All posts filed under: Vanuatu

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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