The Arearea in the pavilion—Raw fish and baked feis—Llewellyn, the Master of the Revel; Kelly, the I.V.W., and His Himene—The Upaupahura—Landers and Mamoe prove experts—The return to Papeete.
The company was assembled in the pavilion when I walked through the streets of Faatoai again, and the food was on the bamboo table. One might have thought the feast would have been spread on soft mats on the sward, as is the Tahitian custom, but these whites are perverse and proud, and their legs unbending to such a position.
We had raw fish cut up, with bowls of cocoanut sauce. It was delicious in taste, but raw fish is tough and at first hard to chew until one becomes accustomed to the texture. Whites learn to crave it.
This fish was cut in small pieces thicker and bigger than a domino, and steeped in fresh lime-juice for half a day. The sauce was made by pouring a cup of seawater over grated cocoanuts and after several hours’ straining through the fiber of young cocoanut shoots. It was thick, like rich cream.
We had excellent raw oysters and raw clams on the shell, crabs stewed with a wine sauce that was delicious, fish, boiled chicken, and baked pig. I had not tasted more appetizing food. It was all cooked in the native fashion on hot stones above or under ground. We saw the pig’s disinterment. On the brink of the stream which flowed past the bower the oven had been made. The cooks, Moorea men, removed a layer of earth that had been laid on cocoa-palm leaves. This was the cover of the oven. Immediately below the leaves were yams and feis and under them a layer of banana leaves. The pig came next. It had been cut into pieces as big as mutton-chops and had cooked two and a half hours. It was on stones, coral, under which the fire of wood had been thoroughly ignited, the stones heated, and then the different layers placed above. The pig was tender, succulent, and the yams and feis finely flavored.
The two native men, in pareus, and with crowns of scarlet hibiscus, waited on us, while the son of Llewellyn uncorked the bottles. As usual, the beverages were lavishly dispensed, beginning with Scotch whisky as an appetizer, and following with claret, sauterne, vintage Burgundy, and a champagne that would have pleased Paris. These more expensive beverages were for us hosts only.
We were an odd company: Llewellyn, a Welsh-Tahitian; Landers, a British New-Zealander; McHenry, Scotch-American; Polonsky, Polish-French; Schlyter, the Swedish tailor; David, an American vanilla-grower; “Lying Bill,” English; and I, American. There was little talk at breakfast. They were trenchermen beyond compare, and the dishes were emptied as fast as filled. These men have no gifts of conversation in groups. Though we had only one half-white of the party, Llewellyn, he to a large degree set the pace of words and drink.