Monday, 9 April 2012


Food is central to cultural expressions and gatherings. People can be as American as apple pie, bake pumpkin scones like Flo or strongly associate honey biscuits with Christmas. Maybe there is a family secret to a good fruit cake. Alternatively, fruit cake may be an insult to give as a gift, as my sister once found out.  In coming to PNG many people asked me what I would be eating. Well, I can give you a report on the first week.

This week I have been at living in the mostly ex-patriot town of Ukarumpa. Food has been an expression of hospitality, as I’ve eaten more main meals with others than alone. The food served has reflected the home culture of the people I ate with as well as what was available. The day I arrived the fresh produce market had not happened, due to an argument between groups the previous market day. This meant people were a little low on fruit and veg by the end of the weekend.

Fresh produce market
Usually the Ukarumpa market happens every Mon, Wed and Fri morning. The food is all local. Any food miles have been miles made on foot. I’m told some of the people walk over an hour to come and sell at market. Pineapples, bananas, avocados; the tropical fruit is delicious and cheap. Peas and corn are also for sale but are not as sweet or juicy as at home. Tinned varieties of these are available in the store but I prefer to support the local economy and not pay for the shipping of tins.

The store stocks food from around the world, because it caters for a community from around the world. I am still getting used to prices and am enjoying trying brands I’ve not tried before. I’ve not tried anything particularly strange, just local brands.

Looking across the river at a coffee plantation
At home in Australia I try to purchase only fair trade tea and coffee. Here, I purchase local tea and coffee. One little luxury I brought with was a travel mug with an infuser that works for either tea or coffee. I’ve very much enjoying quality brewed tea and coffee from local plantations. 

During the last few years, Tuesday night has been community tea night for me and a gathering of friends. For a while there, Tuesday night tea was happening on a Monday, but I never quite changed what I called it. Last week, just when I was thinking ‘Tomorrow is Tuesday. I should invite someone for dinner’ I was invited to a potluck dinner by someone else. What a surprise and a blessing. It was even on the ‘right’ night!

The other shared meal that was a feature this week was sharing a Passover sedar with the Tok Pisin congregation on Thursday night. Everything was done in Tok Pisin, so I only partially understood what was going on. My understanding was boosted by the relationship of the language to English and the fact that I’d been involved in Passover meals before and knew the general flow and content. It was an appropriate start to my first Easter weekend in PNG. 

Soon I’ll be going on a translation awareness trip in Milne Bay Province. I’ll be living and eating with local people. I’ll give you another food update after that, but I’m hoping that it might include some local seafood. Have a blessed Easter and may you take time to reflect on the resurrection. Have a hot cross bun for me, as I’ve not been organised enough to make my own this year.

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