Foodie event in Ambrym

 Ranon celebrates

I wasn't enthusiastic about attending a circumcision ceremony having walked 24 km to view a volcano the previous day. Three hours later I had no regrets. Torpedo like yams paraded past me as if in a military setting. A bullock was butchered in front of the crowd and a 12 yr old boy killed three pigs . All to celebrate the circumcision of three boys.

Captain Cook's legacy

The name Ambrym means yam, bestowed on the island by Captain Cook and prominent in the ceremony they were. However pigs provided the main event.

Pigs and kustom

Pigs are the principal objects of wealth in Vanuatu. They are accumulated, traded, loaned, and paid out to resolve disputes. Pigs are central to kustom and are pampered, revered, and sacrificed. Killing a set number of pigs gives a man high status. When the pigs are killed, the killer assumes their spirits, gaining power and prestige among his village.

Circumcisions are a one time thing and the ceremony reflected this. The Ranon community gathered as if partaking in a wedding or a funeral.

Vanuatu coffee

It surprised me to see three brands of Vanuatu grown coffee for sale in Luganville. Alongside the well-known Tanna coffee there was a selection from Aore Island and a haphazard collection of different bags branded as Cafe de Vanuatu. I found the origins of this coffee at VARTC ( Vanuatu Agricultural Research Technical Centre ),10km north of Luganville. The VARTC farm is quite compact and it did not take long to find children on school holidays picking the arabica beans (30 Vatu for 1kg or about 40c NZ ). From picking to roasting, the whole operation is done by hand.

With a new wharf being built in Luganville and more cruise ships visiting it would be an ideal time to package the operation for tourists in a similar way to Tanna Coffee in Efate.

In the meantime you will have to buy the very good quality arabica beans at LCM ( the best supermarket in Luganville ), I just hope the branding gets some love.

 

 

 

 

 

Rakiraki Market after Cyclone

I did not think I would return to Rakiraki Market so soon but after Cyclone Winston devastated parts of Fiji I was called to photograph some of the marketplaces on Viti Levu. Beguiled by the blue skies and sunshine it was still clear the damage in Rakiraki area was widespread. The market was pretty much non existent after the council had already bulldozed it flat.Tents have been put up to house some of the market vendors until their buildings are restored. Pineapple vendor Ajay Lal was looking a little worse for wear which was not surprising after he told me his house had been badly damaged by the cyclone. Three weeks after the cyclone Rakiraki township has power restored but it will take months to repair outlying power lines and even longer for crops to get back to full production.

 

 

 

Foodie tour starts in Vanuatu

A block of land north of Port Vila with a multitude of food-producing plants is now open to visitors. The brainchild of Jimmy Nipo and his wife Ledcha Nanuman, Fansa Farm Foodie Tours has been designed to showcase the best in Vanuatu’s food while also wanting to demonstrate new crop varieties and farming practices better suited to Vanuatu’s shifting weather patterns. Crops you will see on the foodie tour include pineapple, mango, pawpaw, taro, drought resistant yam,kava, corn, tamarind, banana, breadfruit, sugarcane, pepper, chilli, kumala (kumara), coconut, nangai (an almond like nut ) and manioc (cassava) which Jimmy says represents continuity: “Manioc is always there, it just keep going, it feeds us and provides our energy throughout the seasons,” he says.

Jimmy Nipo and Ledcha Nanuman come from the island of Tanna in the south of Vanuatu. Jimmy says Fansa Farm takes its name from the fansa bird (similar to a fantail ) which holds special significance as a leader in Tanna Island culture.

“The fansa leads all other birds to food. It is active, smart and creative, and never stops moving,” says Jimmy. “Fansa also means safe, and for us Ni-Vanuatu, that relates to food security which is very important for our survival” he says.

Visitors to Fansa Farm can choose between three tours ranging from two to four hours on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.

The Food Path provides a guided tour through the farm with refreshments and produce on offer along the way.

Food Path and ‘aelan-style’ Cooking provides a guided tour through the farm with refreshments and produce along the way followed by an opportunity to cook local dishes ‘aelan style’.

The third tour, Food Path, Port Vila Market and brunch at Lapita Cafe is offered in partnership with Port Vila’s Lapita Café, well known suppliers of high quality aelan cuisine ( the Lapita Cafe food at the opening was delicious ). The tour includes a guided tour of the farm, then a tour of the Port Vila central market, followed by brunch.

Bookings are essential. Visit www.fansafoodietours.weebly.com

 

 

 

Vanilla Pioneer departs Vanuatu

After 28 yrs of Vanilla production in Vanuatu Pierro Bianchessi has left for Italy, his homeland. An organic chemist, Bianchessi arrived in Vanuatu in 1987 and found the perfect climate for growing vanilla. He established Venui Vanilla and by 1991 demand had increased beyond what he could produce on his own land. Growers were contracted and trained from northern islands in Vanuatu, processing 2000-2500 tons of vanilla each year at the peak of production. Certified organic from 1997, Pierro marketed the vanilla himself at food shows in Europe, NZ , Australia and New Caledonia. Venui Vanilla quickly became Vanuatu’s premiere artisan food producer.

Vanilla needs a dry coolish winter of 7-8 weeks for successful pollination and although this was possible initially the amount of vanilla being processed has now dropped to 2-300kg per year. Bianchessi states this is a direct result of climate change.

Venui Vanilla now also produces peppercorns, turmeric, chillies and ginger and to reflect this has been rebranded Venui Vanilla - Spices of Vanuatu. Venui would have to process five times the amount of peppercorns to replace the value of the declining vanilla crop according to Bianchessi.

New Zealand has strong links with Venui. An Auckland based graphic designer created the cool looking soft packaging and New Zealand’s BioGro Organic Certification was achieved in 2013. This certification also covers the 200 small farmers who supply the company.

A new manager has been found and the company has been sold to LCM, a very established grocery business based in Luganville. A new cold pressed centrifugal coconut oil processing facility is being built as a result of the new investment.

Although departing, Bianchessi was optimistic the organic ethos of Venui will continue. He believes Vanuatu has a good future with food production as it remains naturally organic, the last of the Pacific Islands to be in this state.

 

Making Lap Lap in Vanuatu

Lap lap is a traditional Vanuatu dish wrapped in leaves and cooked above ground on hot stones. Mangaliliu Village has a strong heritage in making lap lap and this was seen when staying in the village recently.

Starting at 6 AM (photography in this light was a treat) the lap lap was made on Sunday morning by the women and children from the extended family for lunch following a session in Church.

With no fridge available two chickens were freshly slaughtered for the occasion and were plucked by the children. Aside from the lap lap faol seen here (chicken), other versions are dakdak (duck), fis (fish), mit (meat), taro, maniok (cassava), yam and banana. There are also regional variations.

 

GoodBuzz in Wainuiomata

Kombucha, booch and SCOBY are new words in my vocab after a visit to photograph the GoodBuzz soft drink factory in Wainuiomata. The GoodBuzz process combines sugar, tea and water (from the Te Puna Wai Ora artesian aquifer in Petone) with the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and turns into an effervescent, healthy, non-alcoholic  drink.

In the short time GoodBuzz has been operating they already have  five kombucha brews in more than 60 cafes in Wellington, Christchurch, Hawkes Bay, New Plymouth and Nelson, and recently have been included in Auckland’s Nosh outlets.

The drinks come in five flavours - Origins, Green Jasmin, Lemon and Ginger, Jade Dew and Feijoia. A new brew made with coffee cherry (the outer red skin of  discarded coffee beans from  Go Bang in Petone)  with an amazing light apple flavour is coming soon.

Each  brew takes 8-10 days to ferment and another 7-10 days of bottle conditioning before heading out the door. The best before date is four months unchilled (a bonus when there is space restrictions in the fridge), and can be extended to nine months if refrigerated.

Another buzz emanating from the factory came from discovering owner Alex Campbell and I grew up in the same small Northland town – Kaikohe. This is where Alex’s first memories of kombucha came from – his grandmother Amy made what she called Manchurian Mushroom tea in the 1970’s. Kaikohe Kombucha - who would have thought?

 

 

 

Italian Flavours in Paraparaumu | Murray Lloyd Photography

Basil grown from seed in full sunshine, Isle of Capri tomatoes freshly plucked from the garden and fresh buffalo mozzarella - Insalata Caprese -  It is quite simply one of the greatest pleasures of summer and is one of my favourite dishes . The flavours and textures work together brilliantly - here's to Italian food.