I feed people.
I make loaves of bread as thank yous, I cook meals for single-handers about to depart on passages, I make jars of jam and can’t resist giving half of them away. I have even been known to buy baguettes at market at 5am and slip them into peoples cockpits as a wake up surprise. So much of how I experience the places we travel to is through food. Cooking and eating and sharing food is important to me.
Preparing a three or four course meal for 4, 6 or 8 people, I get excited about. Cooking for one does not delight me. In fact when I am alone on the boat I have been know to slide into bachelor habits; eating out of the pot, standing at the sink, not bothering to heat things up. Once in a while I remind myself how much I enjoy sitting down and eating a proper hot meal and I make the effort. Last night was one of those times.
And as I was standing over the stove, preparing more of the meat from the freezer and cooking enough for two, I decided that there was no need to eat left overs for a week or to eat alone. I invited a local to join me for dinner.
Wati is on a boat that is behind us. He, along with a half a dozen other men from his village have been working for the last week and a half on the Marara Nassau, their inter-island freighter cum ferry cum fishing boat. They live in the Yasawa’s and come to the main land once a week to participate in the Lautoka town market, buying supplies for the coming days and selling some handicrafts and local goods. Their boat needed some maintenance and so here they are up on the hard at Vuda Point Marina, just like the rest of us visiting yachts. Come the end of the day all but Wati go home to the houses of friends or relatives in the area. He sits the in the dark under a tarp and minds the boat.
Over the last week the men have been very friendly, saying hello and good morning, coming over to check out my sewing machine when I was working outside making sunshades out of our old main sail, occasional asking to borrow tools. They’ve offered to share their lunch with me twice but I had already prepared something for myself so had to declined. They have been polite and cheery and not all giving off any weird vibes.
At first I thought I would just take a bowl of food over to Wati, doing a good deed without having to worry about all the other things. I am after all a woman here alone, and that by itself can sometimes cause problems. But that’s not what it was about. I didn’t just want to give food to someone, I wanted to share a meal with someone. So I swept all that BS from society aside, it is the 21st century after all and if I was a man wouldn’t even have to think twice about all that stuff, and walked over to extend the offer for dinner. Wati accepted.
I picked neutral territory of the lawn; it was a nice night and the bar across the channel had a live band playing. Since it is customary to sit on the ground here anyway, and this is where we have all been eating lunch in the shade this week it was a logical choice. There was a catamaran close by and the people on board were sitting in the cockpit also enjoying dinner. I had a safety net, not that I felt like I need one. When dinner was ready I served it in a bowl. We sat together on the grass in the moon light and ate and had lovely conversation.
We talked about fishing. He told me how on a full moon and a low tide it is good to catch lobsters on the reef. We compared squid catching techniques and he explained how they make spears out of old bits of aluminum and bamboo. I asked about his family, we talked about Canadian winters. When asked he described a typical wedding ceremony in his village. I learned a few new Fijian words. And, of course, we voiced our opinions about the upcoming Tonga vs. Fiji rugby match.
And when dinner was done and the tea and chocolate finished we said goodnight. Wati thanked me, not just for the food but for the invitation to share a meal together, for my thoughtfulness.
As I stood at the sink doing the dishes from my impromptu dinner party my belly was full and my heart was content. Food not only nourishes me, it feeds my soul. And sharing that with people is sweeter than any dessert I ever tasted.