When starting out cruising, one of the first things you worry about is food. You always try to stock up on everything and there’s a balance between wanting to try new food and not wanting to go hungry. Everyone always tells you, “eat what the locals eat and you won’t have to worry about it.”
I’m here to dispute that thought process. I’m going way against the cruising grain here, but in our case, I think I’m right. “Eat what the locals eat” is easy to say and follow in Mexico. I mean really, who doesn’t love Mexican food? Fish tacos, enchiladas, home made pico de gallo (although that’s a lot harder to find than you would think). But who thinks about going out to dinner and says, “Honey, lets have some Micronesian food tonight!” No one. Do you know why? Because canned corn beef, potato chips and mechanically separated turkey doesn’t sound good does it? I know, I know…”they eat fish and rice and breadfruit and taro and oh, Monica, you just haven’t gotten into the culture!” Wrong again. They USED to eat that stuff and on the outer islands, you MAY find a few that still do, but I assure you, canned corn beef IS local food and has been for the last 2,000 miles of our adventure. I saw a 1 year old kid at the laundry mat and in the few hours is took me to finish my laundry, I saw this kid drink 2 full size sodas and eat a rice crispy treat, bag of chips and a lolly pop. No joke. This area of the world has the largest diabetic population known and I am not shocked in the least.
Why am I writing about this now? Well, I just spent a few months in California (5 months total in the States) and I am having some serious vegetable withdrawls. To make matters worse, my parents are vegetarians so I ate an abnormal amount of veggies for me and well, my body liked it. Here, in Pohnpei, it’s feast or famine. “Feast” means a ship just came in….from the US. Meaning it stopped in HI, Majuro, Kosrae and then here. By the time it got here, the broccoli is growing extra things and the red peppers have fur on their caps. “What about local produce Monica?”….I can hear you asking that. Well, yes…there are bananas and coconuts. There are cucumbers (by the way, that’s the highlight of Pohnpei for me….cucumbers…I love them and they are always around). You can get fish but more often than not, it’s very small reef fish that you just took pictures of on your last snorkeling trip. I have bought local lettuce (available once), eggplant (I’m just making myself like eggplant) and tonight, I bought green beans (I happen to be the only one on board who likes these). The fact is, they don’t eat veggies. They just don’t. Kosrae had local gardens. Pohnpei has these, but they are REALLY hard to find.
OK…I got off track. “Famine” means just that. Today we went to a restaurant and the choice with my chicken sandwich was fries or green salad. I ordered green salad. “We don’t have salad.” I asked the grocery store when they were expecting the next container of veggies. She screwed her face up really funny and said “ooooooo….November 2!” It’s October 16. But even that varies. You can ask 10 different people and get 10 different answers. But today…the entire island is out of veggies. We drove around the island today and I looked in every small roadside stand and all I saw was beetle nut (think ‘skoal” and cigarette butts and rotten teeth) and donuts.
After all that ranting, though…..we were on our way back to the boat tonight and we ran into a local ex-pat who had been fishing on his kayak all day and he gave us a tiny little barracuda. Andy cooked it up and I cut up some cold cucumbers and blanched green beans (with dip) and we feasted on a relatively healthy dinner. It’s all in your perspective, I guess. We have some friends here who are Seventh Day Adventists, traditionally vegetarian. I’m dying to know what they’re eating. Canned corn and spinach, I’m guessing.
Food is always going to be one of the ways we rate our adventures. For those of you that share our love for cuisine (and cruising), just think about that, while you prepare for your next major crossing or adventure. “Eat what the locals eat,” sounds good, but isn’t always the best plan of attack. Unless you don’t mind carrying an extra supply of insulin and cholesterol pills on board with you… I’m just sayin’…..