Friday, October 26, 2012

Food in the Training Village

As with clothes and housing, the families are vying for the honor of feeding their trainee the best and the most food. One family is hosting two volunteers and bought them teach an insulated small lunch container. I never bought one because they are so expensive.

 I have memories of eating a lot of boiled green bananas in training, with ramen noodles as a treat. This group is dining on fried chicken, fish, M&Ms (really!), catered burgers and fries from Apia and imported apples and oranges.

 I have no complaints about the food I’ve been eating for the last week in the village. Just the opposite, I’m dining on fine Samoan meals, three times a day. I’m being fed, along with the Samoan staff, by the family of the ali’i. For breakfast we have piles of egg sandwiches and sausages and tea or Koko Samoa. Or, supo esi (soup made with papaya, coconut cream and tapioca) and rice. Or pankeke and papaya.

For lunch (known here as tea) we have a feast with a variety of meats (fish: raw and cooked; chicken and sausage) and a variety of starchy vegetables – taro, banana and breadfruit. The food is plentiful and well-prepared but for the first three days, other than the starchy vegetables, there were no fruits or vegetables. There was, however gallons of coconut cream which is delicious but not helpful in maintaining my girlish figure. I pointed out to the lead trainer that the other volunteers who will be coming to take my place next week are vegetarian so diet could be a problem. That’s when the papaya showed up for breakfast.

Since then, they’ve also added a bit of bok choy to the menu. Some of the trainers have gone to Apia and kindly brought back avocado, mango and pineapple, all of which is in season now. On Saturday, since the Samoan trainers were all going home for the weekend, they prepared a to’ona’i for us. That means making the oven (umu), roasting a small pig and also adding a variety of other kinds of meat and starchy vegetables. Along with cold niu to drink.

Sunday is the traditional day for to’ona’i, so we had another feast, complete with another roasted pig and all the rest. Very tasty and I’m working hard on restraint and filling up on raw fish and other more healthy options, although they are limited.

So far the trainees seem happy with the food. Some are getting tired of the fact that Samoan foods tend to be bland and soft and may be greasy and salty. One of the group doesn’t like coconut cream, which is a shame since it is used in so many Samoan dishes.

Samoans in the village keeping asking which foods I’ll miss most when I go back to America. I’ll really miss oka (ota) which is raw fish (reef here in the village, tuna in town) with onion, tomato, cucumber, coconut cream and lime juice); poke, which is another version of raw tuna, not found in the training village; and many of the fruits, including vi. Vi won’t be in season before I leave so won’t be having the delicious, tart/sweet/rich grated vi salad which is mixed with coconut cream and topped with crushed peanuts.

I will NOT miss simini – ramen noodles nor canned corned beef. I also won’t miss getting a mouthful of pig bristles or fat when dining on roasted pig.

The best thing I’ve eaten/drunk in the past week? Hands down it was the chilled drink I was served as a snack yesterday. Grated ripe pineapple (and juice) mixed with a bit of coconut cream. If they’d added a bit of rum it would have been the best tropical drink ever. As it was, it was the best, most refreshing drink/snack I’ve had in Samoa.

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