I've designated May to be Samoan History Month here at SamoaFood.com as our contribution to the 50th Independence Day Celebrations that will be happening in Samoa and in Samoan enclaves around the world on June 1, 2012.
To kick things off, I'd like to honour a true Samoan historical hero. This photo of him always brings tears to my eyes.
His name is Lauaki Namulau'ulu Mamoe. In this photo, Lauaki holds the to'oto'o (staff) and fue (flywhisk) which are the culturally significant accessories of Samoan orators, and he wears an 'ulafala (pandanus seed necklace). He is posed, pointing as if in the middle of some great lauga (speech), but because his mouth is closed, he obviously is not speaking. He is probably standing in a studio where he has been holding the 'great orator' pose for several minutes in order for the camera to capture the shot.
Lauaki's picture brings wetness to my eyes for many reasons. I feel sad because this photo is not taken in context, but in some sterile studio. Beyond that, Lauaki's pose reminds me of my father, also a tulafale (orator) who I've seen many times in the heat of a lauga strike this very pose (albeit with mouth open and fire in his eyes). I admire Lauaki's strong jaw and the muscle in his shoulders. What a wonderfully strong Savaiian physique!
What really causes my tears to overflow is Lauaki's story. You see, if it wasn't for this man, Samoa probably would not be celebrating Independence Day at all.
At a time when the Germans ruled Samoa and were bent on turning the islands into one great big copra factory, Lauaki lead the opposition against the German Governor, Dr Solf, and his administration. Things came to a head when the German leader stripped the Tumua and Pule of their power, the ultimate insult to traditional Samoan authority.
Lauaki was not alone in opposing Governor Solf, but he was seen as the main perpetrator of the uprising, so he was banished from Samoa to Saipan in 1909 along with seventy of his supporters. Photos of Lauaki and his family and fellow chiefs are poignant, for though he was allowed to return to Samoa in 1915, he died on the voyage back. After six whole years in exile, Lauaki never saw his beloved islands of Samoa again.
In honour of a man who was a pioneer of Samoan independence, I offer a recipe for Samoan style barbeque. As barbeques are a traditional way to celebrate American Independence Day, I thought it fitting to give a recipe for traditional Samoan barbeque. This was how my family prepared meat for beach-side and backyard barbeques. This is the kind of food you seek after a hard night out clubbing or on a day you don't feel like cooking. It's a cinch to prepare and works for almost any BBQ meat, with the exception of hamburger patties. It works especially well with chicken on the bone and chuck steak.
Make a marinade of soy sauce and water in a 1:1 ratio. This means, if you use 1 cup of soy sauce, use 1 cup of water. Slice onions (1 per 2 cups of soy/water mixture) and add these to the marinade. Add your meat and leave to marinade overnight or at least for several hours (to tenderise and flavour the meat).
I'm assuming here that you are using a high quality dark soysauce like Kikkoman Shoyu. If you are using something weaker, then reduce the water accordingly. Also, feel free to add freshly crushed ginger, sugar, honey, sesame oil or whatever you like to the marinade. But believe me, it will taste good with just soy sauce, water and onions. No, really!
When ready to BBQ, cook the meat over the coals until it is a deep dark brown, then place the meat in a large saucepan. (In my day, it was the same saucepan that we marinaded all the meat in - yes, all the meat together - food safety be damned!). Once all your meat is browned and in the saucepan, pour any remaining marinade into the same saucepan and place it over a low/medium flame. Simmer until the onions are softened and the whole pot is steaming, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve with a creamy potato salad and a fresh cabbage coleslaw (recipes to follow).
While you're enjoying your Independence Day BBQ, take a moment to reflect on the life of a brave native hero who never made it home. To read more about the amazing Lauaki, see Remembrance of Pacific Pasts (Borofsky, R (ed.)) Chapter 2 by Peter Hempenstall, called "Releasing the Voices 'Historicizing Colonial Encounters in the Pacific'".
And if you are fortunate enough to be able to trace your gafa (genealogy) back to this amazing man, I say from the bottom of my heart, thank you. For your forefather's sacrifice. Thank you.