Tag Archives: Easter Island

Local Delicacies

"And is this bottled right here on Easter Island?"

As I may have previously mentioned, we try to have a taste of regional specialties when we travel.  While on Easter Island several years ago, the proprietress of the tiny restaurant in which we found ourselves asked, “What would you like for a drink?”  Sally responded, “Well, what do the people here usually have?”  Mariel paused thoughtfully for a moment and then replied, “Coca-Cola.”  Since we’d already sampled that elsewhere, we went with a Pisco Sour instead.  For dinner I had something which was a local favorite:  chorillana is a mélange of scrambled eggs, onions, chunks of what may have been beef, and cheese — all served on a bed of french fries.

However that may sound, I found it tastier than the kangaroo meat I managed to choke down in Australia.  But you have to try the local fare, right?  If you’re in Scotland, you have to try the Scotch.  And if you’re in Pennsylvania or Delaware, I recommend you order the smallest portion of Scrapple you can get and split it with as many diners as possible.

In case you haven’t encountered Scrapple yet, you should be forewarned that it is made from pork scraps, in combination with corn meal, spices, and (I suspect) pillow ticking.  That mush is allowed to solidify, and then is tossed into a frying pan.  Mmm, just like grandma used to make, until her coronary thrombosis.

A more delicious way to clog your arteries can be found in New Orleans.  Beignets (pronounced, more or less, “bain-yays”) are a staple of the diet in Louisiana — so much so that in 1986, they became the official state doughnut.  They lack the holes we traditionally associate with doughnuts; New Orleans beignets are typically triangular or square pastries, deep-fried and smothered in powdered sugar.  Inevitably the powdered sugar migrates, so the floor and tables at Café du Monde in the French Quarter appear to have a light dusting of snow.

Opinions are divided on ribollita, a Tuscan specialty.  It can be quite good, or it can be… something for which you won’t want the recipe.  The reason is that the recipe varies widely depending on what last night’s leftovers were.  Basically, ribollita is a thick soup, originally devised by Italian peasants.  They reheated yesterday’s minestrone, and embellished it by adding leftover bread, as well as beans and carrots and onions.  The trick, I suppose, is getting the consistency right — I had some ribollita in Florence that could have been used to patch plaster.  On another occasion, though, I had some that was quite good.

A waiter in Paris once informed me that there are four hundred varieties of cheese in France, and I’ve tried only a tiny fraction of them.  Perhaps that’s a challenge I’ll pass along to you:  go to France and experience them all.  Some will undoubtedly taste like sweat socks (or Scrapple), but some will make you exclaim, “oh, yeah!”  In the meantime, I welcome your comments about local delicacies you have tried — where were you, what did you eat, and how was it?

A Long Way From Anywhere

moai-on-hillside2Easter Island is one of the most remote places on earth.  It’s a tiny speck on a map, located in the South Pacific approximately 2,500 miles east of Tahiti and 2,300 miles west of Chile. The nearest inhabited land is Pitcairn Island, roughly 1,200 miles west.  Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it is known by its 3,000 residents, is triangle-shaped, with an extinct volcano at each corner.  As if those aren’t enough good reasons to go there, it also has those mysterious giant statues carved out of stone.

 

 Since there are only a couple of flights into its little airport each week, Easter Island isn’t exactly overrun with tourists.  Perhaps 10,000 visitors find their way to it each year; souvenir sales are not a high-volume business.  Sally and I were among the few guests in 2002.  Here are a couple of excerpts from my journal for April 12 of that year:

The statues for which Easter Island is famous are known as moais (MOE-eyes), and they are situated on stone platforms known as ahu.  Each site — and there are dozens — has a name, but given the paucity of consonants in the Rapa Nui language, they all begin to sound pretty much the same.  Also, many of the moais have been toppled over, centuries ago, by victors in tribal warfare.  After the first two or three sites had moai which were face down, Sally pointedly asked our guide Hermann, “Are we going to see any moai which are still standing today?”

About noon we went to Ranu Raraku, the quarry which had been the factory, in effect, where the moai were made.  It is the cone of an extinct volcano; the moai were carved out horizontally and somehow transported down the mountain.  There are various theories as to how they did this, but the fact remains that each statue weighs tons.  There were several standing moai near the base of the mountain.

The five of us (two Swiss young men, our guide, and the Reeders) walked a path over the blasted-out edge of the volcano, into the caldera.  A reed-covered lake is inside.  Hermann led us up the inside edge, all the way to the peak of the volcano — about 300 meters high.  There was a fine view from there, of course, and a precipitous drop in all directions.  We took another “path” back down.  The footing was treacherous; in some cases we had to get on all fours to ease ourselves down.  It was a challenge I probably would have declined if I’d been given a choice about it beforehand…

…We had been promised a swim at Anakena Beach, which is virtually the only sand beach on the island.  By the time Hermann took us through his preordained route — and shared his jumble of facts and opinions with us — we didn’t reach Anakena until about 5:15 p.m.  There were several moai on the ahu at Anakena: I saw an opportunity for a photo with the beach behind them.  This required a climb up a hill through waist-high weeds.  I had taken my pictures and was on my way back to the group when I saw a couple of cows a few feet away and headed in my direction.  I picked up the pace a bit to get out of their way, and saw that there were actually a couple of dozen or so, being herded by a Rapa Nui cowboy.  A few moments later, two riderless horses bolted past me, headed for the beach at a full gallop.  It was a surreal moment, and probably a frightening one for the people on the sand…