I wasn’t enthusiastic about attending a circumcision ceremony having walked 24 km to view a volcano the previous day. Three hours later I had no regrets. Torpedo like yams paraded past me as if in a military setting. A bullock was butchered in front of the crowd and a 12 yr old boy killed three pigs . All to celebrate the circumcision of three boys.
Captain Cook’s legacy
The name Ambrym means yam, bestowed on the island by Captain Cook and prominent in the ceremony they were. However pigs provided the main event.
Pigs and kustom
Pigs are the principal objects of wealth in Vanuatu. They are accumulated, traded, loaned, and paid out to resolve disputes. Pigs are central to kustom and are pampered, revered, and sacrificed. Killing a set number of pigs gives a man high status. When the pigs are killed, the killer assumes their spirits, gaining power and prestige among his village.
Circumcisions are a one time thing and the ceremony reflected this. The Ranon community gathered as if partaking in a wedding or a funeral.
It surprised me to see three brands of Vanuatu grown coffee for sale in Luganville. Alongside the well-known Tanna coffee there was a selection from Aore Island and a haphazard collection of different bags branded as Cafe de Vanuatu. I found the origins of this coffee at VARTC ( Vanuatu Agricultural Research Technical Centre ),10km north of Luganville.
The VARTC farm is quite compact and it did not take long to find children on school holidays picking the arabica beans (30 Vatu for 1kg or about 40c NZ ). From picking to roasting, the whole operation is done by hand.
With a new wharf being built in Luganville and more cruise ships visiting it would be an ideal time to package the operation for tourists in a similar way to Tanna Coffee in Efate.
In the meantime you will have to buy the very good quality arabica beans at LCM ( the best supermarket in Luganville ), I just hope the branding gets some love.
Most boutique chocolate companies tell more or less the same story; machinery sourced from all over he world (the older the better), small-scale farmers in exotic places, micro scale production and a vision/passion to make artisan chocolate from bean to bar. With this in mind, how does the average consumer make head or tail of the competition? A tasting is a great place to start.
In a recent tasting with Jo Coffey, prior owner of Wellington’s L’affair au Chocolat I tasted bars from Canada, Holland, Australia and the Philippines, which all used imported beans, and two locally produced bars from Vanuatu and Fiji. The tasting threw up some surprising results.
Without going into too much detail, the favourites were Gabriel 80% Chuao (Venezuela) and Sirene’s Ecuador 70%; someone commented they could eat more of the Fijana 72% due to it’s lack of intensity; the Aelan Chocolate from Vanuatu (made with Santo Criollo beans) competed on flavour but suffered from more than a hint of smoke. The least favoured were Indonesia’s Pipilten range and Australia’s Bahen & Co Brazil 70%.
Getting hold of these bars is not straight forward, some coming from friends (we supplied the two Pacific Island bars) and others from online distributors of which there are at least two based in NZ. Between them they stock some of the highest rated bars made. Amedei is arguably the world’s best and is available at All about Chocolate, and very well regarded American brands Taza and Dick Taylor can be found among others at The Chocolate Bar
How good is good chocolate? We had a group of friends for lunch recently and had the chance to compare a bar of Grenada Chocolate Company’s 60% organic nib with a favourite New Zealand brand’s ’boutique’ range. Despite being stored in a fridge for nearly a year and looking much the worse for wear, the Granada chocolate left the competition in the dust and was ecstatically and unanimously praised.
On another occasion, a friend of ours was determined we would not change her preference for her supermarket purchased, NZ made favourite chocolate. After tasting a selection of bars from Pralus (including a 100%), she spat out the NZ product when asked to compare, saying it now tasted like plastic and berated us for destroying her favourite thing.
For those who want to become chocolate snobs, help is here. The International Chocolate Awards are in their 7th year and have become well-known arbiters of good chocolate. They run regional and international awards each year. NZ made bars have already had some favourable reviews and it would be great to see NZ chocolate feature in the awards some day.
Lap lap is a traditional Vanuatu dish wrapped in leaves and cooked above ground on hot stones. Mangaliliu Village has a strong heritage in making lap lap and this was seen when staying in the village recently.
Starting at 6 AM (photography in this light was a treat) the lap lap was made on Sunday morning by the women and children from the extended family for lunch following a session in Church.
With no fridge available two chickens were freshly slaughtered for the occasion and were plucked by the children. Aside from the lap lap faol seen here (chicken), other versions are dakdak (duck), fis (fish), mit (meat), taro, maniok (cassava), yam and banana. There are also regional variations.
The Fete de la Transhumance is celebrated in St Remy de Provence annually on Whit Monday. This traditional French festival commemorates the days farmers trekked for days to take their sheep from drought stricken lowland in search of greener pasture in the mountains.
I am sure Van Goph (sans left ear) would have appreciated the 3000 sheep, goats and donkeys being herded through the town for the 31st Fete de la Transhumance. He was living (self-admitted) in an asylum in St Remy between 1889 and 1890. The river of sheep winding through the narrow streets of the town resembled a readymade impressionist painting.
Unlike the running of the bulls in Pamplona, no instant fines were handed out to people with cameras. The sheep did two laps of the town before departing – I hope they did not notice the menus.
Two hundred hangi’s at $10 each might seem a small dent in the seven figure mountain of fundraising needed for the Mahara Gallery upgrade. But you cannot quantify the deepening of the relationship between the Gallery and Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai who prepared the hangi together.
Food heros of Welsh culture were spotted amid a sea of green wigs, and floating red dragons at Saturdays RWC game between Wales and the Irish. The leek, an emblem of Wales since the mid 16 th century, is often referred to in relation to St David’s day on March 1st, but also has links to Welsh rugby (beware nudity).
Lamb (or were they sheep?) is revered in Wales in a similar way to lamb in New Zealand, but maybe the Welsh ruminants provide more entertainment in this video.
I am not sure what part of Welsh culture the chicken stands for but the guy on the left arrived in New Zealand with not much more than this suit…
Venison Carpaccio, sirloin steak and lamb pie were all on the menu at Wellington’s City Market on Sunday morning. Chef Rex Morgan of Boulcott Street Bistro presented the “Meat your Maker” class in front of 20 eager participants who paid $50 for the one and a half hour cooking demonstration. Slamming the venison flat with both pot and hammer seemed to alleviate Morgan’s frustration of the early morning wake up due to the introduction of daylight saving.
The venison came from Premium Game Meats in Blenheim ( Morgan thinks “the shooter” might have come from near Picton). After stressing how scale is important to food presentation, Morgan married the venison with a red pepper mayonnaise, micro greens, olive oil and parmigiano reggiano.
Next to hit the gleaming Gaggenau bench top was a large slab of beef sirloin.
Looking to Italy for inspiration, Florentine steak was next item on the menu. Marinated with lemon and herbs for three days, the finished steak arrived juicy, flavoursome and with mouth filling texture. The sirloin was supplied by Silver Fern Farms in Hawkes Bay.
Rex Morgan is one of New Zealand’s Beef and Lamb Platinum Ambassadors, and it was appropriate for the next dish to feature New Zealand’s woolly food hero. Watched by the class and numerous unofficial market goers, Morgan combined an Alain Ducasse styled pastry top with a very tasty and colourful lamb, tomato and pea filling.
The pies baked, and guests sipped on the wine of the day, a 2009 Jackson Estate Vintage Widow Pinot Noir from Marlborough while Morgan assembled his knife sharpening kit. Use of oilstone and steel was demonstrated including the useful tip – replace the steel with the bottom of a ceramic bowl if this tool is absent.
The class ended on a poignant note when one of the guests praised Morgan’s recipes for being ideal for one person – her kids had long left home and her husband had passed away recently – soul food indeed.