Two years ago I joined the Peace Corps. I had no idea what was in store for my life. Third world living, new languages, weather and of course food. By no accident I was placed in a small city to which, in my humble opinion, has the best market in all of Fiji, and of course I’ve been to all 8 markets that exist on the 2 main islands. The Lautoka market has become a haven, a classroom and a social outlet. The breadth of my knowledge has expanded in incalculable ways. I have not only discovered new foods and how to prepare them but I have discovered how wonderful it is to forge relationships with people whose lives are also centered around food.
I have become acutely aware of what “eating seasonal” means. One automatically becomes so in touch with changing weather patterns; in the U.S. we lose this relationship because you can get a banana in Cleveland from Ecuador in January. In Fiji, if it’s not the season for bananas you are not eating bananas. What a blessing this is. Sure you can buy imported apples and broccoli from a few select stores, but you are going to pay handsomely and the quality is inferior.
I’m indebted to those that became my “market family”. The people I saw on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. When I was gone for a few weeks they would actually notice I was gone. When they found out I was single they would try to get me to marry their son (I was propositioned for an arranged marriage to an Indian woman’s son…it was mortifying as you can imagine). When I was sick, they could see it in my face. They have provided me with priceless education and friendship. My Peace Corps service is ending in a few short days and I will miss these people dearly.
Sunjay & family: I would sit down with them every week to talk about life while drinking a coconut water and eating pineapple.
Apple lady: The first person who continuously spoke Hindi with me & helped me push through my struggle. She would speak with me in Hindi in front of other people and brag about me as if I were her own daughter : )
Coconut cutter: There will be a gaping hole in my heart the size of a young coconut when I leave Fiji. Coconuts are one thing I will miss most.
Seaweed lady: My guru for all traditional Fijian foods. She is brilliant. I will miss her sass and knowledge.
No recipe this time as I am crazy busy packing and going to farewell dinners!! Cheers!