January 18, 2011

What are you drinking tonight?

I AM LUCKY this evening.  Why? Because I'm drinking coffee with Coffee-mate creamer.  Salesi returned from Vava'u bearing gifts: ahhhh, nothing like drinking instant coffee and powdered creamer to make me totally unappreciative of fresh goats' milk and lemon leaf tea.  How easy it is to scoop powdered creamer vs. milking Lula by hand for that fresh taste of creamy goodness.  The coffee, creamer and many other consumable goodies came in a box sent all the way from California from my mom-in-law, full of foodstuff, clothes, medical supplies, and of course, peanut butter and candy, including a Chips Ahoy! jumbo3-pack which lasted just under a week.  Mind you, Salesi and Pops hardly ate any, so you can assume I ate almost the entire three packs...Is this part of PDS Syndrome (product deprivation syndrome)?  Why must I gorge the whole pack of pre-packaged, pre-processed, refined sugar-having, store-bought COOKIES?  I must confess, I came to the epiphany that clever marketing and taste professionals have worked on Chips Ahoy! cookies for generations, I'm sure, just to come up with that store-bought cookie flavor.  While not necessarily delicious, it is nonetheless, productive of a compulsory, addictive behavior that ends in having eaten an ENTIRE pack before I'm even conscious of it.  Thank Goodness the bulk packs have now been depleted, so I can go back to making my homemade Wacky Cakes once in awhile for my sugar rush (recipe forthcoming).  So, aside from the cookie binge, I've been happy to have some caffeine in my cup, and am using all resources including the powdered creamer.

On the other hand, while I'm drinking coffee this evening, Salesi is drinking kava.  He went to the kalapu - (men's kava club) at Maka Maile (one of three or four different clubs available in the village...these are clubs that are the main social activity for men) - to have a cup of kava-infused water with our island's reigning Nopele (chief) Malupo.  Here's some photo's from Salesi's afternoon kava session, where he spoke with Malupo, and was invited back again tonight to continue the faikava (literally to 'do kava'). 

The Noble of  'Uiha, Malupo, holding court via his kava circle
The Guy Who Mixes the Kava
The beverage the chap pictured above is making in that white bucket, is made from kava roots that are ground up into a fine powder, and sieved through some water, making a cloudy brown earthy liquid that steadies and expands the mind and slows the body down considerably. Kava, for those who might not know, is the traditional drink of Tonga, and indeed many Pacific islands grow this slightly-narcotic plant for making a slightly intoxicating earthy beverage.  In Fiji, women and men partake either formally or informally on social occasions; in Samoa, its more of a ceremonial beverage for special occasions in which rank is reinforced.  In Tonga, it is both ceremonial as well as a central, daily part of village life, and it is largely a mostly male-affair (except for the young maiden who serves the beverage, and tolerates/jokes with the kava circle while dishing out portions to each person; she is usually renumerated/tipped by the fees collected from the drinkers).  And sometimes, they do their own serving if no girl has been arranged to come.  This is, by the way, a perfectly respectable activity for the girls (I'm talking about 18+ out of school of course not younger ones!).
'Conversation Rules the Nation'
Coconut Cups ready for filling

Kava has been part of the Polynesian cultures since time immemorial - kava was one of the plants brought by the first peoples. There's so much history behind the kava circle, and so much meaning, that I'll have to do another post devoted to the Kava Circle.  It can be highly ritualized but also very informal.  More later - these photos took SO long to load, that my caffeine buzz has finally succumbed to a sleepy dozing state in which if I don't break away from this computer screen, I shall surely cause some sort of retinal damage to my eyes from staring so intently to the screen!  Ah, technology....