This week’s international menu came from the Cook Islands in the South Pacific Ocean between French Polynesia and American Samoa. The fifteen-island country is self governing and has a free association with New Zealand. With a combined land mass of just 92 square miles (or 237 km2), the Cook Islands take up less than one fifth the area of Los Angeles but are spread over 2,200,000 km2 (849,425 sq mi) of ocean. The island of Rarotonga is the population center of the Islands and is the home of the capitol Avarua. Since the first settlers arrived in the sixth century, the Islands have had many names. Most recently, they were named in honor of the great British maritime explorer Captain James Cook, who made several voyages through the South Pacific to explore and map the area.
We learned a few interesting things about the Cook Islands:
- The Islands were first settled by Polynesian peoples in the sixth century. Cultural influences from Polynesia are still seen today, particularly in music and dance.
- Wood carving, woven hats, mats, or baskets, and “tivaeve” (patchwork quilts showcasing island scenery), are the most well known and valued Island crafts.
- English is the most widely spoken language, but many islanders also speak in Cook Islands Maori. About 90% of islanders can read and write in both languages.
- The Cook Islands are the world’s second largest producer of black pearls.
As you might imagine, the food is quite influenced with flavors from Hawaii. Our dinner was Eke (Octopus) with coconut cream Cook Island style. The dish was spiced with turmeric and Curry and served with rice and asparagus.
For dessert we had Cook island dessert parfait, which consisted of vanilla yoghurt sliced mango pineapple and bananas tossed with roasted coconut flakes and whipped cream. Delicious!
Next Tuesday we’re visiting friends in Invermere, BC so it may not be an international menu, but I will let you all know what we are having for dinner that night.
Once we’re back, our next country is Sweden!