Anyone who knows me, knows I’m pretty food obsessed…although there is still much to learn and experience, my first impressions here are centered around things to eat. A culinary introduction to the Marquesas is all about the fruit and baguettes.
I wondered how hard it would be to break my tortilla habit from Mexico, but am happy to report it is a seamless affair thanks to the spectacular baguettes. It seems each town has a bakery turning out fresh, meter-long loaves every morning (thank you, French colonialists!). We’ve even had rich, buttery brioche and I saw pain au chocolate listed on an empty shelf. The baguettes are subsidized and about $0.50 each, making them one of the most (only?) affordable foodstuff in the markets.
Here on Totem we have quickly developed a three-baguette-per-day habit. Here’s how it works. After purchasing, we make lunch with the possibly still warm first loaf…smear it with brie or turn it into a sandwich with some salami. Dinner: it’s perfect sliced alongside whatever we’re having, but sometimes, just having the baguette with bruschetta is enough! Following morning, the slightly stale loaf is now ideal to toast and serve with butter and jam for breakfast. See? EASY. Really, though, you need four per day because much like tortillas are best eaten warm on the way home from the tortilleria, baguettes are best torn directly from the loaf while walking back the boulangerie.
Niall has already requested baguette french toast for breakfast on his birthday next week, and Mairen insisted on baguette pizzas for her birthday lunch earlier this week. Siobhan on the other hand wants ramen with sushi on *her* birthday (the 9th), but then again, she’s always been an individualist.
The fruit is outrageously good. It’s almost impossible to go for a walk without seeing trees hung with mangoes, bananas or pamplemousse*, or the papayas clustered at the top of those funny Dr Seuss-like sticks that produce them. These, and the breadfruit* trees hung with huge green globes of poky-looking fruit, belie the drought. Ironically, these are all are so commonly available to people in their backyards that it’s difficult to actually find them for sale. Why would you purchase something you can get for free? We can’t just go picking, though: every tree belongs to someone. On the other hand, I have yet to hear of anyone being refused when they asked if they could pick from a particular tree.
The fruit is often given to us poor landless cruisers as gifts: a bag of papayas and manoges was given to our friends when they rented a car by the agency manager. The lady in Atuona who sold fruit and vegetables has a special stick to offer so you can grab your own pamplemousse from the tree behind her. I’m useless at French, but am pretty sure the translation was “help yourself!”
Note to self: must continue to work on eating more fruit than baguettes…
* for the uniniated:
Pamplemousse is a lot like grapefruit, but with a much (MUCH) thicker rind. You might know it as a pomelo. Breadfruit is actually a very starchy “fruit” that’s eated cooked, not raw… think: potatoes.