Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/341

This page has been validated.
xvi.]
319
Food. Cooking.

rises; when it recedes again the eels are left behind and are shot and speared. Names of rank are given to the very largest eels, after the names of the Suqe; it is the fashion to measure anything remarkable for size, and to hang up the measuring line in the gamal; I have seen a measure of thirty inches the circumference of an eel not of the highest rank.

(7) Food and Cooking. The yam no doubt takes the highest place as the staple food of Melanesians, though in some places what is commonly known as taro, the esculent caladium, is much more grown. The number of varieties of yams in a single island has been noticed; there is much difference also in the general character of the tuber in eastern and western groups of islands, the Solomon Island yams being round and compact, and of no great size, while in the New Hebrides one at least has been measured by the height of a man of more than six feet. A species with a prickly vine, the tomago of the Banks' Islands, mitopu of Santa Cruz, pana of Florida, hana of San Cristoval, is very commonly grown; and another prickly kind is sometimes cultivated, which grows wild in the Banks' Islands, the qauro, and is eaten there grated and washed in sea-water when food is scarce. The caladium is only called taro by the natives when they think they are speaking English; there are many varieties grown in dry ground on the hills, as well as in the skilfully irrigated gardens of Aurora. The giant caladium, via alike in the Banks' Islands and Madagascar, is eaten in the New Hebrides and the Solomon Islands. Bananas supply much food in numerous varieties; in Lepers' Island the fruit seems to be eaten in larger proportion than elsewhere. The bread-fruit is scarce in the Solomon Islands, most abundant perhaps at Mota and the other Banks' Islands, where it forms an important part of the food supply when dried over a fire, wound round with strips of leaves, as is done also in the Solomon Islands, and preserved in chests. The making of anything like the madrai of Fiji from fermented bread-fruit is not practised. In the Banks' Islands the pith of the sago-palm is washed into