As most others coming to PNG do not quite have so much camping experience, haus kuk weekends are part of the programme to prepare us for village living. Haus kuks are the name for outdoor kitchens that are standard in local villages. We have built our haus kuks out of bush poles, string and tarp, and although less sturdy than a local haus kuk, they provide us shelter in which to practice our campfire cooking skills and get an idea of what food we might like to take with to the village.
Thankfully, the point of building them was the cooking, not the building, as we have not had the most success in the building department. Our haus kuk stood up to the first tropical downpour and at least one earthquake, but two further tropical downpours flattened it. The work men had mercy on us and rebuilt it while we were in class one day and it is now much straighter and sturdier. Our version was slightly wonky and wobbly.
The cooking has been much more of a success and I’m enjoying pushing the boundaries of my campfire cooking ability. A pot oven and a heavy based roasting dish open up possibilities beyond the saucepan I’ve previously worked with. Dishes I am proud of so far include sticky date pudding, sour dough bread and pizza. We’ve also discovered that tinned corned beef can make surprisingly good meat balls and that well fried thin slices of tinned luncheon pork go well with scrambled eggs. There is an amusing cultural bias in our pancake toppings; peanut butter for the American in the team, maple syrup for the Canadian, sugar and lemon for me and our German team mate was wishing she had nutella. Okay, so she was not the only one wanting nutella…
I am very much enjoying haus kuk weekends as I find the pace slower. We organise meals when we want to and eat them in a small group. During the week meals are to a schedule and shared with fifty plus others. Other POCers find haus kuk weekends stressful, as campfire cooking is more of a chore and less of an adventure for them. I’m a kid who has gone camping in the back yard, they are parents trying to manage large families in a foreign land and all that entails. Hopefully though, it prepares us all for our five weeks in the village.