The Mark of the Jandal

Monday, December 26, 2005

Three weeks in the village: Part 2 food day/Thanksgiving

On Thursday the 24th of November we had food day. Because of where I live, I showed up a little late to the training village. I was accompanied by my host sister To'afa. Between us we brought several coconuts, some taro, breadfruit, and some freshwater shrimp. I say between the two of us, but she actually carried most of it. On the food day we're supposed to gain an appreciation of what goes into preparing a Samoan meal. I think the host family had already made the umu and I started by pealing bananas. They prefer to eat bananas here green and far from ripe. Before they ripen to sugary goodness, bananas largely starch. I was next handed a dirt covered taro root and part of a tin can cut off about an inch from the base of the can. The taro is placed on a stick extending about a foot and a half from the ground, and the portion of the can is used to scrape the dirt and outer skin of the taro off. I squatted by the stick scraping the taro and my sister kept telling me to stop exposing myself.

Next we pealed the freshwater shrimp (also called crayfish, crawfish, or simply crawdads in the states). I did a lot of this during my tenure at Captin D's in my highschool days. In the states we only ate the tails. We would use a machine which split the shrimp down the back removing the vein which carried feces to the rear of the shrimp for disposal. Here I'll peal the shrimp tail and eat it, and my mother will eat whatever is left (eyes, legs, etc.) when I'm done with my plate. To clean the shrimp, the carapace is removed and the thump is pressed against the meaty exposed area where the tail begins. Eventually a brown sack will squirt out by the shrimps eyes. This sack, which I believe this is it's stomach, is discarded.

I was pealing shrimp next to the pig pen when I heard some noise coming from that area behind me. It looked like it was time to prepare the pig. The pictures here are from the village cooking day and my last Sunday in the village. My brother in law Lee is doing most of the work for the latter time. The pig must first be killed. I'm told that this is traditionally done here by holding the pig down while a pole is placed over it's throat. Two people then stand on either side of the pole while the pig chokes to death. My family prefers to drown the pig in the creek which runs beside our house. Since pigs wallow around in their own feces the pig needs to be cleaned. This is done by searing the dead animal on the umu. This smells like bacon and burning hair... tasty yet nauseating all at the same time. The layers of seared flesh are then scraped off. Lee uses his hands while knives were used during the food day. Lee also likes to pull off the toenails, but I don't recall if this was done during the food day. With the outside scrubbed down it's time to eviscerate the beast. The throat of the pig is sliced and a circle is made around it's anus. A large cut is made in the belly and the major organs are then removed through that hole. Lee likes to wash it out with water. Notice the water going into the belly and out of the new and improved anus Lee made --- yes he's doing this in the family shower. The cleaned pig is then stuffed with mango leaves and hot rocks from the umu. The smoking pig is placed on the umu with the other food. The food is then covered with hot rocks followed by banana leaves and left to cook. This is the really cool part, the entire pig cooks in about 45 minutes. On the food day we cooked a pig, two umu'ed turkeys and lots of other happiness in that time.

Even though I had been around food most of the day, I hadn't eaten much. Groups will have different meetings throughout the year to check on their progress. One is the midservice conference held after a volunteers first year in service. Group 73 was having theirs on Thanksgiving and we were bringing food out to them in vavao. This is a beautiful beach that will soon be home to a resort. We went there and most people in our chowed down. When the people from group 73 showed up they also started eating. I was pretty excited to see them but that was mainly because I had seen Teuila our medical officer on Wednesday about viscosity problems. She had sent some Cipero with the trianers, and I was looking forward to digesting some food. The drugs came, and I took one almost immediately. I still couldn't eat because looking at food at this point made me feel nauseous. So I spent the day laying in the shade reading while everyone else swam in the ocean. The following day everything was flowing fine.


  • Mommy said to send her some eyes in a to-go box. She does need a hearty dinner eyery once in a while, you bastard.


    By Blogger Incompletely Sane, at 12:51 PM  

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