grow in Tuvalu. The curry powder exudes Indian influence, which runs rampant in Oceania, as well as soy sauce, a definite nod to Tuvalu’s Asian neighbors. Even things like ginger and garlic are imported. Shipments of goods arrive once a month, weather permitting. This means, if you’re pantry runs dry, and the store runs out, then you’ll just have to wait until the giant vessel anchors offshore. And when it does? All hands on deck… Recipe adapted from Andy Explores. …

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Menu: Tuvalu

Ever wonder how an island nation forms? There’s an old Tuvaluan legend  that claims the first inhabitants of Tuvalu were ladies named Pai and Vau. Pai and Vau held baskets of sand. The grains that fell out of those baskets are said to have formed the neighboring atolls (the tiny coral reef islands we learned about yesterday). I love this image. It really goes to show how a little carelessness – something as small as a slip of a basket – can have far-reaching effects. Of course, all this island-making leaves me wondering: what did Pai and Vau ate after making the islands? I’d like to imagine, something like this week’s menu… We’re celebrating the food of Tuvalu with a big bite of local Tuna and doughnut-like banana fritters. This is comfort food, meant to be enjoyed with the salt of the sea on your lips, and a smile in your heart. Even more, we have it on authority that the dessert is fit for the prince of England and his bride. So, it stands …

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Funafuti in Tuvalu looking south. Photo by David Arfon Jones.

About the food of Tuvalu

This week we’re scooting out into the Pacific, all the way to Tuvalu – a country which is as much fun to eat as it is to say. I wasn’t convinced I’d find much info on these water-lapped islands, especially considering Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world – behind Monaco, Nauru (also in the Pacific), and the Vatican City. It is made up of just three reef islands and six atolls. An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef like these: There’s generally a lagoon inside. Not a lot of room for growing food. But it does make for some awesome roads. Then I stumbled across Andy Explores and I knew everything would be okay. In this fun spirited blog (by a Boy Scout, no less), Andy takes his readers through his year in Tuvalu. Stories include learning to fish, cooking like a local, waiting for the monthly food shipments (literally just once a month), meeting the epic Graham Hughes (one of two people who have been to every country in the world, including the amazing …

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