31 October 2013

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FOOD GROWING WILD
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One dish that Vina served last week was seijen “drumsticks”.   Seijen (pronounced say-jen, and I may be spelling it wrong) is a tree that just grows here.  Vina uses its leaves in her dhal soup. The English name for this is moringa.  I didn’t know there was anything else to eat from that tree.   Then Vina made the seijen drumstick curry.  When cooked, a drumstick is long tough strings that we suck the curried mush from.   Today a sweet neighbor boy came over to see if we still have some on the tree.  We did and here is a photo of his hands holding some of these things that do not look like they were meant for food.
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AT AN INDIAN CEREMONY.

I went with my neighborhood lady friends to the river where they had a ceremony to wash and bless a new Hanuman statue for their temple. We had to wait for the tour boats full of tourists to stop racing up and down our little stretch of river near the landing.  I guess we looked picturesque in our saris on the bank.  (I  can’t remember every having been a tourist attraction before.  Ugh! )    While waiting, I noticed a big thatch of light green vines mounded up growing together – no flowers.  I had a bad feeling.   Looked closer and there were thorns.     This was a weed that took over a field in Puerto Rico in one year, converting my short cut to my friend’s house into a no-man’s-land.   “Lantana?”, I asked.  The ladies were also really concerned.  “Not lantana,” one said, “Something else. It is bad.”  “Yes,” agreed another, “very bad.”  Then the ceremony started and distracted them. But because I did not understand the language, I was still thinking about the potential hell-plant just a few kilometers from our fields.
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10-31-13 stock mimosa invasive
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The actual name of the plant is mimosa invasive, and here is a stock photo.
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AT A FIJIAN CEREMONY
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We went to the 100 nights ceremony after the passing of the young man whose funeral we attended three months ago. We sat around for a few hours on woven pandanus mats in a room decorated with local greens and flowers.  As I waited to eat lots of nicely cooked local flora (various salads, eggplant, dalo, cassava, green vudi) and fauna (at least 3 chicken dishes, ocean fish, river kai),  the men conduced a lengthy traditional kava ceremony with the local root yaqona (yang-GO-na).  Some week I will dedicate the blog to yaqona as it is at the heart of Fiji culture.  Today I really just noticed how a fellow washed the grog out of the pounded roots in a cheesecloth bag, squeezing those soggy roots over and over and over … I thought, “These guys could really help their wives with the hand laundry if they ever felt like it.”   
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FEATHERED WATCHDOGS
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I have wanted geese since we had chickens stolen the first time. Habitual thieves know how to deal with dogs; geese on the other hand can be terrifying. We had a friend on Romanum in Chuuk who had tall aggressive honking geese – Whoa Nellie!   It’s taken a long time to get geese.  This week Austin  got 3 females and a male that we can keep here for breeding.  I asked him for photos.
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Phooey,  They are a lot smaller than the geese i remember in Chuuk.  Will they be scary enough?    Anyway, while Austin was taking photos, he also got some of his two species of ducks.
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MYSTERY OF THE WEEK
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Well, more of a discussion really
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Austin: What do you think ate this, Junia – myna or fruit bat?
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Junia;  Fruit bat.
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Austin:  Yeah – that’s fruit bat teeth.
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(So why didn’t you just leave it for the bat, Honey?}.
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10-31-13 honey eater KIKAU Cr
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NEW BIRD
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The honey eater has come to our property.  Its Fijian name is “kikau.”  They are native to Fiji and found only here (i.e. endemic).  They eat nectar and small insects – and they have a sweet song.
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PHOTO OF MOM
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Akka:  There is no photo of you on the blog, Mom – I’ll take one of you with the praying mantis.
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He took one with the mantis on my exceedingly scrunched up face – it would cause nightmares.   And the mantis looks better on my arm anyway.
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SHOUT OUT TO VICTOR
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This is Torsett now.   See how grown up he is!   He looks like Toto from Wizard of Oz, but nice and big.  He is a real sweetie, and his job is guarding the ducks, geese and fish at the fish pond.
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PS – Happy Halloween, everybody.
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5 thoughts on “31 October 2013

    • Hi Karolyn – yes! Same tree. and i have heard the seijen called “moringa” here. I see your drumsticks were picked much greener – which means you didn’t have the tough fibers to suck on and spit out. Honestly, I couldn’t make out the taste of the vegetable over the taste of the yummy spices. Do you use seijen leaves? Here they are not only used in dhal soup, they can be made into their own curry. Another friend visited and left with an armload of them.

      • I’m glad your friend enjoys the leaves – I haven’t tried them. And I was glad that my driver’s family enjoyed the drumsticks. But I’m not a fan. They were cooked in a great curry, but it’s the spicy gravy that I liked, not the vegetable itself.

  1. Hi Karolyn – Saijan (morninga) leaves are really tasty, and I think you should give them a try! The fried leaves have a texture we enjoy a lot as well as a fresh taste that is very different from the usual foods. I asked Vina today how she cooks them and she told me her recipe. Here goes:

    VINA’s FRIED SAIJAN LEAVES

    First, you need about 3 cups of clean, fresh, green saijan leaves – (that is, they pick branches of the tree that have been rain-washed and are dry). Taking the little leaves off takes awhile but is worth it. Reject any leaves that are going yellow.and do your best not to have little stems in there because they stay hard. Set the leaves aside.

    Grate one mature coconut and lightly toast it in a dry frying pan. Set the toasted coconut aside.

    Put cooking oil in the empty frying pan and add sliced onion and crushed garlic. When the onion is getting done, add the saijan leaves and fry it together until the leaves are cooked. (I think that is about 5 minutes – I forgot to ask her!)

    Once the leaves are done, add the toasted coconut. Stir together and add salt to taste.

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