Monday, January 29, 2007

Kiwi for Lunch

Here's a simple salad from the menu of Eggecentric Cafe, my short-term home in Flaxmill Bay, New Zealand. Kiwis, also known as Chinese Gooseberries, had a name-change in the 1950s or '60s, when they became a big export in NZ. Since the small, brown flightless bird icon already had the name, they figured a small, brown, flightless fruit could share it as well. I think that's what happened, anyway.

Kiwi Salad
You will need (to make 2-3 salads):
1 sweet potato, peeled, sliced and thinly shredded with a peeler
1 kiwi fruit, cut bite-sized
1 small red onion, ringed and sliced
Mixed baby greens
balsamic vinegar or dressing to your taste

In a pan with oil to fry, crisp up the shredded sweet potato. They should be ribbon-thin. When throughly browned up and crunchy, prepare your washed, tossed greens, decorating with fresh onion rings and kiwi bites. Drizzle dressing. Top with ribbony, crunchy mess of sweet potato.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Down Under the Downunder: Safe in New Zealand!

My first stop in New Zealand is the farm of the Biggs of Kaukapakapa. (Cow Kappa Kappa, "white bird rising from the swamp.") The trees are marvelous! There are Puriri (purr-rr-ee), covered in red berries to tempt wood pigeons until they fall fat from the branches in the arms of the waiting Maori; then the Lysiandra, with its beautiful red velvety branches and purple blossoms (see picture); and along the river which flows saltily from the sea, Mangroves. As we kayaked, the small little green and yellow seeds of the Mangroves floated along next to us like beads, waiting to find a suitable shore to grow from.

As Lou Biggs explained, each Mangrove seed has the energy to send out not one root, but up to three in succession. If the seed dislikes the soil it finds, it pulls its root up from the bank, drifts on, and tries again. Hmm. I smell the perfume of metaphor.

One of my favorite trees, however, was found atop the cow paddock, where I found a pine tree that seems to have built a catherdral nested in its branches!

Fast Food Fiji

McDonalds: "Bula" is the all-purpose Fijian word for Hellohowareya, what's up and good day. As for the Keepin' Fiji Clean, I'd make the small footnote that most of the garbage I saw in Suva (there wasn't too much, actually) was food packaging...from KFC.

Should fast food not be to your liking, maybe a recipe from the Fijian National Museum will better suit you:

Human Flesh BBQ
Wrap flesh in the leaves of the Bordina or SouBokola (Solanum Uporo) plant. Make a sauce from its tomato-like fruit (see picture). Serve with Malawaci (anthropohagrum, which yes, is derived from the Latin for "eat with man") as a veggie side.

Kava, Fiji's Favorite Swill

The root of the kava plant, dried and then milled to powder, is Fiji's most popular traditional drink. The powder is pressed through a silk bag, and then if you're lucky, you get to sit around the spice market at 10am with some old IndoFijian guys feeling your mouth go numb as you sip from a dirty plastic bowl with a coconut shell. The brew from the stem is less narcotic than that made with the roots. It's a traditional gift to give a bundle of roots as a thank you to the chief any village you stay in.

Food! Fiji!

Suva, Fiji is home to the largest market in the South Pacific. It smells like a delicious blend of banana and spices, and the cool of the nearby ocean harbor. All sorts of people were selling all sorts of things! The spikey looking fruit is Jackdaw, whose seeds you extract by hand to eat the white placenta 'round them. I picked up a funny pizza recipe:
Pizza (topped with)
tamarind chutney

Update from Suva

Fiji's coup has emptied much of the country of tourists, the capitol in particular. I stopped by the presidential palace during the changing of the guard. Each soldier has to stand a 2 hour shift--I witnessed the 12-2pm, during which you can neither wipe your brow nor swat the flies.


My first stop in Fiji was the tiny island of Mana, off the Western Coast. Circumnavigable in 2 hours, I set about to explore. It's home to only 300 people. There's an expensive Japanese-owned resort, an indigenous village with a cheaper backpackers' hostel, and a reality show set, which is very jealously guarded and filmed on the opposite side of the island.

Obstensively hunting for vegetables (I found cassava fields, papaya groves and potato vines) we got high up in the hills. The dogs (Two Spot, Due Spot and Spot) followed 'til we stood South Pacific. Here are some plants we saw, including a papaya tree.

New Vegetable in LA, CA

A crunchy, watery tuber from a mint-family plant, my pal Kathleen and I tried some pricey CROSNES at the Hollywood Farmers' Market my first morning in LA. A recipe of French culinary origin suggests sauteing them in butter--alas, California has no Ronnybrook Dairy.

The Great Adventure Begins!

2006 harbored no white Christmas in either NYC or Chicago, so I took the Amtrak California Zephyr from the midwest to beautiful San Francisco in search of snow. About 26 hours into the trip, we found it: heaps and piles in Colorado, icy tracks in Utah, and ground cover in Nevada. The trip total was an agonizing 50+ hours. Culinary notes include watching a woman and her daughter eat microwaved hot dogs and a beer for breakfast on Day 2, myself going without fresh fruit for over 30 hours, and receiving a concilatory bag of crackers and cookies from Amtrak when a frozen switchback and the deportation of a lunatic at 2am in Salt Lake City delayed our trip 7 hours.