ALTHOUGH a wee bit chilly, the sun was out and so we had a nice dry but cool afternoon to sit down to a well-prepared island style meal, made to impress our Connecticut friends.
The best part is the men do most of the cooking. We had a splendid combination of lovo and took the simple afternoon to the level the kingdom of Tonga would have it - we hosted a whole hog roast or as we Lauan like to say Tavu puaka. Yes, wipe that saliva off the side of your mouth!
It's easier said than done. It's a whole lot of work, but once you get a whiff of that divine porky smell and the tender, juicy pork and crackle which melts in your mouth, you will know it was all worth the effort.
Living on a farm made the preparation a bit more of a breeze, with loads of fire wood around and heaps of kakana dina and vegetables for the Palusami.
But first of all the men had to look for the ideal pig. It's very important to choose the right age, size and gender. The pig is not stuffed in an oven or pot where the heat stays in to cook its meat, but it's put over a fire to roast while being spun, think rotisserie over direct heat. The heavier the meat, the longer it takes to cook, so if you are a first timer, it's best to start with something light. Also its best done with a smaller size animal and younger one which has less fat and more meat, which is, although I beg to differ, a much healthier choice.
You might be asking, why gender? Well have you ever smelt unpleasant urine or perspiration-like odour? That's called a boar taint and it is released by boar meat during heating and is unacceptable to many consumers. Numerous studies on the effect of castration of male pigs have suggested that large economic advantages would result from the rearing of intact male pigs for meat production if the problem of boar taint could be overcome.
So if you are going to choose a live pig to kill and eat, ask them to give you a youngling or one that is castrated, besides the swine.
Although Boar taint could, at the present time, be a greater problem in first world countries with well-educated consumers who can afford to be selective about the type of meat they will eat, we know what our pigs eat and we have old school methods to remove the smell.
Trotters are spilt before it is cooked, so that the smell comes out of the trotters, while its cooking.
This is due to the trotters being a pressure point. So choose carefully if you are a fusspot or you could ask one of the butchers to give you a whole pig if not too expensive. But here in the islands it's preferable to buy a live one and butcher it ourselves, so let's touch a bit on the process.
Once the pig is purchased, we have to take it from pig to pork process. Although I don't do this part, I have watched it and I recommend animal lovers and sensitive people to just wait for the pork to be cooked, so it doesn't spoil your appetite, because trust me you will not want your appetite spoilt for this dish.
But for you and I's comfort, the pig is killed in such a way that it doesn't suffer that much, also a quiet death, the throat is slit and the knife is slid down to penetrate its heart in a quick and swift way.
Now once the worst of it is done, it's time to prepare the pork for the spit.
See grey box on the right for what you need and method of this ever memorable dish, which will keep you going back for more even if you don't like pork.
It took approximately four hours to cook a plate size pig, which is anything below your knee in size.
In the meantime, the lovo stones were fiery red heating up. The women prepared the palusami which is without the meat, just plain coconut milk (lolo) and onions, sometimes we add tomatoes.
When meat is added it is called lupulu, a tongan term, lu meaning rourou or taro leaf and pulu meaning beef, most people use corned beef or mutton these days, but in the old times and still now Tongans use horse meat for the lupulu, a slightly sweet, tender, low in fat and high in protein meat. Lo'i ho'osi or horsemeat is much more than a just a delicacy in Tonga; the consumption of horsemeat is generally only reserved for special occasions.
These special occasions may include the death of an important family member or community member or as a form of celebration during the birthday of an important family member or perhaps the visitation of someone important like the King of Tonga. Tongans still practise the consumption of horse meat perhaps even more so because it is more readily available and affordable.
Our visitors had their first taste of bu, green coconut juice and then the flesh was roasted over the fire and eaten as a chaser.
While the lovo is covered to cook, the men take turns rotating the pig whilst drinking kava and strumming a few old school taralala songs on the guitar.
Once the pork is cooked, you conventionally press down its spine to break it up, everyone wanted a taste of the crackle and so before the main pork was eaten, it only had flesh without skin.
The lovo is also unearthed, which took about an hour less to cook than the pork but approximately more work.
So with good food, good grog and wine, and good friends we formed a trifecta of a sublime summer afternoon on the highway farms of Narara.