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Several times a year our tribal friends call a feast. Sometimes it is because of a big harvest, sometimes it is to work on a garden, sometimes it for a marriage agreement, or sometimes it is for repaying a debt. But the Christmas feast is probably the most grand. For a feast, the tribal men go into the jungle and hunt for tree kangaroos and cuscus.
Each group usually comes back with 10 or 12 of these marsupials. They may also butcher a pig for the feast. Sometimes they will cook several pigs. Along with the meat, everyone contributes greens, sweet potatoes, corn, and squash. They have a very interesting way of cooking that feeds a lot of people. First they dig a pit that is three or four feet deep and about six feet in diameter. Then leaves,—long skinny ones—are placed inside the pit with their ends flopping out of the pit.
Meanwhile, they make a roaring fire and place rocks on the fire. These rocks become extremely hot and some even explode, making a big popping sound. Once the rocks are hot, they use wooden prongs to grab the rocks, and women wrap them in banana leaves and place them in the pit. They layer the rocks and food until the pit is full, then they cover the top of the pit with the ends of the first leaves that were sticking out of the pit. They place rocks on top so the pit is sealed and steaming. All those hot rocks cook the food. This method makes all the food moist and soft. While the food cooks in the pit, they roast corn on the fire that was used to heat the rocks. This is eaten as an appetizer. After about two hours of waiting, the food is ready to come out of the pit. Everyone gathers around into groups around the pits. Some of the women divide up the food onto banana leaves, and the teenage boys run the food to the different groups. Everyone feasts on the good food, almost always having leftovers to wrap up and take home for dinner. This is always a big social event that is a lot of fun. Just writing about it makes me hungry.
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