Micronesian dinner party ideas
Here's what some friends and I decided to do for a birthday dinner party. In advance of the party, we blindfolded the birthday boy and had him point to a spot on a globe, with the understanding that we would make him dinner using food and recipes from wherever he pointed (within reason, of course).
Well, wouldn't you know, he pointed to Fayu, an apparently uninhabited island in the Pacific. (And yes, it strikes me as odd that such a place would even be labeled on my globe.) But we decided to rise to the challenge. Preliminary internet searches show that it's part of the Chuuk Islands, which is part of the Caroline Islands, which is part of Micronesia.
We could be lazy and just make some vaguely tropical dinner of fish and coconut, but part of the point was the fun of research and learning about a new cuisine. Nevertheless, I'm a little stymied in my initial research. I am finding information about the culture and cuisines of, say, Indonesia and Polynesia, but I would like to honor the fact that Micronesia is a different place. It would be fantastic if we could be even more specific than that (Caroline Islands, or even Chuuk Islands), but at this point, Micronesia would do.
So I thought I'd put it out to the Chowhound folks. Any tips or suggestions? Any particular websites I should be looking at?
By the way, this will be done in a city apartment. We might be able to use an outdoor grill, but we can't be digging a fire pit to roast a suckling pig or anything like that. Dinner will probably be for about four to six people.
My first real job was with a shipping line that called a lot of the islands (Majuro, Ebeye, Pohnpei, Truk, Yap, and Palau). I will ask one of my friends from those days what constitutes a real Micronesian meal. In the meantime, I know we shipped a heck of a lot of white rice, Spam, Budweiser, and frozen meat including full containerloads of turkey tails - aka the part that goes over the fence last/parson's or Pope's nose...apparently a huge favorite at barbecues.
The food seems to lean to the Polynesian without the fripperies - these are poor islands and nothing much grows there.
Ah! Memories! I was born in Micronesia, in Nauru. It's a desolate place that has been pilaged and trashed by other countries in exchange for money that was illspent. Many of the locals have lost touch with their roots and are obese and addicted to spam and fried chicken and junk shipped over from Australia and other places and they drink a lot of beer and soft drink. They grow nothing. They have no fresh water. They don't eat torpical things like fish and coconuts and pineapples.
The white rice, I dont know about now, but Buttertart if you are talking 70s may have been shipped over by the container load for the Hong Kong people who had come to work on 2 year contracts, like my parents, and it was included in their fortnightly rations, delivered by government trucks.. The only good food was what the chinese people made but I reckon they've all left now.
I'd love to go back and see Nauru again but I think it might be really sad. Especially now that we Australians use it as a gaol for assylum seekers.
Nauru is one of the saddest cases, isn't it. PM&O Line didn't call there (this was in the mid-80's).
My friend (who's Filipino) who spent some time in the islands said the turkey tails should be cooked in adobo style and served with breadfruit to sop up the juices - accompanied by cold Bud (for a Pohnpei shindig).
Since my Dad was in the Navy, I lived in Guam as a kid, and I have memories of some the native food. Chamorro cuisine is eaten in Agana. Perhaps you can research that name, and get recipes. There was the invasion of Japanese and Spanish, you'll probably get recipes from those cultures mixed in there too.
maybe this link will help
I wanted to add, I especially remember the red rice, cookies and grilled fish, and chicken. Seems like my parents were at potluck or bbq every weekend. Where she shows her red rice, I swear my Dad's bbq chicken always looked like that! I'm buying this cookbook, my brother and sister will surely recall the food more than I, the cookbook looks really good.
There's a cookbook called "Tradewinds and Coconuts: A Reminiscence And Recipes From The Pacific Islands," by Jennifer Brennan. It's quite good - informative, well-researched, and authentic. I would highly recommend taking a look at it if you can find a copy. I don't have it in front of me at the moment, but I'm pretty sure she discusses Micronesia.
You're in luck - I just took a look at the Brennan book, "Tradewinds and Coconuts,"and there are LOTS of specifically Micronesian recipes. There's even a section where discusses Micronesia and micronesian cuisine. Also, since Guam is in Micronesia you can take a look in the encyclopedic and ever-reliable Steven Raichlen's "BBQ USA," since he has a few Guamanian recipes.
my sister is in micronesia right now doing marine biology research-she reports trying mangrove crab, lots of coconut milk and several varieties of bananas.
Thanks everybody! I appreciate all the thoughtful answers.
Trencher man, I requested the book through inter-library loan, so hopefully it will get here soon. And Chef Chicklet, the link looks like it will be useful and interesting.
I appreciate all the first- and second-hand impressions. They match a lot of what I was gathering about the place and its food. I chuckled at the idea of a dinner party comprised of Budweiser and Spam, but in all honestly, this is what makes the research so interesting, finding out not only what makes for a traditional cuisine and why, but also comparing it with the reality of what many eat today.
I'll let you know what we end up doing.
Searching through old threads, I found this one, and realized I had become one of those tiresome posters who solicits suggestions and then never reports back. Sorry about that. The fact is, the dinner party never happened, so there was nothing to report on. But I did end up buying the recommended book "Tradewinds and Coconuts", which is a fascinating read. For instance, it says that European colonists in the 1700s stocked Guam with deer, which overran the island until it became legal a hundred years later for the public to own guns and hunt them, resulting in the seemingly improbable fact of venison being a part of the cuisine of this Pacific island nation. I often get as much culture and history out of a cookbook as I do recipes. Thanks!