Friday, July 29, 2016

Fika

I got a new cookbook for my birthday:  "Fika - The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break".  The introduction neatly captures my feelings, especially on a busy, chaotic, detritus-filled packing day like today.
 
 

Although it may be well meaning, "Do you want to meet up and grab coffee?" in English just doesn't carry the same weight as the corresponding Swedish question, "Ska vi fika?"  "Should we fika?" is shorter, simpler; and every Swede knows exactly what it means:  "Let's take a break, spend some time together, slow down."  In fact, it doesn't even have to insinuate coffee; fika is all-inclusive and can be done just as well with a pot of tea or a pitcher of fruit cordial.  Fika isn't just for having an afternoon pick-me-up; it's for appreciating slow living.
 
 
Therefore, it's not just because you bae a certain cake and serve a cup of coffee that you have fika.  To truly fika requires a commitment to making time for a break in your day, the creation of a magical moment in the midst of the routine and the mundane.  Fika is the time when everything else is put on hold.
 

We pulled some of Sarah's cardamom bread out of the freezer, toasted and slathered it with Nutella left by a visiting guest, and seated ourselves at the table for a few minutes to reconnect with each other.  Time well spent.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Happy Birthday, Sarah!


We began to celebrate Sarah early.  She was filled with culinary goals for the day, and the coconut scraper was put into action for a breakfast of coconut pancakes. 
 
 
While Sarah and Aaron drove down to Honiara's Central Market to find the perfect fish, the rest of us took turns scraping the piles of coconuts that we would need for the coconut cream for lunch.  As I took my basket down to SITAG's outdoor kitchen, the rain began to fall.  I prayed that God would make the rain move over and fall in Marulaon Village, too.


We had lots of helping hands to clean out the old bed of stones and build a new one that would fit our needs.  One of our colleagues shares a birthday with Sarah, and we were looking forward to sharing this meal with their sweet family.


I'm so out of practice since our kitchen in Marulaon still hasn't been rebuilt.  But many hands make light work, and soon we had the fire going to heat up the stones.

 
Back up to the house we went to finish preparing the food that needed to cook about an hour underneath those hot stones.
 
 
Lunch was late, but our friends were very flexible, even with little ones who needed naps.
 
 
And the birthday girl was thrilled to get her local food fix!
 
 
I'm so grateful for the adopted family we have here at SITAG and for the family and friends who took the time to think ahead and send gifts and cards for this special birthday girl.
 
 
Sarah's day fit her ISFJ personality so well:  Quiet, friendly, responsible, conscientious.  Committed and steady in meeting her obligations.
 
 
Thorough, painstaking, and accurate.  Loyal and considerate.  Notices and remembers specifics about people who are important to them.  Strives to create an orderly and harmonious environment.
 
 
After the lunch party finished, Sarah turned her attentions to finishing the second birthday cake.  Because you don't want to try a new recipe on visitors, right?
 
 
She worked hard to get the icing just right - to "soft ball" stage.
 

And we finished the day with full hearts and full tummies and lots of laughter.


This mama didn't cry one time as I observed this capable and spunky young lady.  I know: times, they are a-changing for our family.  Much transition is ahead. 
 
 
But until then, I'm enjoying every day with this beautiful seventeen-year-old and the joy she brings our family.

 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Kokonut Pacific Field Trip

 
 
Last week, school age SITAG kids went on an amazing field trip to Kokonut Pacific.  Because all of these kids usually live in a village, they are all familiar with coconuts, how they grow, and how you get to the good stuff inside.  This company empowers local growers so that almost the entire process of making coconut oil happens in the village, on their own schedule.
 

We watched as one of the women used an electric coconut scraper to extract the flesh from the coconut in about 30 seconds.  Even Sarah, our fastest coconut scraper, takes several minutes to finish one coconut when she scrapes it the old-fashioned way.
 
 
After the coconut is scraped in small batches of about 15-17 coconuts, the meat is weighed and recorded before it goes over to the drying table.
 
 
 If the coconut isn't dried, when it is squeezed a delicious milky substance comes out.  That's what we use to make cassava pudding or to cook rice. The kind employees let us take turns moving the coconut around on what looked like a huge griddle fired by coconut shells and husks.
 

One of the themes throughout the whole field was "no waste".  No fuel but the leftover parts of the coconuts themselves is needed to keep the surface nice and toasty.  In about thirty minutes, the coconut meat is dry enough to be scraped into a cylinder.
 
 
The cylinder of dried coconut meat is transferred over to the squeezing machine.  The oil runs down into the measuring cup, where it is again weighed.
 

And the leftover coconut meat can be reused in stock feed or baked goods.


It's toasted coconut, and that's exactly what it tastes like!  Again, no waste.


After the oil is pressed out of the coconut meat, it is poured through cheesecloth and allowed to settle.
 

All of this work takes place under a pavilion with open sides where the breeze flows through.  Many of us decided we wouldn't mind working here!  After the coconut oil extraction demonstration, our group moved over to the enclosed building and met even more employees.


We learned about the small barrels of oil that come in from the villages and how they are numbered and checked for quality.


We watched one of the men as he vacuumed the oil from the small barrels and moved it into the mixing tanks.


And we marveled at the ingenuity of it all.


People living in the village who can take the coconut, one of God's most perfect creations, and turn it into beautiful, pure oil and make some money in the process.


We moved on to the "value added" department where ladies were filling small bottles of oil and making soap that caused the whole room to smell delicious.



We met Queenie who told us about the high quality and purity of the soaps - the coloring and scents are natural.

 
Like this beautiful batch that was drying (and made every single one of us want to touch it!).  It is colored with paprika!
 

Cutting the soap is also done by hand with this nifty gadget.
 


After refilling our big 1.5 liter oil bottles for the village and a visit to the gift shop, we were hungry and ready for the lunch the tour provided.


Before the teaching session began, the kids had the opportunity to try squeezing the oil.
 


 
Frank not only gave a great tour, but his lectures were fascinating to all of us.  I was curious what kind of educational background would be needed for this line of work, so I asked! 
 
 
A bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Masters in Community Development have equipped him to lead this fine operation.

 
He showed the kids dirt, let them run their hands through it, and talked about what makes "healthy" dirt.


He talked about the history of organic agriculture and the fair trade movement and why they are both so important, especially with the history of blackbirding in the Solomon Islands.


He finished up discussing quality assurance, trust, and good stewardship...
 
 
...lessons that apply not only to making coconut oil, but to living life.


When the classroom session concluded,


we refreshed ourselves with green coconuts to drink.



We're so grateful for the opportunity to learn about and support an organization like this, one that "brings the factory to the villagers instead of taking the villagers to the factory".