Ok, so I am nearly back in Honiara and will be having new ventures to scribe, so I had better get a few more of the background basics out of the way, perhaps a quick one on food over here before a proper hardcore, packed post on a barbecue that got so out of hand you may just not believe me, cuts, bruises, hunting knives, barracuda, rocks and water..... blending in a way only the islands can offer, next time I promise, but for now, food.
The diversity of food in the Solomons rivals that of home, if your willing to pay, you can get just about anything you would find in Australia, even TimTams and Shapes, though any winter vegetables are sure to have travelled a long way and be worse for wear. A far healthier, economic and a hell of a lot more interesting way to go, is to cook with local produce. Tropical fruit like mango, five corner, bananas (I think it was over 100 varieties at last count) pawpaw and coconut are in ample supply, as are stamples including Casava, cooking bananas, kumara (various root crops) and yams. Lots of chinese greens are available and the local slippery cabbage is a good filler.
We have bought our own coconut milker and have a laden palm at the house, so the canned stuff will never do again. Basically the milker is a serrated disk of steel, fixed to a wooden board. After splitting the coconut you sit on the board and grind the inside of the coconut around the disk grating the flesh into a bowl below. You then add water or the drained coconut juice and wring out the pulp leaving fresh coconut milk. You can also scoop the jelly like flesh out of green coconut that is awsome but almost pure fat and you can even eat the porous kernel of germinated coconuts.
The meat choices here are whatever you want, depending on your budget. Most red meat is imported as most cattle (bulamacao) projects were wiped out during the tensions. Pigs (pigpigs) are commonly raised by villagers as are chicken (koraKao). However if you want to go for something more exotic there is flying fox and the islands giant green opposable tailed skink. Termites are also consumed in some areas. I did try flying fox, which was quite greasy and the meat smelt fierce and lingered, so again once was enough, but hey I can say I have done it. It was a strange sight to see, as the meal was unfurled from its banana leaf baking wrap, something like opening Dracula's coffin with two neatly folded wings across the things chest. Alright, alright, swallowem spit blo iu (suck it up) and we will move on.
I guess the final thing worth including is of course the SEAFOOD! There is anything and everything you can imagine, lobster, giant mud crab, mussels and other assorted shellfish, sea cucumber and whatever has been pulled in in the nets of the day. Hundreds of fish species some suitable for baking whole or filleting, others like barracuda and tuna best cut into stakes. You can buy a half metre tuna here for about 20 Australian Dollars.
There is one other crustacean on the menu worth a special mention, slightly endangered and interesting enough to have me almost regretting having tried it. Not bad though having said that. I am talking of the legendary islands coconut crab, which is really a glorified hermit crab. They start life as soft shelled crabs that use discarded shells for protection as they grow they have also been known to use coconut shells for this purpose before getting to sizes of four kilograms and earning a hard shell of their own. They spend their life on land and with a slightly hairy abdomen have a real spideryness about them.
The bright blue and completely unique animals eat coconuts (hence the name) and have powerful claws capable of gripping and climbing coconut palms and cutting off the fruit, not to mention cracking through the shells to get to the flesh itself. It is their taste for coconuts that is their undoing however, as catching them is a matter of setting a simple coconut bait. The crabs live amongst soil in rock cliffs and enter the trees at night to forage for coconuts. Hunters simply place a coconut atop a thin stake (too thin for the crabs to climb) and place it atop the cliffs. The coconut crabs, thinking they are saving themselves a walk, gather in numbers around the coconut contemplating how they will get to it. It is then just a matter of returning with a torch to a mass of spellbound crabs staring blankly at the coconut and choosing the biggest crabs for the pot. A bit unsporting really...
Well that's enough food factoids for today. Write again soon Hope things are good where you are.