Twice I was able to eat octopus straight from the ocean and cooked over a fire. Once I was able to eat ocean snail roasted over a fire. But two memorable meals were grubs and mumut.
One evening my wasmama pulled out a bucket of white grubs and a bowl full of saksak which, in this instance, is a lot like flour. She rolled out the saksak on a banana leaf, laid a line of grubs down the middle, folded up the banana leaf and placed it on top of the fire to roast the grubs. It honestly didn’t have much of a taste, but was very chewy.
One day, as we were planting a new yam garden, the dogs hunted down something very special. The dogs found a mumut, aka bandicoot. All of the cleaning and cooking was done right there at the garden in less than an hour. Once again it was roasted on the fire. It may sound cliché, but it tasted quite a bit like chicken.
One of my old professors once said, “The way to a person’s heart is to try to speak their language and to eat their food.” I had plenty of opportunities to eat Papua New Guinean food and my wasfemili (village family) even ate some of my cooking. (They did not like the spicy food!) But it felt so good to be able to form relationships over something as simple as food. I had many nicknames in the village, but one I really enjoyed was ‘meri bilong kuk’ (woman belong cook).