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PNG’s endangered & forgotten foods

| Save PNG Blog | Edited

PORT MORESBY - When we speak of ‘Forgotten Food’ we are also talking about ‘Forgotten People’ and ‘Forgotten Language’ because these are the keepers of traditional knowledge and culinary art.

This knowledge includes the food, the stones, the type of firewood, the leaves used to wrap and cover the food and the way the food is prepared and cut.

All these add to the delicate dimensions of the food to make up its full distinct flavour and its ‘signature’ as being from a particular area or even family.

Eighty percent of the world’s food is produced by peasant farmers (a term I don't like to use but which large agricultural organisations adopt).

This implies that 80% of the world’s seeds and agro-biodiversity are in these hands.

What we are faced with in this modern day are flavour and food extinction that align with linguistic and cultural extinction.

We came from a world filled with diversity and with each passing day and each passing elder, thousands of years of food consciousness is lost - and with that loss is the loss of food diversity.

Food diversity is needed for nutritional diversity and so, with each passing year, the food we eat becomes less diverse and less nutritious.

Our body needs a diverse range of nutrients, micronutrients and phytonutrients to flourish.

If we are not conscious about how we nourish our body then we lose sight of who we are as human beings. We become less and less connected to the food on our plates.

Money may be able to buy us many things but it cannot buy back the collective knowledge that is being lost.

It seems that all we care for today is the immediate satisfaction of our palates but, if we pause to reflect, refocus and remember, food has been central to much more than this.

Some foods were prepared only for certain ceremonial gatherings and, as we lose sight of culture, so too those food traditions wither and die; the ancestral pathways we walked before have become overgrown

But through projects like Pacific Island Food Revolution we can create a new pathway to revive and conserve our collective knowledge of flavours and foods.

We know what we have is special and unique.


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Baka Bina

I agree with Jennifer that old cooking recipes. food and ways are dying.

My mother was the last of those who cooked her trick mumu in the Yar Motona (wooden drum oven).

The Yar Motona was carved out from the trunk and branches of the Gahu tree whose bark were beaten into malo cloth.

The distinct taste I think came of this wooden drum itself.

Ma had a way of cooking beans in carved out pumpkin with a small bushy moss like shrubs and muho leaves (a crawling plant) .

After school, I would smell it from the top of the ridge to our garden and run down the cliff with the stomach growling for them.

Later on Ma did cook in tin buckets and drums but they were never the same but the smell and taste were never the same as those from the Ya Motona.

I have tried so many times to see if I could duplicate the same smell and taste with aluminium ware but it has never been the same and the small bushy moss like shrub went wokabaut when she went wokabout up there.

I think the Muho plant too is disappearing or, if it is there, nobody cares to use it.

Philip Fitzpatrick

You need to read 'Inspector Metau: The Case of the Great Pumpkin Heist' Jennifer.

What old Abraham is doing in the novel is actually happening in PNG.

You can download the free online version of Phil's most recent Inspector Metau book here: - KJ

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