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Bonding in the Caqali Kitchen

By 4 years ago
Categories Fiji Islands

Hopefully, most people in the western world share in my sweet childhood memories of standing on a step-stool in the kitchen next to Mom, ripping lettuce into microscopic pieces for the salad.  Or next to Nonna, elbows-deep in flour for homemade gnocchi.  And, in both cases, sitting down to the lovingly prepared meal with the whole family to share the day’s stories as well as food.  That is the backbone of (my) family.


Through the conduit of cooking, the Caqalai family bond is likewise growing stronger. Caqali has a small Fijian community who work for GVI and also help manage the small resort, which is also on the island. Twice in the past week, vollies have joined forces with some of the local women to prepare dishes which are then served to our group: GVI volunteers and staff, resort guests and the Fijian staff. GVI volunteer, Guilia, made banana oat pancakes last Sunday, to help the women who otherwise cook every meal, every day.  Rae, the Caqalai staff supervisor, watched carefully to learn the novel application of homemade buttermilk.  Then, on Friday night, Kate, Sarah, Kiki and Giulia championed a project of making roti to accompany the beautiful curry meal the ladies were making.  By the end of the evening, we even had base manager Joe (aka Mister Joe) and dive officer Ian at the pans, flipping flatbreads.


We eat the traditional way, everyone sitting on woven mats in our covered outdoor eating area. Thursday is our scheduled fish night, when the ladies always cook GVI a traditional Fijian meal. Last Thursday, the Caqali community ate as one large group. The logistics were fairly simple to move from eating in shifts, as is the norm, to eating as one big group.  Of course, you could still tell which plates were meant for vollies and which were for Fijians based on a 200% larger portion size, the saying “Kana Levu” (eat big), epitomizes how much everyone loves food in Fiji. Dinner was followed by the usual evening kava session, where dancing broke out on numerous occasions.


As Siva, one of the Fijian staff, says: “we treat you like guests because of resort, but you are here so long feels like family. Family is better.”  As my Nonna, says: “family means also cleaning the dishes…but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a dance party at the same time!”


Giulia Anderson, 3 month volunteer