It has been a while since I have written about food, and after just having the first Manioc Laplap of the season, I think it time I report on just what I have been eating since coming to Vanuatu. The diets here can vary wildly based on geological formations, local preference, scarcity, season, and your cook's prowess. During training, my host dad and mother were both excellent chefs and actually now work at one of the most expensive resorts in all of Efate. This can make a life of continual acclimation a little bit easier when you always know you have a lot to eat (and of something you would actually enjoy eating).
First Laplap 2012A lot of the carbs and calories in Vanuatu are made up of root crops and you can turn almost any one of these into something called laplap. Using a raser raser (a big grater), you can scratch yourself a big pile of manioc (my favorite root). The scratching is done to break up the manioc and is also the most effective means of releasing the natural cyanid. Once finished you combine with water and put the goop on a banana leaf with your favorite topping or toppings. Under the banana leaf is the coals from a very strong fire. On top you put more banana leaves and previously heated stones for that double sided broiling action. After several hours (usually about the time it takes to go to church and come back, conveniently) the laplap is finished. Pictured below is the first manioc laplap of 2012 my host mom has made and that is a small chicken leg on top of each piece. They know to give me the burned pieces, and it was delicious. It was also incredibly filling, as I didn't need another meal for about 24 hours after the plate below.
The Cheese-less ScrambleMoving onto something that mixes my old world with this one, I created my first scramble with a few different strains of kumala. Ever so slightly sweet, it is more akin to a potato than anything else. Dice it up, mix it with tin corned beef, onions, garlic, oil, and an egg and you almost have a scramble, thus the name above.
Butter-Fruit DelightDifferent parts of Vanuatu have their various seasons, and lo, even different parts of the same island. Our training village was about to start butter fruit season as we left, but thankfully my site (not more than 40km away) waited until just a week ago.
Yes, the above is a massive avocado, or "butter-fruit". If I was less lazy, I might make some incredible guacamole. What would I dip in it though? Breakfast crackers just wouldn't do it justice that a good tortilla chip would, so I just each them whole.
Dressing up Beans N' RiceBecause I don't have a large amount of protein in my diet by way of meats, I have to make up for this with some beans and rice. Rather than just leave at that and subsequently hate my life and my service, I've decided to do something about the monotony. Here we see some fried vegetables, mainly onions and garlic. Added is a far bit of chilli powder, ground chillies, cumin, and ground pepper.
Once fried up to taste, I mix it with the beans, and add a healthy amount of local honey and sweet chilli sauce. The results are quite palatable, and if I happen to have some tuna around I will throw that in as well. Then not only do I have food for the day, I also have two days worth of cat food!
Mac N' CheeseWhen I got to site I was assigned new host parents. Both new-mom and new-pop have jobs in education, and four children between them. Needless to say, they are quite busy, so when I can, I bring over a truck load of ingredients and make some rockin' good Mac N' Cheese. They actually sell the stuff, which is super expensive and an inferior brand, at our local French supermarket (local meaning 100km away) but a wonderful friend back in the States sent over eight boxes! Sadly, I am down to one left, which I am saving for an especially rainy day. So how do I make it? Well for milk I substitute milk powder and warm water. For butter/margarine I substitute olive oil. Throw in some fried garlic, onions, and tuna (sensing a theme here?) and viol-la! Here is the before and after, with a few of my host siblings enjoying.
Thanks for reading