There are food miles, and then there are food metres. The coconut in today’s story travelled a total distance of 3 meters vertically and 4 metres horizontally from treetop to plate.
Coconut trees are valuable assets, passed down through generations. The first trees were planted about 30 years ago as a government incentive to feed the villagers and their animals. Vacant crown land was divided into 6 metre strips and the occasional random square, and the planting began. In today’s real estate climate, a potential leasee has to round up the owners of each strip of land, find out who wants to lease their little bit, and then get them to agree on a price. Easier said than done. When the parcel of land is signed over, it does not include the coconuts trees. These remain the property of the owner, and they have full access rights. A case of being able to have your coconut and eat it too. If a coconut falls, it is our responsibility to gather it at the foot of the trunk for future collection. Do not make the mistake - as I did once - of putting them all in one neat pile off to the side. Shock, horror, how do we know who owns each coconut? Serious faux pas.
Two of the village elders arrive to gather coconuts for their pigs. Pak Johannus climbs, while Pak Hanus collects and offers encouragement. Pak Johannus is an agile 68 years old with four pigs and five kids. Pak Hanus is our adopted local grandad who belies his 77 years with a spritely step and the occasional jog in pursuit of fish or a strong cup of coffee. He is an expert net weaver, with the patience and focus of a monk, and likes to sleep in a grass hut on the beach to get away from his wife. He owns two t-shirts, both recieved free from political campaigns, and they double as a hat in the heat of the day.
Pak Hanus opens a coconut for me and I use the strips of tender young meat as the inspiration for lunch. Everything except for the avocado (which came from the mainland) was sourced within 15 kms. Tossed with wild basil, carrot, bayam (amaranth) leaves, tomato & lemon juice. Selamat makan.