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Mangaian Society



Cooking in the earth oven (umu) with heated stones and leaf covering was the standard method. The oven had a roof over it which formed the detached cooking house ('are umu). The equipment of the kitchen consisted of cooking stones, a wooden pole as a poker, wooden tongs, and a supply of wooden bowls (uete). Small bowls were used for family meals. Special preparations were mixed in quantity for feasts in large canoe-shaped bowls. The presence of the large bowl in the kitchen usually denoted a family of page 137social importance. Coconut graters, stone pounders, and low wooden tables on legs (papa'ia) were used in making special food preparations. Recep-tacles for cooked and uncooked food were plaited from coconut leaves.

The cooking of the underground stem of the ti (Cordyline terminalis), a reserve food used in the dry season (July to December) when taro was apt to become scarce, was a community effort by a whole district. A large earth oven was prepared on the appointed day, and the various families consigned their bundles of ti to the communal oven. Each family used some mark to distinguish its bundle; when the oven was opened, each family received its own package. The cooked stems, rich in saccharine material, would keep for some time. In the absence of taro the people also fell back on the mature coconut, which is very rich. The ti counteracted the oily taste of the coconut.

Fish were cooked in leaf packages. As they formed the only flesh food at feasts, a method of preserving a week's catch was devised in order to enable a sufficient supply to be accumulated. Each day's catch was cooked in leaf packages, dried on scaffolds, and recooked every day until the feast was held.