Our trainers prepared our host families for us in a variety of ways. One of them was the food. They told the families that palagi like soup because soups in Sāmoa usually contain vegetables.
Our family has been giving us soups frequently and they are usually delicious. Ever since Cale told them potatoes are my favorite food, they usually have potatoes in them. They also use a lot of pumpkin in soups, which I have not seen before, but is delicious.
Sāmoan soups frequently contain large chunks of whatever meat is flavoring the broth. These chunks can contain bones and gristle. I am pretty sure you are supposed to eat around them. However, I didn’t know that the first night.
I put the ladle into the pot of soup to serve Cale and as I pulled it out and headed for Cale’s bowl, I saw the large chunk. I looked at Cale in horror as our host mom asked, “Do you like pig trotters?” I was about to dump an entire pig’s foot into his bowl and there was nothing I could do about it. I was poast the point of no return without looking rude. We locked eyes. Cale’s were asking, “What are you doing to me?” and mine were asking, “What am I doing to you?” With a splat the foot landed in his bowl.
Thankfully there was fish for dinner too and Cale was able to set the pig’s foot aside gracefully.
I haven’t been doing so great with Sāmoan food, but I think that in part it is attributable to two factors:
1. I was sick for a couple of days when we were at the host village. Nothing serious. I was just a little nauseated and tired and not hungry. So I wasn’t eating
Speaking of not eating, the family comments on my “figa” quite frequently. Apparently, I have quite a nice one, which they attribute to me eating less than the baby. To be honest, I have lost some weight, thanks to being ill and the four-mile hike we had on tsunami safety day (more about that later). The Sāmoan weight-loss plan is great!
2. Someone is always watching me while I eat. In Sāmoan culture, adults and guests always eat first and the children serve them. There is always a kid (or often, even our host mom) fanning our food to keep the flies away and other kids waiting for me to finish so they can bring me a bowl of water to wash my hands with.
It is hard to navigate the an experience with a new food when your every move and bite is going closely watched.
Our family loves Cale. They say he is a good eater and he has taken to some of the Sāmoan foods better than me, like the boiled banana and coconut cream, fa’alifu, and the young taro leaves and coconut cream, pulusami.
Speaking of coconut, that is one crazy versatile plant. You can build your house out of it, thatch your roof with it, make a bowl or a basket or a broom out of it and feed your family with it. Every stage of the coconuts growth yields a different kind of food — and none of it tastes like the shredded coconut we put on cookies and in cakes in the States.