Cooking in the Solomon Islands- Meal Plan Week Four

Cooking in the Solomon Islands- Meal Plan Week Four

SOLOMON ISLANDS:

This week we had sunny days and chose to enjoy the outdoors! The girls jumped on the trampoline at least twice a day and sometimes we’d just sit on the back porch soaking up the sun. Check out the meal plan for this week and then peek with me into a special friend’s kitchen in the Solomon Islands where the sun shines A LOT!

A SPECIAL FRIEND:

Joanna Choate and her family serve the Lavukal people of the Solomon Islands through Bible translation. They have been there for the past nine years with Wycliffe! Most of their time is spent on the smaller island village of the Lavukal people (sometimes 14 weeks at a time) and the rest of their time on the larger Island of Honiara. While on the larger island Joanna has internet access and she was kind enough to answer all the questions rolling through my head…

DID YOU KNOW:

Joanna, did you know how different cooking would be when you moved to the Solomon Islands?

” We had an idea that there were no prepared/convenience foods before we came, but our family really likes to cook anyway.  During our training in Papua New Guinea, each weekend we were at the center, our family had to cook for ourselves outside over an open fire.  Our kids thought it was a giant adventure.”

Then we practiced by living in a village for five weeks.  We had to boil every bit of our drinking water over an open fire, so for the six of us we had a fire going from the time we woke up until we dropped into bed each night.”

“Thankfully, when we live in the village here in the Solomon Islands, we just drink the rain water straight from the tank (and pick out the occasional mosquito larva!).”

“When we accepted this assignment, we knew that there had been a family before us.  We met with them and they gave their house in the village to us, including all of its contents.  Wow!  We had no idea what a blessing that would be.  They already had a huge gas stove that we never would have splurged on, so now I can fit four big pots on top and four cookie sheets inside the oven. Perfect for our family!  We also have an outside kitchen that we use to cook local food.”

COMMUNITY:

How often do you share meals with neighbors or villagers?

“When we are in Honiara with the other expats at SITAG (Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group) we enjoy hosting the other families often.  Community living fits our family well.  Friday, when Aaron needed to go into town, he did market shopping for four other families in addition to our own. We share vehicles, too.  Our kids roam from house to house (often grabbing a banana from the fruit basket along the way), and we frequently need to borrow an egg or sugar or something else from each other.  It’s a marvelous way to live, so transparent and authentic because it’s too hard to live any other way, and we are all in the same boat.”

As far as “sharing meals in the village…family groups live in the same area and they do all eat together.  We often cook extra to share either as a thank you or as a show of respect and love to the widows and widowers in our village.  Few people share with us unless it is a reciprocating thank you for food we have shared. However, at big feast days (like Christmas), the whole village cooks and then the whole village eats together. It’s quite a party!

WHEN YOU WANT TO EAT:

In the States, if we crave something we’re usually able to find it. When you can’t fill a craving (like protein), how do you deal with the craving?

“I try to keep peanuts on hand for me and peanut butter on hand for the kids.  It’s a splurge (a medium jar of peanut butter runs about US$7), but we feel like it’s a worthy splurge.  Beef is the thing I crave most, and I know I can eat it when we get back to Honiara.”

“We eat a lot more vegetarian when we are in the village, mostly because of the small freezer to store meat.  We’ve found that by turning the eggs, they will stay good for four weeks, maybe five. So the first month of our trip we also have fresh eggs.  We use powdered eggs for baking all of the time in the village. In the past, we’ve tried to stay in the village for about 14 weeks at a time. ”

A DIFFERENT WAY OF COOKING:

How does cooking on the main island of Honiara differ from in the village?

” Cooking in Honiara is easy because the SITAG houses (which we rent whenever we are in town) are furnished with linens and furniture and a fully stocked kitchen.  Over the years, we’ve learned what things our family likes to have on hand (like a pastry cutter) that aren’t included in the SITAG inventory and what things make us feel like home (like the trifle bowl that was a wedding present) and we’ve added those to the things we keep in Honiara.  We can buy many of the “American” ingredients that we want, if we are willing to pay for them.”

“Cooking in the village… Our amazing Marulaon village neighbors hold a small market for us twice a week.  It’s humbling, for sure, and a little stressful since I’m the only one buying and I don’t want to offend anybody by NOT buying from them.  But we are so much healthier in the village when they hold a market than we were in the beginning when there was no market. The variety is low, but the abundance is high.

 

 

Most of what we buy, we cook on the stove, inside our house.  But there is nothing to compare to cooking with hot stones when the food is wrapped in banana leaves – delicious!!!

 

 

We make cassava pudding (nothing like Jello brand pudding!) every weekend.  It’s the food you eat for breakfast when you get out of church on Sunday morning.  Other than that, we usually cook outside once or twice a week.  It’s a LOT of work and so very, very hot.”

 

 

IT TAKES TIME:

For example, if we wanted to cook local potatoes with coconut cream and pumpkin leaves, we would start by scraping 10-15 coconuts and then squeezing the fat out of the coconut.  Boiling that luscious cream makes a nice thick sauce.  We line a tray with four big banana leaves for insulation, pour a little sauce on top of the leaves to “grease” them, layer potatoes on top, pour more sauce, then put chopped pumpkin leaves on top, followed by the end of the sauce.

While this is going on, we’ve crushed coconut shells, because they burn nice and hot, and laid them on top of the fire area.  On top of that goes your firewood, and then you pile stones on top.  We gathered the stones from a river on one of the big islands in our area.

Our island is tiny and has no source of fresh water; hence we have rain tanks.  After the fire burns for about an hour, we use bamboo tongs to move the hot stones off. We made some recently!

After brushing the ashes away and removing any bits and pieces of firewood, we place the tray on the ground; then pile the hot stones on top.

The whole thing gets covered with leaves shaped like hearts, and old copra bags (think sackcloth!) go on top.  The last thing we do is weigh down the edges with extra firewood to keep the dogs out.  After about an hour, the potatoes are cooked through, so we take it off the fire.  This is one of the most delicious meals we’ve ever eaten

Making cassava pudding starts on Saturday morning since we are slow, but most of our neighbors start on Saturday afternoon.  It cooks all night on the hot stones, but then you don’t have to cook on Sunday! Kind of like a crockpot 🙂  I’m using my crockpot right now, as I usually do on Sundays, and the whole house smells really good.

It’s clear to see Joanna and her family find joy in life in the Solomon Islands even though it’s hard! I always look forward to reading her blogs of daily life. Visit her at achoate.blogspot.com, and give to their ministry there at wycliffe.org.

You’ll love her family too!

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