Monday, January 18, 2010

Fiji - Paradise?

I’ve never been to Fiji but my impression is of a sun-soaked paradise with warm sand beaches and sparkling blue waters. I’ve always thought of Fiji as the Cadillac of island vacations.

Despite its stunning reputation as a tourist hot spot its politically unstable because of racial and political tensions since 1987. Trouble in paradise, apparently. I should research this political tension further, but the truth is I don’t want to. I have no plans to visit there anytime soon. A large part of me would like to keep Fiji high on that island utopian pedestal. I want to continue to think of it as a place where you could always go to escape if you should need a hide-away from the world; a place where you can dream about and say, someday I want to go there…. There is just no room for coups and violence in my built-up fantasy of Fiji. You see, when writing articles about all the countries of the world, I write more about war, conflict and poverty than I do about peace, happiness and wealth. I really don’t appreciate having to see Travel Alerts on articles describing, what I always thought of, as perfect vacation spots.

Fiji is a dream come true with its exotic blend of cultures, white-sand beaches and warm azure waters. (Sound of record scratching) Oh, I’m sorry. This island paradise may be dangerous to visit. The political situation could crumble at the drop of a hat. Don’t hang around the capital or any large gatherings and I wouldn’t get in any political discussions with the locals if I were you.

It just sort of ruins it for you, doesn’t it? If I wanted to find myself in the middle of a coup during my vacation I have plenty of other spots to choose from, thank you very much.

Have you noticed that I have been writing about my fantasy? I’m not on some narcissistic kick, I swear. That’s what a place is until you’ve actually been there. It’s your fantasy. You can dream about this place with all the wonderful (or not so wonderful) expectations that you like. It can be anything you want it to be. It’s like when you have a crush on someone that you don’t really know and you’ve got it in your head that they’re the most perfect person in the world and you can’t ever imagine them doing anything wrong or, God forbid, gross. They’re your secret fantasy and you can tuck them away in your heart and feel it flutter every time you think of them. But then, you get to know this person - maybe you date them - and you start to see all their faults and their disgusting habits and suddenly they’re not very appealing.

The problem with researching every country on the planet is that, more than not, it messes with my superficial, dreamy fallacy about certain countries. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised, like when I researched Costa Rica. Other times my heart sinks when I see those travel alerts and I think, God damn it not another f***ing travel alert!

With all that said, our Fijian meal was delicious. For this, I had no expectations, and I loved it. I cooked Fijian Fish Lolo and taro root. I cooked cod in onion, garlic, spices and coconut milk and served it with boiled taro root, a tuber, potato-like vegetable that seems very popular around the world. Actually it is very popular around the world. I read that it was probably first cultivated in India, or somewhere in Southeast Asia, perhaps, as far back as 5000 BC. From there it spread worldwide and this vegetable now comes in many different varieties and has numerous names. It’s widely known as dasheen but in China it is called yutou, in Brazil its called inhame, in Japan it’s called satoimo, in the Philippines it is called gabi, in Lebanon it is called kilkass (Interesting name. Wonder if it’s pronounced kilk-ass) and so on. Whatever the name, it’s easily recognizable with its dark brown hairy skin. The flesh is white and highly nutritious. I knew very little about taro but in Hawaii, it is the base for making poi.

I’m not saying that Fiji is unsafe. The truth is, I don’t know what’s happening over there because, frankly, I don’t want to know. When reading about it I saw a travel alert and I backed off. On this one, I want to remain happily ignorant when it comes to any flaws. I want to keep thinking of Fiji as paradise, as the Cadillac of island vacations. I want to fantasize and swoon every time I think of that crystal blue water. In other words, I want to keep my crush. I’m not interested in having an intimate relationship.

Fish Lolo

1/2 lb halibut or cod
1 TBSP oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chili, chopped (optional)
1 can coconut milk
Salt and pepper
1 TBSP fresh basil
1 TBSP coriander

Heat oil in pan. Add chopped onion, garlic and chili
Saute until onions are translucent. Season fish with salt and pepper. Add fish to pan, fry for a few minutes and then add coconut milk. Bring to boil and then turn to low heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with basil and coriander.

Taro root

Peel and cut into 1 inch thick slices. Boil in sated water until soft. Drain water and steam on low heat for 5 to 7 minutes.

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