Saturday, February 13, 2016

Eating Around the World - Papua New Guinea

It was cold today. I think the high was 15, and despite the glorious sunshine, the cold still hit you like a wall when you stepped off the porch. And inside, the furnace was working almost nonstop to keep things at a comfortable 68. As a matter of fact, as I write this right now I'm sitting in my favorite spot in the house, the large heat vent in the kitchen.

I bring up the weather outside because we spent this week learning about Papua New Guinea, an island nation close to the equator. As I'm writing, it is 7 degrees and snowy here in Indiana, and 79 degrees in PNG's capital city, Port Moresby. So, trying to recreate Mumu, a tropical dish that is cooked in a pit in the ground with hot stones and banana leaves came with some real challenges.

Using two blog posts and this video as a guide, I did my best. First I layered sweet potatoes, acorn squash, a plantain, and a green banana in the bottom of my large Dutch oven.

Next I sprinkled on frozen corn, and chicken seasoned with salt, ginger, and lime zest. Then I squeezed the lime juice over everything, and threw them in the pot for good measure. A layer of fresh pineapple (not pictured) followed.

I asked Collin if there was any chance of getting some banana leaves to wrap our dinner in, but he said the two trees he has growing at the university aren't nearly big enough to spare any. So I had to settle for the nearest equivalant I could come up with: collard greens. It probably wasn't very equivalent at all, but whatever.

Finally, I poured a can of coconut milk over everything, put the lid on the pot, and put it in the oven to cook for a few hours.

Today the amaryllis growing in my kitchen window bloomed! It was so big and cheerful and red, it made me enjoy spending the afternoon in the kitchen that much more. Also, it was kind of fun to have a giant red flower open just in time for Valentine's Day.

Oooh, and now the mumu is done! peel back the layer of not-banana leaves, and there's a whole bunch of tropical goodness ready for our dinner. 

Since the banana trees couldn't come to us, we decided to take our dinner to the banana trees. That's them, right straight back in the window of the greenhouse behind Laurel. The tropical room of the greenhouse at the college was the closest local setting we could find to a New Guinean jungle, so we brought our dinner over as a picnic.

This is our pineapple bowl with the baby pineapple at the greenhouse! I'm a little bit proud of that pineapple plant, because I started it from the top of a grocery pineapple myself. Collin and a whole bunch of students have done most of the work keeping it alive for the past two years, though. And now it has a baby pineapple that, from what I've read, will take up to six months now to mature to an edible fruit. Tropical fruits sure like to take their time ripening!

Annie and Laurel eating their picnic dinner with the banana trees. Annie liked the corn and sweet potatoes, and the pineapple was universally popular.

The plantains were surprisingly starchy and less generally popular. Kind of one of those "I'm glad we tried it, and it was kind of cool, but I'm not going out of my way to eat it again" things. Although, I'm guessing we'll be using them in other dishes in future weeks, and we might like them better in another preparation. Everything tastes good fried, after all!

Eliza and Collin, trying new flavors. 

As it got dark outside, we packed up our picnic and prepared to leave our tropical retreat.

Collin gave the room a final spray-down to raise the humidity back up in the greenhouse overnight, and we left for our own home. Where the girls had ice cream for dessert. I guess the illusion of a tropical getaway lingered a little bit after we returned to winter in northern Indiana.

1 comment:

  1. Sweet! How great that you were able to picnic in the greenhouse and get a taste of the tropics in the middle of February!