Bougainville Culture News : Village Kitchen Rules (VKRs) a feel good and taste good story

 ” Making the best tama(tama) or kakasi isn’t a full time job, but many women now get a cash return for producing their village delicacies, thereby quantifying their efforts in an important way.

The VKRs are paying off because women at home are using the family village kitchen to make, bake, braise, boil, roast, fry, steam and smoke foods that are fetching cash. Often before I leave Buka on weekends I often place an order for seafood so it will be ready when I reach the village to enjoy on my own or share with family and friends. This is a feel good and taste good story.”

Simon Pentanu official Bougainville food taster

The 2017 Election is almost in the past now. The many campaign visits by candidates and their entourage of supporters have come and gone. In the village it is back to normal life.

For the women this includes going back to gardening, the usual kitchen chores, including making tama(tama) for the household, for visitors and travellers that come by, or for cultural occasions to which everyone has to contribute cooked and uncooked garden food and seafood and tama(tama).

My sister’s Village Kitchen Rules (VKRs) ensure there is minimal disturbance and distraction by those that have no business in the kitchen. She is best plying certain kitchen skills for ambrosian dishes on her own.

Ordinary village kitchens are also bakeries that churn out cookies, buns and doughnuts on a daily basis for sale in the village and at the Mangkaki fish market across on the mainland.

The old assumption that a woman’s place is in the kitchen has been turned on its head by these smart and resourceful women who are using their kitchens to produce mouth-watering delicacies that lubricate the social wheels and provide a steady income.

With a population guesstimate of some 700 men, women and many children, Pok Pok has a ready market for the homemade cookies, buns and wrapped and packed seafood. Tama(tama), which is prepared only by women, is the most popular delicacy for visitors.

In addition to selling at the popular fish market on the mainland during the day there are now night markets by the village main street by lanterns and Chinese solar lamps making it possible for women to sell wares, snacks and drinks in the evenings.

The amount of effort that women put in the kitchen from start to finish, is worth paying for. It brings a sense of worth for the person preparing it as well as pride of place in the basic village kitchen where it happens.

So, here are my sister’s VKRs – the rules she expects men and boys in our extended family to observe, especially when she has been asked to make tama(tama) or kakasi.

1. men are not allowed to get in the way
2. don’t offer advice unless asked, the food will
be ready in time
3. don’t complain about delayed service – perhaps you didn’t fetch enough firewood
4. eat everything you are served, there is no
‘cleaning up’ after
5. it is insulting not to try local food – remind
your foreign visitors
6. say nice things about the cook and the
cooking
7. don’t talk too much while eating – you won’t
enjoy it as much
8. there are no doggy bags in the village – eat
everything
9. hands were made before spoons and forks, my cutlery been borrowed
10. there are no dishes to do after meals, this avoids complaints about doing dishes

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Bougainville News : For a positive future Bougainville should be paddling in the same direction

 ” When we grow up in traditional societies in communal villages, the values and traditions that we grow up in play a profound part in our working lives in the modern world.

To put it another way, where and how we start out early in life will often determine where we end up.

Most of all we must demand they must work together for the common good of the People. I will certainly be doing my part in this endeavour which has eluded us in the past.

What so often gets in the way to appeals for the common good is the pursuit of personal agendas.

When everyone puts in the same effort and moves together – like in the canoe, making sure their paddles are in the water pulling in the same direction with the same purpose – it is easier to reach your destination. Everyone appreciates each other’s efforts. Everyone benefits from each other’s efforts. “

Simon Pentanu Speaker of the House Bougainville

Work and Fun rooted in childhood memories .I am a speaker. That’s my job in Bougainville’s challenging and interesting Journey at the moment. Speakers do not speak much, unless it is necessary or they are asked to do so.

This is only part of the story. The corresponding part is, when we grow up in traditional societies in communal villages, the values and traditions that we grow up in play a profound part in our working lives in the modern world. To put it another way, where and how we start out early in life will often determine where we end up.

This is true of many Bougainvilleans/PNGns that have ventured out and succeeded in private, public and corporate life but who are still deeply rooted in their traditional society that played a significant part in the formative years of their upbringing.

And so, speaking for myself, out of the House I am also an amateur photographer who sees life and value in everything that crosses my path. I talk to and photograph objects and subjects in the hills, on the beaches and around the waters mostly, but not only, where I grew up.

The photo here is a sand spit on one of many outer reefs I used to paddle out to as a boy with my folk to dive, spear fish, harvest seaweeds and gather shells, crustaceans and molluscs.

Children still do this today. But instead of paddling by canoes they are whisked out there by motor boats. And rather than eating and sharing what they catch and collect, as we used to, most of their catches, gatherings and findings from the reefs are sold for cash at the fish market.

We would go out once, twice, or occasionally several times a week. Paddling the distances on the open sea was hard work and back-breaking during stormy weather. But looking back, I would do it all over again.

Today they can motor out as often as they like, often twice to thrice on the same day if the fish are biting or if the price of sea slugs is good. Weather is not a worry with fibreglass motor boats, as it is when you’re in a wooden canoe with paddles.

These comments and comparisons are not necessarily about the hard times of the past or the conveniences of modern times that we take for granted.

I am more interested in making a point about living, enjoying and appreciating the things and people we engage with every day. And not doing it to the detriment of the natural world we all rely on to sustain us.

The pressures of everything from population growth to the cash economy to seeking elected office to poor eating habits are taking their toll on our species.

But rarely do we stop to think about the pressures we compound upon the planet – from wreaking human havoc on land and sea to depleting finite resources.

We must do a much better job of looking after the world that is the source of our life. And we must recognise that natural resources like the forests, minerals and productive soil – even clean air and water – are finite.

Let us be responsible and be light on the planet. It is a beautiful living thing that deserves our care. It supports all species, most of all humankind. Yet we pose the most perilous threat to the planet that supports us and our livelihood.

When the 2017 national election counting is finally over and we know who our four MPs are, we must demand of them, together with our MHRs, to be true leaders by conserving these essential natural values so we and our children and grandchildren can enjoy them too.

Most of all we must demand they must work together for the common good of the People. I will certainly be doing my part in this endeavour which has eluded us in the past.

What so often gets in the way to appeals for the common good is the pursuit of personal agendas.

When everyone puts in the same effort and moves together – like in the canoe, making sure their paddles are in the water pulling in the same direction with the same purpose – it is easier to reach your destination. Everyone appreciates each other’s efforts. Everyone benefits from each other’s efforts.

In a motorised boat everyone sits down and they get to the fishing destination with little effort. There is no paddling, no exertion, no communal effort. The engine, fuel and propeller zips you out there. And everyone does their own thing. It’s the competitive world of cash economy. It’s a long way from the days of sharing and living for each other in a unified way where the family unit, the extended family and clan are important.

Happy Life