The Marquesas has amazing wood work: tiki statues, engraved canoe paddle, bone inlay rosewood swords. However, from the start Sabrina had her eyes on one item: finding us a new salad bowl, since our old ceramic one had cracked during a passage.
In Ua Pou she found artisans that made beautiful bowls. She told the lady at the artisan shop that she was looking for a bowl exactly 19 inches wide (naturally, it has to fit in our small galley cupboard). The lady called her brother, who was halfway done with a new bowl. It was the perfect size, with four tikis engraved into the sides. “It will be ready in a week,” the wood worker said.
When we returned to Ua Pou, Sabrina called him and arranged for a delivery. Naturally we exchanged a bottle of rum to reduce the cost of the bowl. They are expensive because they are built from one single piece of wood. He drove it to the village of Hakahetau where we were. A number of older ladies were hanging out by the side of the road and asked to see the bowl.
“Hum… very nice, but he didn’t finish it properly over on this side!” Critiqued one of the ladies.
“And has it been properly christened in coconut milk?” Asked another.
Sabrina said “I think so, I told him it was for use as a salad bowl… and he said he would treat it with coconut milk.”
One of the ladies was Yvonne – she had given a bunch of fruit in exchange for buying some pandanus hats from her. “Come to my house, I’ll christen it for you,” she said with a scoff.
We went to Yvonne’s house the next day. Our crew – Matt, Diyana, and Melanie – were keen to go for a hike, but Polynesia had other plans for them. We waited as Yvonned built a fire, pulled down a breadfruit from a tree, started cooking it, and hollered at her grandkids: “Make some coconut milk please!” The grandkids scattered and grabbed a coconut, whacked it open, and proceeded to carve out the coconut flesh with a machine. Then they squeezed the coconut milk out of the flesh.
After an hour Yvonne was properly satisfied with the fire roasted breadfruit’s appearance. She brought our wooden bowl to the ground and crouching low, she split the breadfruit in half, scooping its mushy contents into the bowl, then poured the coconut milk over the mushy lump.
Then Yvonne turned to Sabrina and said, unceremoniously, “You can eat it now.”
Sabrina did a small double take, then kneeled by the bowl and grabbed the mushy lump of breadfruit in her hands and awkwardly piled a handful into her mouth.
Yvonne watched approvingly and jabbed me in the ribs, saying, “See? That’s how the ancients did it.”