Happy Thanksgiving!

Not too many cranberries or turkeys over here in Rurutu. But, we do have pumpkins and sweet potatoes aplenty... Here's a nice soup recipe that I made from a conglomerate of recipes from the web - it turned out really well...maybe a bit too hearty for the tropical heat here, but ideal for a cold winter evening back home.

Pumpkin and sweet potato soup
1lb sweet potatoes peeled and diced
1lb pumpkin/squash peeled and diced
1 large onion diced
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp mixed herbs
5 cups stock (veg or chicken)
1 cup milk
nutmeg and lime juice to taste

Heat the butter and cook the onions until translucent, about 5 mins. Add the curry powder and herbs, fry another 1-2 mins. Add the pumpkin and sweet potato, stock, milk and seasoning allow to simmer for about 40 minutes, until the pumpkin and sweet potato are thoroughly cooked. Blend and serve with a dash of cream and fresh parsley (from the garden, if possible).

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!


Mmmmm mango lassi!

Talking about seasons of plenty.......

......more mangoes

Mango Lassi
1 cup yoghurt
1 cup mango puree
1 cup ice
sugar and lime juice to taste

Chuck it all in the blender and bingo there you have it....deliciousness in a glass


tau Matari'i i ni'a

Tomorrow, nov 20th, marks the beginning of the 'season of plenty' in the ancient Polynesian calendar and is signaled by the rising of the Pleiades on the horizon, the celebration occurs on the first new moon in November, and the constellation sets in mid to late May heralding the end of this season (Matari'i i raro) and the beginning of the cooler season. The arrival of the Pleiades heralded a favorable time for planting food, for fishing, marriage and also for travel (the stars were used by Viriamu's ancestors to navigate the vast Pacific Ocean). The Pleiades are a cluster of seven bright stars, also often known as the Seven Sisters or affectionately as M45, located on the shoulders of Taurus near Orion. I haven't yet tried to locate them, but I have remarkable trouble with the Southern Hemisphere sky....you can be sure I'll have my eye out for them....anyway they should look something like this....

The constellation was recognized by many ancient cultures and has many legends and stories attached to it. In Greek mythology the Pleiades were the seven daughters of Pleione and Atlas, handmaidens of Artemis and playthings of the gods (both Poseidon and Zeus had children with one or more of them!). Legend has it that they committed suicide with grief after the disappearance their brothers the Hyades and death of their father, Zeus honored them by transforming them into stars. Merope the youngest of the sisters was wooed by Orion, but she refused his advances, and it is said that Orion's constellation still pursues the Pleiades across the sky. One of the most beautiful legends I just found comes from the Kiowa, a native American tribe, and is linked to Devil's Tower national monument in Wyoming. It goes something like this, seven young maidens were out playing by the river when they were set upon by bears, they climbed upon a large rock and in fear they called upon the spirit of the rocks to help them, pitying the maidens he raised the rock high into the sky, and though the bears tried to climb it, they could not, their claw marks can be seen on the side of the rock today, now known as Devil's Tower. The maidens, unable to descend from the rock, ascended into the heavens and were transformed into stars.

Devil's Rock National Moument, Wyoming (photo:Colin Faulkingham)

Here in Tahiti the celebration of Matari'i i ni'a is focused on teaching and reviving traditional cultural practices, learning how to prepare and preserve food. Of course, with the missionaries, the celebration of this festival was forgotten and it has only recently been re-established. Along with kava drinking ceremonies, which were also forbidden by the missionaries. So to open the Matari'i celebrations there is a kava drinking ceremony. To see pictures and find out more about the festival (in French), click here.


Beach Babe

Today Matotea decided that she wanted to wear my bikini to the beach, a rather prudish move, as she normally prefers to be completely nude. And as soon as we got back from the beach she happily stripped off! This new-found self-awareness marks a new milestone in her journey from toddler to little girl. Over the past couple of weeks we've started using the potty, and though we haven't quite graduated to underwear yet, we're well on the way there. She's so wonderfully earnest, she puts her little heart and soul into everything she does, and sometimes it turns bad on her, but mostly she revels in the joys of new discovery from learning how to spin a top or some new balancing pose (the latest was a sort of downward facing dog with one leg extended). She's also very kind and compassionate - she always wants to share her food, with us or with the dog or cat, she's always ready with a kiss and a cuddle if Mummy's hurt herself. Last night she was convinced that her toy whale had hurt itself and we had to have several rounds of first aid, before we could happily take whale to bed!


Mango Madness

I love this time of year here in Rurutu, even though we're technically in the tropics we have two quite different seasons a 'cold' and a 'hot' season. As we're in the southern hemisphere now is the 'hot' season, or rather the 'fruit/flower' season. It's all relative, we have banana, limes and papaya all year round, but now we have mangoes, pineapples, avocado, passion fruit and lychees all starting to get ripe, we also grow a lot of watermelon, as opposed to the potatoes, carrots and cabbage grown in the 'cold' season. My absolute favourite fruit is mango, and in fact I'm finding it hard living here where mango is only available once a year, in Moorea there are two fruiting seasons a year - so you can just eat as much mango as you like! And it's the same for pineapples, which are grown fairly intensively in Moorea - mainly to sate the appetite of the pineapple juice factory on the island. Since we now live on a tiny island there are no fruit or vegetable markets to speak of, we grow most of our own fruit and veggies, so it's not always easy to buy things like mangoes. Last year I really didn't make the most of it, so I have been promising myself to really make an effort to take advantage of the mango fest this year, there are three huge mango trees a few kms up the road from our home and I've been making a point to stop there every couple of days and clean up the spoils, it's still a little bit early yet, but there's still enough fruit for me to get going with some of my plans.

The mangoes fall all over the place, so I've been diving into thickets of Lantana, picking up a fair few scratches on the way, but I just love gathering food, it's immensely satisfying to be able to use what nature has to offer and it reminds me of when I used to go picking blackberries off the mountain-side as a child.

Today I made a spicy mango syrup:
(recipe taken from the Mongo Mango Cookbook by Cynthia Thuma)
  • 4 small greenish mangoes (the variety I have here are very small, the recipe asks for two medium mangoes)
  • 3 cups water (750ml)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp. whole allspice
  • 6 whole cloves
Peel and coarsely chop the mangoes, add to a pan with all the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer for ~40min, until the mixture begins to thicken. Strain the sauce to remove the spices then return the fruit pulp to the sauce. Pour sauce into a glass jar.
Keep refrigerated. Delicious on crepes with home-made vanilla ice-cream.



Cultural identity is a very potent force, one that you can only really appreciate when you leave the comfort of your own culture for places new. It's something that I find myself thinking about and discussing at length with many of my wonderful friends, who travel far and wide across the globe (take a look at Mandy's blog: wonderful life). One of the most refreshing things for me, living in a culture so far removed from my own, is that I really am able to define myself as an individual, with my many strengths and weaknesses, outside of the distorting lens of cultural norms, I can even consciously decide what aspects of myself and my cultural baggage I would like to keep and what needs to be left well behind.

I'm not from Rurutu and let's face I never will be, and I'm not even French either, so I fall neatly in between. I've never been much of a conformer, so I'm OK with that, though I understand how troubling some people may find that. For me, my lack of roots does not stop me feeling a deep sense of belonging and even attachment, to my new found home, it just allows me to be different. Few people from Rurutu know where Wales is, and they have no sense of what it means to be Welsh. I don't fit into the traditional Rurutu gender roles, and certainly the ideas and opinions that I have differ dramatically from those of my relatives here. But it doesn't matter, there are no expectations that I should conform to their norms - something that is immensely liberating.....but which also leaves you floating somewhere out in the vacuum . I don't always have a good idea how I should behave and what is and isn't acceptable - Tahitians tend to be a lot more laid back on the whole social protocol thing, compared to us Brits (or Europeans in general) but there are still some limits! The other down side is that I don't always truly understand social interactions, or what motivates people here, which can be both frustrating and lonely! Of course I'm lucky, I have Viriamu to help me decipher some of this and Matotea brings me joy (and some frustration too, but mostly joy). Viriamu and I have always almost unknowingly shared deep-seated values and we both have so many dreams that we can realize together, these are bonds that tie us together, despite the gaping chasm of our differences. Our very strength lies in our very different abilities, Viriamu might not have enjoyed (nor wanted) the education that I have had (frankly, he's just not into the whole reading and writing thing), but together we can achieve so many things that would not be possible apart - though of course being so different does have its challenges too. It's often hard for people to understand our relationship. I've even had people tell me that "it couldn't work between us", most other people just look at us with a mildly confused expression on their face, others probably just think I'm slightly mad. I'm not sure, I feel saner than ever, but then that may be the first sign of madness! But I have always been one for a challenge.....