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The State We’re In » Food

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

I Am Addicted to Diet Coke with Raspberry

Monday, July 4th, 2005

Some of you who know me may be tempted to ask, “But Matt, arent you the kid who drank 6 liters of diet pepsi in one night? Why is this most recent manifestation of your diet soda addiction noteworthy?” And I would reply with something to the effect of, “Diet Coke with Raspberry is no ordinary diet soda, so this is completely different.”

You see, Coca Cola is piloting their raspberry flavor line in New Zealand right now. It is going to replace Coke with Lime. I know this because I researched it on the internet, desperately seeking news that it would be available anywhere outside of New Zealand. I didn’t find any, which was tragic, because only 3 days away from the Kiwis it has become evident that this is a craving that mere Diet Coke, Pepsi Max, or Regal Diet Cola can never satisfy. I hope my withdrawal is quick and painless.


Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

We arrived in Nadi early (the only city in Fiji with an international airport) in the morning and quickly travelled to the main street. We took the local bus and it was packed. It was full and we had to stand. I swear that every eye on the bus was looking at us. Anyway, we got to the main street and there wasn’t too much to do there. We walked across the length of it in 10 minutes.

The highlight of Nadi was the Hindu tremple, which we promptly desecrated in our ignorance. About a 1/3 of the population is Hindu (Indians from India), 1/3 is christian, and 1/3 is Fijian. The walls and celiings of the hindu temple were hand painted and the architecture was beautifual especially compared to the other buildings in the main street. The worshippers we saw were carrying food to the altars, and all were respectfully dressed and barefoot. We didn’t realize that our dress and sandles were desecrating the temple until the manager came over to us. But I guess that would explain the dirty looks we got. We walked through to the tourist entrance for a tour(we came in through the local entrance) and were told it would cost us money to see what we just saw. So we left.

At the beach house there are several daily activities–making coconut jewelery, Bula massages, snorkeling, horse back riding, afternoon tea, kaykaing, and jungle treks. I liked the jungle trek best. It started through the village with crooked bamboo uprights for the rugby goalposts. I saw some plants whose leaves contract when you touch them just like a Venus fly trap does. The guide, nephew to the village chief, also pointed out several herbal medicines that the villagers regularly use. We followed the river past the swinging vinews (like tarzan!), past the bamboo groves, past the natural fish poison leaves, to a small waterfall. WE climbed alongside it to the top,c areful to avoid the snakes, spiders, and long centipedes. I’ve also seen some other cool wildlife on the coral reef. There was a royal blue starfish, a bright, neon-blue fish, and a yellow-striped fish that zoomed by.

Yesterday the four of us had our first taste of kava–a native Fijian drink that acts as a local anasthetic. Drink enough of it and your whole mouth will grow numb. I had my first kava before I saw how it was prepared. Kava leaves our tossed into a permeable bag which is submerged in a large bowl of water. The leaves are then squeezed as if they were a towel to be rung out. Soon the water turns a murky brown color; it looks like dirty water. If you come to Fiji though, you have to drink it–the native Fijians do so religiously. Anyway, this is the first non-cloudy night in Fiji. I’m looking forward to seeing the southern stars for the first time.

Navola, Fiji

The Beachouse

Tuesday, June 21st, 2005

I would never presume to attempt a post as entertaining as John’s, but the task of relating the wonders of Fiji has fallen upon me, so I will do my best.

I began composing this update lounging in a hammock on the beach of our second residence in Fiji, a “luxury backpacker’s resort” called The Beachouse. As I swing here bathed in the glow of the setting sun and cooled by a gentle island breeze, the only blemish on an otherwise perfect moment is the incessant barking of Molly, the local dog. Compared to our first hotel, near the Nadi airport, this place is paradise, and I suspect it will compare favorably to everywhere else we visit on this trip as well.

For F$25/night (approx $15US) we are sleeping in a 5 person room in a little beachfront bungalow. The Ritz this isn’t, but it has decent beds and a private beach. The resort is packed, so we are sharing our room with a kid from Colorado on his way back from study abroad in New Zealand. Everyone here is under 30, and the environment is that of a perpetual, but incredibly laid back, spring break. That kind of thinking is certainly fostered by the F$2.75 (~$1.25US) beers during happy hour.

We have spent the majority of our time during the day basking in the sun, reading, and throwing a frisbee around on the beach. At night (the sun goes down around 6pm) we move to the Coconut Cafe (the social hub of the resort) for dinner, drinks, card games, and conversation with the Aussies, Kiwis and Brits who have us far outnumbered here. Surprisingly, we have not been made pariahs, and apart from two unprovoked attacks on John and I on two separate occasions for “bastardizing the English language,” it has been great to spend time with non-Americans and get inundated with advice from fellow travelers on what we need to do for the rest of our journey. For more on that, see John’s earlier post about advice… It’s all the same.

Highlights of The Beachouse so far:
1) I am finally (for the second time) a certified diver! The diving here is not as good as in Hawaii or the Bahamas, but I did see a pod of dolphins today, which was great.
2) The other guys went on a hike to a waterfall further inland that they really enjoyed, but I was diving so I missed out.
3) For the first time in the lifetime of our friendship, I have seen John actually apalled by something. For any of you who may need to upset him in the future, just bring up the use of dead babies in drug smuggling, he was on the verge of tears. (Disclaimer: This conversation was initiated and perpetuated by a group of Brits sitting near us at the bar. I swear it did not originate in any of our imaginations.)

Honorable Mention: Kava was a disappointment, but I feel like I should mention it. Imagine drinking muddy water mixed with lidocaine out of half a coconut and you have a good idea what kava was like.

Pictures will follow as soon as we get to Auckland. Fiji (the entire country) is only allocated 6Mbits of throughput (probably less than that of Ketchum, ID), so internet here is painfully slow and makes even checking email an arduous task, and posting any sort of pictures an impossibility.

Defining Moments

Friday, June 17th, 2005

There’s a moment on every trip when you recognize the tone that your travels will take. Fortunately (unfortunately?) we’ve been on the ground in Fiji for no more than five hours and already we’ve had 4.

Number One:
As you disembark from a Boeing 747-400, an airplane that could easily and comfortably house your entire freshman-year dorm, their families and their pets, you are greeted first not by immigration and customs agents, not by airline personnel, not by baggage handlers, but by a non-sectarian, yet vaguely religious string and kettle drum quartet singing songs of what we are convinced is the only native Fijian word necessary to become a citizen, or indeed to hold public office. “Bula,” the catch-all phrase for hello, goodbye, well wishes and “of course I’ll marry your daughter” has so pervaded society and street life here that it has sprouted its own cult of personality religion.

Number Two: Well against the judgement of our collective common sense, we four Ivy League graduates sought a trip into town on board island Viti Levu’s jewel of public transportation Fleet, The Westbus.

When pressed for comment, Joe could only use the words “ramshackle, death trap, like a one-way rocketship to Purgatory” to describe this heap. Bear in mind that Joe has an ScB in Mechanical Engineering. He’s an expert. Naught but by the grace of God did we bustle into Cosmopolitan downtown Nadi, the transportation capital of the Fiji islands.

Number Three:
Flights which touch down at 5:30 AM (2PM yesterday in body-time) have a naughty habit of playing havok with one’s appetite. We marched the main drag of Nadi-Town, willing to embrace anything that we could embrace as Fijian (pronounced Fee-GENE) national cuisine. Alas, we were bested by our hunger and stumbled into an unnamed curry shop. [[NB: There is a very strong Indian influence in Fiji and much of the South Pacific accounting for the pervasive cuisine and Bhangra radio programming.]]

We later found out that the courtyard which housed our curry shop was also the HQ for Fiji’s Surgeon General. Go figure.
$7 and four 9AM curry dinners later we looked at eachother and said “welcome.”

Number Four:
At the bottom of some unnamed alley we crouched up next to a fence of razor-wire to watch a Fijian pick-up soccer match. Somehow, the city-dwellers have mastered the subtle art of the silent walk, because from directly behind us came a hale and hearty “BULA! Yu like to watch football?”
A lesser man would have turned-tail and fled.
He was a teacher. It turns out that we were watching his students practice. Before long he was leading us along a rotting drainage ditch to an unmended hole in the razor-wire, and with it field level access. As we walked out to the field it was all that the players could have done to keep from stoppign their game to welcome us into the stands.

It is now quarter to Twelve in the morning. We have been here for five Hours. My ATM card doesn’t work, and the weather is going to top 100 degrees today.

Margaritas and Refried Beans

Thursday, June 16th, 2005

Pancho’s Restaurant in Manhattan Beach is the most faux-thentic mexican cantina I’ve ever been to. Our waiter, 20 year veteran Jesus, was only to be outdone by the happy-birthday singing, polaroid camera wielding “Mariachi” band. Nestled deep in the slums of Manhattan Beach, somthing tells me that there is a Goldberg, Weinstein or Katz rather than Gutierrez, Hernandez or Garcia on the deed to the restaurant.
Their margaritas are strong, and their beans gave me gas.
For my money, there’s no better combination.

$12-18 for an entree.

Meanwhile, tha LA Times feels my pain.