Bowl of exotic tropical fruit used for the fruit tasting Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm at Cape Tribulation
Bed and Breakfast accommodation on the edge of the Daintree Rainforest  at Cape Tribulationand white-lipped tree frog
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About Alison and Digby Gotts - Cape Tribulation


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We thought you might be interested in some of our observations relating to food and Samoan culture:


Last Friday was the last day for Peter, one of the project team (he only had a 2 month contract) so Digby arranged an ‘umu’ – a Samoan barbecue done with hot stones – as a farewell feast – so that all the workers could join together and say goodbye. Here is Digby describing the event:

”For Peter’s farewell, I asked the station to organise a lunch for his last day. No problem, I just handed over 250 tala ($A120). Turned up for work on Friday assuming that takeaway food packs would arrive around lunchtime along with peter and the other guests. Heard a bit of squealing around 9 and wandered out to find the strangling of a young pig in full swing. I had bought a full Samoan Umu with roast pig, fish, taro, palosami (taro leaf in coconut cream), oka (raw fish in cream), etc all to be prepared by the station staff, all morning. 

A large fire was lit under a shelter, then buried in fist sized rocks with more wood added inside and on top as rocks heated. Eventually had a pile of smoking rock. The pig, throttled successfully, was then dragged repeatedly over the rocks searing and scraping the outer skin and hair, it was then removed and washed and shaved to spotless white. Gutted by cutting right around the anus and isolating the gut end, then tying it off with a strip of coconut fibre. The stomach wall was opened with a four inch hole and the entire contents with heart and lung removed. Liver separated and washed, gall bladder isolated washed and reserved. lungs and heart dumped into cooking pot for more work. Gut was lined with leaves and a couple of rocks inserted, more leaves, more rock until they were hammering the leaves in. The same was done through a small slit in the throat, presumably into the chest cavity. They then squeezed bile all over the skin, smoothing it on and evenly covering the whole thing. 

The pig was eventually put on to cook at 11:00 by opening a hole in the rock pile, inserting the pig and then covering it all up with the removed rocks. A couple of banana leaves on top and left for 1 hour. The fish, palosami and other cooked bits went in at varying times, but everything was brought in at 12:00 ready to eat. A lovely meal but not exactly the normal work day I was expecting.


On Wednesday night we went to Aggie Grey’s Hotel for the weekly Samoan dance performance – It was rather good and very professional. The fire dancing was particularly memorable – if you watched the New Years TV show which went round the world you may remember the fire dancing which was beamed around the world.

Well seeing 10 young men with muscles cavorting in front of you with fire sticks alight at both ends, leaping and spinning and dancing is much better than watching it on TV, doing backward somersaults, their bodies glistening with sweat, all reflected in the pool. The performance was full of fun and energy - all the dancers are staff at the hotel. 

Although this is essentially a tourist experience, it is possible to gain an insight into aspects of Samoan culture. One memory that will stay with me for a long time was the young woman proudly raising her missionary style neck to ankles costume with puffed sleeves and loud floral pattern to exhibit her tattoos to the audience of over 100 palangis (Europeans) - she did it with such dignity that the element of voyeurism was replaced by admiration and respect. 

The next day in the street, the wind exposed another set of tattoos on the shapely legs of a young modern Samoan woman - but the only person who usually gets to see these tattoos is meant to be the husband. Apparently the church does not approve of the tattooing but it still goes on, even under threat of being barred – so it is quite a commitment and I am amazed that young women are still undertaking it. When Digby had the fruit trip to the other island Savaii, he came to a community centre where all the men from the village were meeting to tattoo a young man – Dig and his work crew were there to prune the trees, and all the time they were there, they could hear the groans coming from the man being tattooed, lying on the ground. Later we were told it can take up to 3 weeks, every day, being jabbed with this shell blade 1 cm long , like a toothbrush with lots of little saw tooths which is laid on the leg after being dipped in ink and then hammered into the leg – tap, tap, tap – with two attendants fanning and holding his head while he moans in pain. 

As well as the dance performance there was a buffet, and the interesting part was that they has a whole section of it devoted to Samoan food so we had – wait for it – Sea cucumber, sea urchin, as well as more normal things like banana cooked in coconut milk and taro leaves with coconut cream (palusami) and breadfruit cooked in coconut milk, followed by dessert of papaya cooked in coconut milk. You start to get the idea that the basis of Samoan cuisine is something cooked in coconut milk – and it is coconut milk prepared from first principles (first find your coconut tree) – not the stuff in the can which I have on good authority is like canned asparagus as opposed to the real thing. So one of my resolutions is to learn how to actually make real coconut cream and a traditional palusami. 

your Samoan correspondents

Alison and Digby




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Bed and Breakfast accommodation on an exotic tropical fruit orchard at Cape Tribulation in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest
Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm, Lot 5 Nicole Drive, Cape Tribulation, Queensland, 4873, Australia - Tel: 0740 980057 - Fax: 0740 980067

Last updated December 19, 2013