Melanesian pit barbeque
Brothers uncover the pit barbeque in Alex and Lynn Leger's Topsham back
Devon June 18, 2005 It was all of five years since the Solomon
Islands monks of the Melanesian Brotherhood had last been over to Devon.
We first met them on that occasion at Alex and Lynn Leger's house over
a magnificent evening of food and music.
The next day they sang and danced in Exeter Cathedral, a most remarkable
and moving occasion.
the intervening period, there has been civil unrest and turmoil in that
far off and seeingly idyllic archipelago of South Pacific islands. There
has been violent conflict and the Brothers have suffered some terrible
losses including the lives of seven of their members. Their important
role in working towards peace and reconciliation was acknowledged when
they were awarded the United Nations Pacific Peace Prize.
was always hoped that the Brothers would return again to Devon, and
now they are back for the summer. They have already spent six weeks
in the north of England where Willy, Bishop of Melanesia, together with
his wife Kate and family, live in Gawsworth, near Macclesfield. Now
they are back down in Devon, for Bishop Michael, Bishop of Exeter, also
has strong links with the islands. He and his wife Esther and daughter
Catherine have spent time in the Islands and have been instrumental
this time in bringing the Brothers over to England again. During their
time here, they have a busy programme of visits where they will perform
their unique drama, song and dance, with music on their beautiful bamboo
pan pipes. A highlight is the 'Passion of our Lord', drawn directly
from their own experiences of conflict and 'a moving testimonial of
hope and courage in the face of violence and death'. If you can possibly
get a chance to see them, then I urge you not to miss it!
the past years, Alex and I have spoken a number of times about trying
to recreate a Melanesian pit barbeque in which to cook a pig Solomon
Islands-style the next time the Brothers come over. Alex being Alex,
this time around he made sure that our excited talk became reality.
who is a BBC television producer who has worked on the children's programme
Peter for just about forever, has connections with the Solomon
Islands that go back to when he was a very young man doing VSO service
teaching in a school in Alanguala in the British Solomon Islands Protectorate.
There he met Willy Pwaisiho, himself a tribal chief and now Bishop of
Melanesia. The friendship was rekindled when Bishop Willy and his family
came to England in 1999 thus rebuilding a connection and friendships
that spanned nearly forty years and halfway around the globe.
then, to cook a pig Solomon Islands style? Normally it would be a case
of "first catch your pig" for the porkers of Melanesia are
apparently small but tasty wild beasts that are hunted by the islanders.
In our case, however, Alex arranged for an organic pig from the outstanding
nearby Kenniford Farm (Clyst St Mary tel 01392 875938). So we picked
up the pig on Saturday morning and hoiked it back to Alex's garden in
the back of his camper van. There, on a wooden trestle table in the
open air, the Brothers, assisted by Bishop Willy and his son Hornold,
expertly butchered the beast.
and Brothers butcher the pig
the way it's done in the Solomon Islands is to cut up the pig into small
pieces and to wrap each piece of meat in banana leaves. I managed to
hunt down some leaves from an Asian wholesale grocer on Marsh Barton,
but they had been frozen, and the Brothers did not really think too
much of them. So instead they preferred to wrap the pieces in aluminium
foil, seasoning them first simply with, wait for it, a little Coca Cola
and a dash of soy sauce! Over a hundred little parcels were prepared
in this manner.
the Sisters prepare the pit
imagined a fairly deep pit would be required, but in fact a fairly shallow
trough in the ground was deemed sufficient for the task. Alex had been
collecting large smooth pebbles from various sources over the past months.
Of course it is illegal to gather the pebbles from nearby Budleigh
Salterton beach; in fact, a deep pebblebed ridge extends up the
Otter Valley, a unique geological feature. It is on this pebblebed ridge
has planted his vineyard. These large, smooth stones were perfect
for lining the pit oven.
vegetables for Kate's Solomon Islands soup
Kate, Bishop Willy's wife, was making Solomon
Islands soup again, a deliciously tasty soup made with coconut milk,
sweet potatoes, yams and taro, the gooey, sticky root vegetable that
is such a characteristic flavour of the South Seas.
all the parcels of meat had been wrapped in foil, a large wood fire
was made over the layers of stones. This was allowed to burn for upwards
of a couple of hours. Then the ashes were brushed away, a layer of hot
stones was pushed aside, and a layer of chicken wire mesh was laid over
the hot stones. Then the parcels of pork as well as parcels of taro
were laid on top of this; individual stones were carefully placed in
between the parcels, then another layer of chicken wire, then a deep
layer of hot stones. The banana leaves were then placed on top of the
stones along with damp sacks of hessian.
ready to eat!
meat was left to cook for about three hours. When it was deemed ready
and time to eat, the pit was uncovered and the Brothers leapt into the
hot stones and tossed them aside with their bare hands. These stones
were still mighty hot, I can tell you, as I tried to pick one up myself!
foil wrapped parcels were tossed into a foil-lined wheelbarrow, and
everyone simply helped themselves, after first enjoying a bowl of Kate's
delicious soup. What a simple feast it was! The meat was cooked perfectly
- absolutely moist, even gooey, steamed slowly in its own juices. We
consider Kenniford's organic freerange pork to be the best there is:
cooked in such a simple, primitive fashion, it was simply sensational.
Brothers and Sisters entertain us with their beautiful music
night was incredibly warm - the first hot night of summer! - and we
all luxuriated in the sunshine, eating, drinking and meeting new friends
from across the globe. For many of the Brothers, it was their first
time outside of the Solomon Islands and they were greatly enjoying the
experience (though not the rain and cold of the earlier weeks!). This
evening of sun, and food cooked the way they know and love, was, we
sensed, as special for them as it was for all of us.
they entertained us with their very special music, played on pan pipes,
and with their extraordinarily vibrant dancing and singing. We in return,
sang to them, a mixture of traditional English folk songs, while musician
Joel Segal played the fiddle, and, later in the evening, Kevin Fitzpatrick
was truly a magical, extraordinary evening, demonstrating again that
distances across the world, and over the years and decades need really
not be that far or unbridgeable after all. Thank you again, Alex and
Lynn, for a very special evening!