Friday, September 28, 2012

Putu Part 2: The Manliest Meal I've Even Eaten

As I mentioned before, there have been two funerals in our village thus far. My experience at this last one is quite a story. I wish I had pictures.

A traditional Tongan meal consists of two parts: the haka and the kiki. The haka is a pot of some kind of boiled root crop, the Tongan staple starch. And the kiki is simply something involving meat or fish to eat with the haka.

Since a Putu is such a big, village-wide event, there were a lot of mouths to feed, and Tongas are quite the big eaters. For the haka, the villagers skipped using big pots. They skipped using extra huge pots. They opted to boil their root crops in 50 gallon steel drums over an open fire (it was a sight to behold). The kiki came together when a truck full of men showed up with a freshly killed cow in the bed (as in 5 minutes earlier). The men proceed to deftly "go to town" on the cow with machetes. Then, all of the bones with meat on them were put into another steel drum of boiling water along with a few onions.

Fast forward about another hour of me futilely attempting to decipher why the men continued to keep laughing after saying the word "palangi" (white person), and it was time to eat. Being the guest, I ate first. On my plate was placed two huge cassavas, a popular root veggie, and two gargantuan hunks of beef-on-bone. I kid you not - it probably weighed ten pounds. After I began tearing in to the dinosaur size pieces of meat, the rest of the men began (side note - women and men sit separately during formal events, so it was nothing but Tongan testosterone). For the next little while, the men did some serious feasting, with cassavas in one hand and gigantic pieces of beef bone in the other. It was a glorious, carnivorous celebration of manhood. I tried to do my best to kailahi (eat a lot), but nothing can compare to a group of large Tongan men going to town on brontosaurus size hunks of beef. It was quite memorable.

Makona 'aupito, (very full)
- Mark

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