Samoan Material Culture
Vegetable foods form the larger part of the diet. Except for coconut, breadfruit, and banana, they consist of root crops in the form of talo, yam, and to a smaller extent, umala. Of these the talo is by far the most im-page 128portant. The coconut is extremely important as it enters into most of the compound dishes made with all the articles quoted above. As regards green vegetables, talo leaves formed the only kind used. The number of preparations are confusing unless taken under each food heading. The coconut is dealt with first to prepare the way for its combinations with the other foods.
The coconut (niu). The mature nut is called popo and the less mature drinking nut, niu. The outer husk is pulu, the shell ipu, and the meat 'a'ano, the outer rind of the meat tuatua, and the liquid sua. The end of the husked nut showing three round depressions is called the mata as against the other end (muli). The mata (face) is so named after Tuna, the unfortunate eel lover of Sina. His dying request of Sina was to have his head cut off and planted. From it grew the first coconut palm in Samoa. Of the three depressions, the two which are close together are called sisi, while the other apart, is also the mata. A leaflet midrib can be pushed through the mata depression to form a hole through which the liquid may be drunk. This hole is also opened up to prepare coconuts as water bottles. The sisi depressions can not be perforated with a piece of midrib. The muli ends in a sharp point. This part is tapped round its circumference with a stone or knife to crack the shell, and thus enables a circular piece (ta'e) to be removed to give better access to the drinking fluid. Where no implement is handy, a nut may be cracked around with the muli point of another unopened nut. The green husk of a particular kind (utongau) is chewed for its sweet taste. The sua liquid forms a refreshing beverage freely offered to guests in lieu of, or as well as, kava. Unless trees are prohibited by particular warning marks, travellers have the right to take a few drinking nuts from any wayside trees, but they must not abuse the privilege. The flesh, both immature and mature, is used as food, either uncooked or in the following preparations.
1. Coconut cream (pe'epe'e). The popo mature nut is husked, split and grated on the tuai grater. The grated penu is wrung and strained through a tauanga strainer as already described. The resultant creamy liquid is the pe'epe'e so much used and appreciated in Samoan dishes. It may be used directly as with banana poi or undergo further treatment. 2. Sauce (miti). The pe'epe'e is mixed with sea water (sami) to form a relish in which food is dipped during meals. Nowadays fresh water and salt may be used instead of sea water, and sliced onions added. The juice of limes or lemons is also added. The miti may be kept in a coconut water bottle. For use, some is poured out into a half coconut shell or into a hollow formed with the afei leaves that accompany the food. It is used with raw mullet and cooked fish. 3.
Thickened pe'epe'e (fai'ai). The pe'epe'e may be cooked by itself in a wrapper of banana leaf. It thickens like curds and is called fai'ai or fai'ai fua. Again it may be cooked with other foods such as talo, yam, talo leaves, fish and crab. To all these preparations, the name of fai'ai is given with the particular food as a qualifying term such as fai'ai talo, fai'ai ufi, fai'ai i'a, and fai'ai pa'a. The exception is the preparation with talo leaves which receives the specific name of lu.
The pe'epe'e is also heated by adding hot stones to it while in the bowl. One stone is sufficient to bring out the slightly burned smell and flavor so much appreciated. In page 129Savaii and Upolu it is usual to place a hot stone on the grated nut (susunu ai penu) and express the liquid after. This is the stage used for the talo leaf preparation (palu sami).
4. Curdled pe'epe'e (vaisu) goes a step farther than the above. Hot stones are placed in a bowl containing pe'epe'e until it curdles. It may now be cooked with fish to flavor them. Note that fai'ai is curdled by the heat of the oven during cooking, whereas vaisu is curdled before the package is placed in the oven. 5. What is termed niu tolo carries on from the vaisu preparation. Hot stones are added until an oil separates from a brownish cooked precipitate. The sweet precipitate (tae i'a) is usually eaten by the cooks, while the oil (siu tolo) is used with the talo preparation known as fa'ausi. 6. A preparation (vaisalo) is usually made for sick people, but not necessarily confined to them. A nut, not too mature, is opened at the muli end and the fluid poured into a bowl. The circle of removed shell (ai sali) may be used instead of the fingers to scrape out the meat into the bowl. The meat is rubbed small (vavau) with alava strips and the liquid wrung out into the bowl. When nothing but liquid is in the bowl hot stones are added until it is cooked and forms vaisalo. A tolo stirrer is used while the cooking is proceeding. In some preparations, the small particles of coconut meat are allowed to remain with the fluid. 7. An evil-smelling, but palatable preparation (sami lolo) is usually a by-product obtained while preparing coconut shell water bottles. A large mature nut is pierced through the mata hole, and the liquid poured out. The shell is filled with sea water (sami), corked with a folded strip of dry banana leaf, and left for a fortnight. The water is then poured off, and the meat, which has become soft, is shaken out. When this is cooked with talo leaves in a package it is known as sami lolo.
The talo (Colocasia antiquorum) is the staple vegetable food of Samoa. It takes easy precedence over the breadfruit, yam, and sweet potato. Its ceremonial status is high in that it forms the correct vegetable to serve to high chiefs. The talo preparation of fa'ausi is also made the most of in serving before guests. The leaves provide the only green vegetable used. The large ta'amu species is sliced to remove the skin, and never scraped. Slicing removes the astringent and irritating properties more effectively.
1. Talo tao. The talo scraped with an 'asi scraper, cooked (tao) in an oven without any individual leaf wrappings, is the general form of cooking. 2.
Talo fa'ataisi. The scraped talo is divided longitudinally into two or three parts according to the size of the talo. Ti leaves are used as wrapping to form a package (taisi). The division into smaller pieces ensures their being cooked through the wrapping. When cooked, the talo is cleaner and whiter in appearance than the ordinary talo tao.
Fai'ai talo. Coconut cream is wrapped up with the talo in the leaf package, in which it curdles and thus forms fai'ai talo. Two preparations are distinguished according as the talo is ungrated or grated.
3. Loloi. The loloi is talo fa'ataisi (2) to which coconut cream is added before cooking. An alternative name to loloi is fa'alifo talo. 4. Fai'ai valuvalu. The uncooked talo is grated (vavalu) on a slab of coral (lapa) and then wrapped up in a leaf package with coconut cream. Owing to the softer nature of the grated talo, the package is flatter and smaller than a taisi package. This form of package is called fa'apapā. 5. Fa'ausi talo. Grated uncooked talo sufficiently moist without the addition of water, is made up into flat cakes and wrapped up in leaves to form fa'apapa packages. Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 151) states that the leaves of the laumapāpā fern (Asplenium nidus) are also used as wrapping. Coconut cream is not added to the packages before cooking. When cooked, the flat cakes are cut up into fair-sized cubes and put in a wooden bowl with the oily preparation of coconut cream known as niu tolo. It is served with some of the oil. The importance with which fa'ausi talo is regarded is dealt with under ceremonial page 130observances. Two forms of the preparation are recognized: fa'ausi malaulau, when the fa'ausi is made hot or immediately after the grated talo cakes are cooked; fa'ausi fua fulu, when the cubes are cut from cold cakes cooked overnight. 6. Taufolo talo. This preparation was not mentioned to me but was described in details by Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 151). The cooked talo is peeled and mashed with the butt end of a piece of coconut leaf midrib ('ulu o le lapalapa). It is served with coconut cream.
Leaves. The leaves used are those near the growing center which being folded in, are termed moemoe. The older, fully opened leaves do not soften into a pulp, but remain tough, and have an irritating astringent effect on the mouth and throat. Four methods of cooking the leaves (lu'au) and one of the leaf stalks (fa) are in vogue. Pratt (23, p. 62) gives ulu'fau as a synonym of lu'au. Here ulu means the end away from the 'au or stalk and lu'au is evidently a contraction.
The wrapping for talo leaf preparations is banana leaf which, by being heated over hot stones, is toughened and forms an impervious cover through which the liquid coconut cream can not soak.
Smaller packages of talo leaf come under the general term, 'ofu. The neat manner in which the leaves are prepared is described by Handy (14, p. 20).
From the neat pile of talo leaves one leaf is selected and placed face downwards on the palm of the left hand. While the right hand fingers pinch off the tip of the leaf, the left breaks the midrib about an inch above the stem. Thereupon the right hand pinches out the butt end of the midrib from this break to the end of the stem and throws it away. The two lower lobes of the leaf are now torn off and the three sections resulting are placed on the pile ready for filling with coconut milk.
The assembling of the package takes place in the cooking house when the oven stones are heated. The wooden bowl containing the prepared coconut cream is brought in and a hot stone is dropped into the liquid to bring out the odor and taste. In the Savaii method, this is done by dropping a hot stone into the grated nut before wringing and straining. Five or six pieces of talo leaf are laid on the palm of the cupped left hand which raises the edges of the leaves to form a receptacle for the coconut cream. A sufficient quantity of cream is dipped up with a half coconut shell and poured into the leaf hollow. The sides of the leaves and then the ends are neatly folded over so as to enclose the liquid. An assistant who has warmed a section of green banana leaf on the hot stones (lalangi lau fa'i) hands it over. Upon the side of the leaf section, the natural concavity of which is increased by the heat, the leaf package is laid. The sides and then the ends of the banana leaf wrapper are folded over the talo leaves, and the augmented package laid on the upper surface of a green breadfruit leaf. The sides of the leaf are folded over so as to overlap, the tip end of the leaf is folded in to the middle, and lastly the stalk end turned forward over the tip. The leaf stalk is pinned through the tip end by passing down through the leaf on one side of its midrib and page 131up through on the other. The 'ofu package is thus neatly and deftly folded and securely fastened.
When the food is placed on the prepared oven, the talo leaf packages are placed round the circumference. They require less heat to cook and must not have fish or flesh placed above them lest the distinctive flavor of the vegetable be affected.
On cooking, the talo leaf pulps into a soft mass mixed with the coconut cream. In serving, attendants remove the outer breadfruit leaf covering but the banana leaf is left as a receptacle which the guest opens out himself.
1. Potoa. The lu'au leaves are cooked without any coconut cream. They are folded in a package and may be covered merely with a large piece of talo leaf, as the impervious banana leaf is unnecessary where no liquid is used. 2. Lu. A larger package than usual is formed of lu'au, coconut cream as treated above, and banana and breadfruit leaf covers. Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 147) gives the name of fa'afatupa'o for this preparation. 3. Palu sami. This favorite preparation is made exactly like lu but in smaller packages while sea water is added to the prepared coconut cream to give it a salty taste. The sea water may be added to the grated nut before the cream is expressed. A metaphorical name is 'oto ma le sau (plucked with the dew) inferring that the leaves were plucked while the dew was on them. 4. Lu'au fui. Coconut cream is not used but a little sea water is poured into the cupped lu'au before wrapping with the two leaves. 5. Fa. The stalks (fa) of the talo leaves are peeled and wrapped in a package without the addition of coconut cream or sea water. The preparation may be made more palatable for sick people by adding coconut cream with sea water, which Kramer's informant referred to as sua palusami.
No meal is complete without a preparation of talo leaf. Of these, palu sami, is easily the most in demand. In recent times salt is often added to the talo leaves in place of sea water. The use of sea water dates from a period when other forms of salt could not be procured. The lu, with coconut cream alone, is used more in inland villages where sea water is not available.
In Manua, the pinching off of the tips of the talo leaves is said to commemorate a historical incident that ocurred between Tangaloa and Pava in a kava-drinking ceremony. (See p. 153.)
The breadfruit ('ulu, Artocarpus incisa). The breadfruit stands next in importance as a food to talo. The name 'ulu, with dialectical letter changes as 'uru, kuru, is found throughout Polynesia. It occurs in Maori traditional history as kuru and formed one of the causes of strife in the Society group before the Maori left for New Zealand. The tree is grown round the villages and in the plantations. The fruit is picked with a long pole picker. The Samoans do not care for the ripe or over mature fruit. When so eaten, it is from force of circumstances and not preference. The outer rind is scraped off with an 'asi scraper before cooking. Medium sized fruit is cooked whole, but large ones are split in two or in thirds with a characteristic wooden splitter (to'i pua). Of the food preparations, taufolo ranks high. In abun-page 132dant seasons, the surplus supply is stored in pits, more as a means of preventing waste than any particular liking for the fermented food (masi). It is then used in times of scarcity or while working in the plantations where the pits are made.
The leaves are used as oven covers, outer wrappings for 'ofu packages, and as platters upon which food is served. As platters, the ma'opo non-pinnate variety is used.
1. 'Ulu tao. The scraped fruit cooked without wrappings in the earth oven is the common mode of preparation. 2. 'Ulu tunu. The scraped fruit may be cooked on the embers of an open fire for one or two people to save preparing the earth oven. It is cooked on the heated stones of an earth oven without cover for the taufolo preparation. Both forms are tunu as opposed to tao. 3. 'Ulu pe'epe'e. When 'ulu tunu is peeled with a fofo'e peeler, it may be eaten with coconut cream. The breadfruit so cooked is usually more mature than those cooked in the oven. 4. Taufolo 'ulu. Though taufolo talo has been mentioned the term taufolo is usually associated with breadfruit. The slightly more mature fruit is cooked on the open heated stones of an earth oven, but no cover of leaves is placed over it. The charred rind is removed with fofo'e peelers and the cooked fruit placed in a wooden bowl. It is mashed with the autu'i pounder made of uncooked breadfruit, and the core (fune) and immature seeds (fatu) flicked out with a piece of wood known as an i'o fatu. See Plate VI, C. When mashed to a consistent mass, coconut cream is added to the bowl and two forms are named: a. taufolo niu, when the coconut cream has been merely heated with a hot stone to bring out the flavor; b. taufolo sami, when a little sea water is added to the coconut cream. The mass is divided up by pinching off smaller pieces with the fingers (fifi) and squeezing or rolling them into balls. The pinching off and rolling is quickly done as the mass is hot. The preparation is served on maopo leaves with some of the coconut cream. The taufolo figures as a food for special occasions. 5.
Masi. The surplus breadfruit that has been fermented in a store pit is termed masi. Pratt (23, p. 193) gives an example of name avoidance in a district where owing to the chief's name being Masi, the fermented breadfruit was called mamala. The pit (lua'i) is lined with coconut leaves and an inner layer of banana or laufao leaves which are called afei. The mature breadfruit, often unscraped, is thrown into the pit. Fruit that is too ripe is not favored even for masi. The large fruit may be split. The pit is then covered to exclude the air. It will keep in the pit for a year or more.
The fermented masi is crumbled with the hands (nguti) and kneaded into cakes in a wooden bowl dry or with a little water. The fune has softened during fermentation, but the hard fatu seeds are picked out. The cakes are cooked in the earth oven with or without leaf wrappings. The latter is termed masi afifi. Besides this plain mode of preparation, there are three others: a. masi palu, when the masi is mixed with coconut cream before cooking in a wrapper of leaves—the cream makes the dish softer (palu); b. masi penu, when the masi is mixed with grated coconut (penu) before cooking; c. masi tao 'ato, when the kneaded masi is cooked in a basket ('ato) to provide quantity. It is hard but keeps for a long time. It forms a useful reserve food to take on journeys. The rations are broken off as required. This masi tao 'ato was also a useful provision on sea voyages.
Tradition of first masi
At Neiafu in Savaii, a small hole in the rocks about 2 feet in diameter and 2 feet deep, is pointed out as the first pit (lua'i masi) used in Samoa. A crippled couple named Ui and Tea had a daughter Sina who was taken to wife by the god, Tangaloa-langi. page 133Owing to her parents not being able to get the breadfruit down from the trees, Sina brought them the tuaoloa (east) and to'elau (N.E. trade) winds to bring down the fruit for them. The two winds failed to bring down sufficient fruit, much to the crippled couple's disgust. In answer to their complaints, Sina sent the boisterous la'i (west) wind which effectively brought down the fruit. The old couple, at last satisfied, gathered the fruit and stored the excess quantity in the hole alluded to, where it became converted into masi.
The to'elau trade wind ushers in the good season in Samoa and brings gladness to all. The old couple, however, were the exception, and complained about the to'elau because it did not serve their immediate single need. Hence the saying: "Na'o Neiafu ua mele ai le to'elau" (only Neiafu despises the trade wind).
The yam. The yam (ufi) though favored as a food, does not enter into the Samoan food complex in the same way as the talo and the breadfruit. It is much scarcer. This is partly due to the greater labor entailed in its cultivation. Its status is high, for one informant coupled it with talo fa'ataisi among the four requisites for a visiting chief's meal. In his list he retained the drinking coconut and the fowl, but left out the pig, and placed the yam before the talo in order of precedence. It is thus evident that the yam ranked high where pigs were scarce. The yam preparations are exactly similar to those of talo except that fa'ausi was confined to talo.
1. Ufi tao. The scraped yam was cooked in the oven, too. Small ones could be cooked whole, but large ones were cut into appropriate sizes to ensure being cooked. 2. Ufi fa'ataisi. The same as with talo. The term taisi ufi is also loosely used. The coconut cream fai'ai is also used in a similar way. 3. Loloi ufi or fa'alifo ufi, where the pe'epe'e is added to the whole or divided ufi and cooked with it. 4. Fai'ai valuvalu ufi, where the pe'epe'e is added to the ufi grated in the same way as talo and then cooked. 5. Sofesofe. This is a variation of the fai'ai preparations. The yam is cut up into smaller pieces and cooked with pe'epe'e. It is thus intermediate between the two preceding preparations. Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 153) terms this preparation loi ufi.
The sweet potato ('umala, Ipomea batatas), important in other parts of Polynesia, has little status in Samoa. Both breadfruit and banana are more important articles of diet. The sweet potato was said to be eaten when there was no other choice. On Olosenga where they were seen growing, they had been planted as a substitute for talo which had failed through a severe storm. They thrived in the sandy soil and were of good flavor. Even then the people apologized for having to use them. The preparations made with talo and yam could be made with 'umala but the impression given was that any such trouble was not justified. Kramer (18, vol. 2, pp. 146-157) in his list of 29 vegetable food preparations does not give a single dish in which the sweet potato was used. It, like the ripe breadfruit, was said to be too sweet. Contrasted with this statement, the sweetness of the ti and the sugar cane is sought after. Sugar is greatly appreciated and even high chiefs will accept a present of a couple of pounds of sugar with alacrity, and not consider it derogatory to their dignity.page 134
The banana (soa'a and fa'i). The banana is divided by the Samoans into two main, groups; the soa'a (plantain) and the fa'i. Ripe bananas are eaten as a fruit. Green bunches are picked and ripened more quickly by dipping them in sea water before hanging them up or by putting them in a pit. The process of ripening in a pit is termed fa'aotanga and the oblong shallow pit, lua'i fa'aotanga, or luai fa'avevela. The pit is lined with dry banana leaves, and the bunches covered with more leaves. Sometimes a couple of pieces of dry coconut husk are lighted and left in with the bananas. Some cross pieces may be placed over the hole, and coconut leaves and earth complete the covering. Ripe fruit is also made into a thin gruel (poi) and surplus stock into masi fa'i.
As a food, however, bananas are highly esteemed as a cooking vegetable to eat with flesh foods. The best kinds are the fa'i pata and the recently introduced fa'i papalangi (Cavendish).
1. Fa'i tunu. The unripe unpeeled fruit is cooked on the open embers of a fire generally in the cultivations to avoid the trouble of making an umu. 2. Fa'i taopa'ua. The unripe, unpeeled fruit is cooked in the oven on a layer of leaves to prevent scorching. 3. Fa'i tao malaulau or tao fofo'e. The unripe bananas are peeled with the fofo'e peeler before cooking in the oven. They are sometimes thrown into a bowl of sea water as they are peeled. This is the commonest form of cooking. The cooked bananas are somewhat hard, but the Samoans are very fond of them. 4. Fa'i oloolo. The peeled unripe bananas are grated (oloolo), wrapped in banana leaf in flat packages (fa'apapa), and cooked in the oven. Coconut cream may be cooked with it. Formerly the bananas were grated on lapa coral but now perforated tin is used. 5. Sua fa'i. Thin slices with a little water are wrapped in warmed banana leaf and cooked in the oven principally for sick people and invalids. The iron pot is now used. 6. Loi fa'i. This is a fai'ai preparation, the peeled unripe bananas being wrapped in banana leaf with coconut cream and cooked. 7. Sai fa'i. Ripe bananas are peeled and dried in the sun. They are then wrapped in dry banana leaf (sului) and bound (saisai) closely round and round as in the modern preparation of native tobacco. The bundle of preserved banana is called a sai fa'i. 8. M asi fa'i. The masi is made of peeled ripe bananas stored in a pit in the same way as breadfruit masi. As with breadfruit, it is only done when the crop is so abundant that it can not otherwise be disposed of. The banana masi I tasted in Olosenga was cooked in flat leaf packages in an umu by a working party on a cultivation. Though somewhat tough, it had a pleasant taste, and the odor was not too pronounced. It is admitted that banana masi is probably modern and has not an ancient origin like breadfruit masi. 9.
Poi. Ripe bananas are peeled and placed in a wooden bowl with water. The fruit is mashed with the knuckles (tu'itu'i), squeezed between the palms ('o'omi) and between the fingers (lomi) to produce a thick gruel to which coconut cream and the juice of a lime (tipolo) are added. Before the introduction of limes, the leaves of the moengalo shrub were used for flavoring.
The poi is prepared publicly at the back of the house like kav'a by a garlanded girl or youth sitting behind the bowl while assistants peel the bananas and drop them into the bowl. The poi is served in half coconut shells from the discards of grating coconut cream. Each person gets an individual cup without set order of precedence or official calling of names. The attendant starts at one end and works around in the order in which the chiefs are sitting. Usually two or more young men serve as quickly as page 135possible, and fill other shells with which to replenish the empty vessels. Serving goes on until the bowl is empty. The poi often takes the place of an ordinary brew of kava, but never in proper ceremonial. To show attention to a guest, a chief will often bring in a ripe bunch of bananas to be made into poi which he waits to share as a further sign of attention.
Plantains (soa'a) are preferred to bananas for cooking, but they are not so plentiful. They may be grilled (tunu) or cooked in the oven (tao). They are used at a riper stage than bananas and always with the skin left on. Cooked ripe soa'a are held to be good for children.
Plantains cooked with coconut cream in a package are termed loloi. The grated form of oloolo is made as with bananas. A fa'ausi of plantain is also made by serving the cooked grated fruit in the oily coconut preparation tolo niu as in talo fa'ausi.
Arrowroot (masoa, Tacca pinnatifida) is cultivated, the roots grated on a sennit grater, washed, and decanted in special large bowls called tanoa masoa. The prepared material is cooked in three ways.
1. Fai'ai vatia. The arrowroot is mixed with coconut cream in a bowl, made up in packages in banana leaf and cooked in the oven. 2. Piasua. The arrowroot is mixed with water in a bowl and heated stones dropped in. It is stirred and coconut cream added. When cooked, the mass is clear and gelatinous. It is cut up into smaller pieces with a strip of alava from the back of the coconut leaf midrib. It may be served with coconut cream. 3. Vaisalo. To the vaisalo preparation (see p. 129) arrowroot may be added by crumbling it in as the heated vaisalo is stirred. The mixture, although referred to as vaisalo, is really a mixture of vaisalo and piasua.
Turmeric (malasina). In the preparation of turmeric from the roots of the ango (Cucuma longa) a stage is reached where the lighter lenga to form the yellow dye is separated from the, heavier part known as malasina, which is used as a food and is prepared in two ways: 1, fai'ai malasina, when the malasina is mixed with coconut cream, wrapped in warmed banana leaf, and cooked in the oven; 2, when heated stones are dropped into a bowl containing the malasina. The malasina is stirred and it thickens as it is cooked. No special name was obtained for this preparation.
Papaia (esi, Carica papaya). The papaia is eaten as a fruit but is not greatly in favor. The fact that it is appreciated by foreigners is well known. Thus during the Bishop Museum expedition in Tutuila papaia were frequently brought during the ceremonial presentation of food by women. Two forms of cooking are noted:
1. Fai'ai esi. The peeled papaia is cut into quarters, wrapped up in banana leaf with coconut cream and cooked in the oven. 2. Sua esi. Thin slices of papaia with water were wrapped in banana leaf and cooked in the oven. As in the case of banana sua fa'i, a pot is now generally used. The food is for invalids, and coconut cream may be served with it. This form is described by Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 151).
Seaweed (limu). Seaweed is eaten raw. It is also cooked for invalids and old people. In fai'ai limu, the seaweed is washed with fresh water in a wooden bowl. It is then wrapped in banana leaf with coconut cream and cooked in the oven. It forms about the only alternative to cooked talo leaves.
The ti (Cordyline terminalis). The underground stem of the ti, especially the ti manu ali'i and ti vai, were cooked for the saccharine material contained therein.
In making umu ti a very large oven (umu ti) is prepared communally by the village (nu'u). The families dig up the stems and bring them in baskets to the common oven. The oven is dug out to about 10 feet in diameter. Larger stones than usual are heated on a fire made of logs. The leveling of the stones takes some trouble. Six or more men dressed in ti leaf kilts and wreaths do the work with long poles (sosofa). Sometimes a heavy log tied with ropes is dragged from side to side. The levelled stones are covered with the leafy heads of the ti. The underground stems, still in baskets, are placed in the oven in the parts assigned to the different families. They are next covered over with more leaves and buried with earth. The oven is left covered for a week or even longer. When it is opened, the families take their own baskets. The outer bark is removed. The cooked ti can be chewed direct. From its fibrous nature and sweet taste, it somewhat resembles sugar cane. No ceremonial detail was obtained, although it existed in the past.
A preparation (otai) is made by using the liquid from a green coconut, the grated penu of a mature nut, and cut up pieces of cooked ti.
Sugarcane (tolo). Sugar cane was primarily grown for thatch, but now some kinds are grown for their saccharine properties. Lengths of thick cane are often brought in with the food for visitors. The outer skin is peeled off and the cane chewed.
The candlenut (lama, Aleurites molucanna). Though used for lighting and to obtain carbon, candlenut does not seem to have been used as a relish, as it is in Hawaii.