I love to have people over for dinner, both at home in Florida and Samoa. It's unusual in Samoa because buses don't run after about 5:30 p.m. and it's expensive to take a taxi from one village to another. Usually I entertain other Pisi Koa on Saturday afternoons.
Last night, though, three ladies came to visit. In a car. Big excitement for my part of the village to see three beautiful young white women show up in a car. My brothers ever-so-casually happened to be standing near my front door to get a better look. I introduced them and then broke the bad news. All three women are married. Bummer.
The reason for the visit was that one of the women is in Samoa working on research for her doctoral dissertation. She decided to do a small research project on the side about Peace Corps nutrition and what we've seen and experienced when it comes to overall nutrition/health in the village among both children and adults. Two Peace Corps from Upolu tagged along for the ride.
I prepared a "make ahead" dinner since cooking with a two burner hotplate and very little counter space is kind of like making sausage. The process can get pretty messy, although the result is usually good. Since two of the women are vegetarians, I opted for a meatless spaghetti sauce, cucumbers and green beans marinated in a honey mustard vinaigrette and cheesy garlic toast.
I've been making spaghetti sauce (with and without meat) for decades. It's pretty foolproof. Unless, of course you buy Wattie's Tomato Sauce. That's a very popular New Zealand brand. I had most of the ingredients in the pan when I tossed in the tomato sauce, assuming it would be the same as American tomato sauce. Nope, it was the same as Wattie's Ketchup, which means very sweet with more than a faint hint of nutmeg. I really like it with fries, better than Heinz, actually. But it's not ideal for spaghetti. I couldn't afford to throw everything out and start over. Besides, all the stores were closed and I didn't have a back up supply of all the ingredients. Instead I just threw in some balsamic vinegar to balance the sweetness and added extra garlic and spices. The end product wasn't too bad.
In preparation for company I cleaned the house. Swept twice, wiped lizard and rat poop out of the window sills and off the bathroom sink and toilet tank, mopped the floor and cleaned spider webs out of the corners of the ceiling. All told, cleaning, cooking and making myself beautiful (or less sweaty) took less than an hour.
It was such a treat to have visitors who have also lived in a village for some time. We've all experienced some of the same frustrations, challenge, moments of joy and wonder and times of being absolutely perplexed or laughing hysterically. We're all going back in November/December and we talked about where we're going and what we hope to be doing. We discovered that three of us will be in Boston for Christmas. Well, one will be in Rhode Island but we figured that's so close she can make a day trip for a reunion lunch.
I really miss evenings with my girlfriends. Lots of words, laughter, wine and food. Always very relaxed and casual, talking about nothing and everything. Knowing how the others are feeling thanks to so many shared values and experiences.
Last night felt much the same and was wonderful.