Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Coco loco

I can see the signs as well as anybody: two coconut references in the last post, and then I just read a warning about coconuts in my Mauritius guidebook. So coconuts it is today, then.
The warning was not to lie underneath one. Well, duh! I've been cautious about falling coconuts ever since I saw one in Tahiti drop out of a tree into a shallow pond at the base with the most spectacular splash. It was like a scene from The Dambusters. Noise, white water, small tsunami: the thought of my delicate noggin being underneath something like that has left me terminally cautious about the potential irony of the Tree of Life actually being an Instrument of Death.
That's what they call it all through the tropic zones, you know, because they use every bit of it. I have, myself, sat on a coconut palm stump on Atiu in the Cook Islands, drinking from a small polished coconut shell cup bush beer brewed from fermented orange juice and hops - a tradition since the early missionaries took a dim view of the original tipple of choice, kava. (Bush beer is so much nicer than that muddy, mouth-numbing disgusting drink anyway.) Custom is, to have it with a coconut milk chaser.
I've also drunk fizzy fresh green coconut milk there ("Tastes just like Sprite!" said Birdman George, who shinned up the tree to pick one for me - and so it was, sort of). The he cut a spoon from the outside with one slash of his machete and I used it to scoop out the soft, delicately-flavoured meat from inside ("Baby food," said George). Then he cut some fronds and plaited them into plates to serve our fruity lunch on at the beach, where freshly-grated coconut and a squeeze of lime juice made pawpaw and starfruit into something memorable.
I've been given a polished bit of shell with holes in it to keep my sarong secure, and a woven-frond hat to keep the sun off. I've eaten fish cooked in coconut milk in the Loyalty Islands near New Caledonia; as well as coconut crab which looked hideous, but tasted divine, thanks to its exclusively coconut diet.
I've sheltered in Thailand under a cococut palm leaf-roofed hut, on a coconut palm leaf mat and watched a trained monkey romp up a coconut palm tree to twist a nut free, and seen the meat boiled up in a vast wok to extract the oil - and then tasted the glorious caramel-y residue that's left afterwards. I've made a pig of myself on Aitutaki with rukau - tender green taro shoots baked in coconut cream. In fact, I've eaten a whole swag of foods cooked in or with coconut, and loved them all, ruinous though they are to the waistline.
And none of this is to mention how coconut trees are used in building, for roofing, for drums, for clothing (including the infamous coconut shell bra, all sizes) ... It's a marvellous plant. Just don't sit underneath one.

3 comments:

the queen said...

My brother and I would BEG Mom for a cocounut every time they were at the store. The best part was slamming it on to the patio to get it to break. Then we'd collect the dirty shards of coconut and scrape the meat out with our teeth.

Your way sounds much more refined.

the queen said...

Wait ... what? Last photo? Child porn.

Pam said...

Honi soit qui mal y pense!

Actually, the more gob-smacking thing about these two is that one of them is the other's aunt.

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