22.11.2012 30 °C
When it comes to authentic Fijian food there’s probably nothing better than a traditional Lovo meal. The ingredients vary and it’s more the particular way of preparing the meal that gives it its name. The fish or meat and vegetables like cassava are wrapped in palm leafs and then placed for about an hour under hot stones that were being heated up by a fire over several hours. We experienced one of these traditional meals while being at Matava on Kadavu and it was a several hours’ affair. Everybody who wasn’t up in the trees by three had to help with the preparation and was being recruited by Maggie, the quasi “operations manager” and maître ‘d; the perfect job for him (btw – Maggie is a male but he could have a real shot at being a dancer in one of Bangkok’s ladyboy shows:-).
(Anna and Massi decorating the main bure for the Lovo meal)
Some would peel cassavas, some would decorate the main bure with coconut leaves wrapped around the poles and prettied up with flowers and some would cut and grate the coconuts; and without bragging I have to say that I have a natural talent for it and actually applied for a job as chief coconut-grater at Matava. We are currently negotiating my salary.
('Maggie' showing us how to grate coconuts the traditional way)
(Sala, one of the cooks)
(Maggie with the catch of the day - doesn't get much fresher)
(Elmar grating the coconut - Gangnam style)
(Our friend Lee cleaning Kava roots)
(Preparing fish and chicken for the Lovo 'oven')
Another, most important activity that was going on during this time was the preparation of the Kava bowl. Kava is the national drink of Fiji and it is made out of roots of a tree that looks like the trees that grow in mangroves. The roots are dried, crushed in a pipe with a stick before the powder is mixed with water. The resulting concoction looks like mud water and tastes only slightly better – in fact some have compared it to the taste of old hiking socks being soaked in dishwashing water. I wouldn’t go that far and have to say that I quite enjoyed drinking it. However, in order to feel the full effect of Kava you seem to have to drink copious amounts of it over several hours. But for beginners like us, the immediate effect is that your mouth, including lips and tongue go numb as if you were drinking Novocain. Anyway, everywhere in the villages in Fiji and especially on Kadavu, which specializes in the growing and exporting of Kava, you are offered Kava. But keep in mind, if you should accept one of these invitations it’s going to be an hour-long affair. This is not a quick shot that you gulp down; it’s a drink that’s much more a social event than a quick fix. Actually, alcohol is prohibited in all villages on Kadavu and many villages across Fiji; it seems to have caused social issues like domestic violence and Kava is much more soothing and relaxing – it definitely doesn’t make you aggressive but rather very sedate to the point that some villages face the problem of low birth rates due to too many “sedated” males who are either unwilling or unable to perform their duties as husbands sufficiently.
(Billboard at the airport - it is indeed the national drink)
(George and Maggie with the Kava bowl)
(Anna posing with Te, our dive master after having a few cups of Kava)
Anyway, the Lovo meal at Matava was a wonderful social and culinary event and although I would rate the food itself good but not great the event was very memorable and a wonderful farewell dinner before we left Matava.
(The Lovo meal - ready to dig in)
The morning after our Lovo meal we actually had to leave Matava and it was very emotional. Every staff present, all remaining guests, and Richard, the owner, were standing at the little boat jetty when we left on the small diving boat to the Kadavu airport and everybody was waiving until we couldn’t see them anymore – it felt like we left our temporary family that we lived with for the past 7 days.