Food scene in Papeete, Tahiti

It is one of the world’s great ports of call, comparing with nostalgic and wonderful names like Rangoon, Singapore, Shanghai, Valparaiso and Acapulco.  Yet it is grander than any of these, for at Papeete the ships of many seas dock right along the main street.  From the stern of a Hong Kong junk to the post office is twenty yards.  From the bowlines of a San Pedro yacht to the bank is one city block.  Without qualification I can say that the waterfront of Papeete, with Moorea in the background, is unequaled.

Yet many visitors despite Papeete.  They have no words strong enough to descrive its shanties, its poor water, the crowded alleys, honky-tonks, bootleg opium, wildcat gambling and rapacious prices.  They say, “You hear about the glamorous beaches, but you can’t find one where the average yokel is allowed to swim.”  Such critics leave in a hurry and complain endlessly to friends back home that “everyone who ever wrote about Tahiti from Pierre Loti to Frederick O’Brien is a liar.”  As a much-disappointed frined of mine said, “Papeete?  What a bust!  Tia Juana without tequila.”
There is much to the comparison, for Papeete does resemble a Mexican border town, not so dirty along the main streets, dirtier in the alleys. To those who insist that all picturesque towns look like Siena or Stratford-on-Avon, Papeete will be disappointing, but to others who love the world in all its variety, the town is fascinating.  My own judgment: any town that wakes each morning to see Moorea is rich in beauty.
So says James Michener in:
More:
I like the cluttered streets and the neat parks, the narrow alleys and the wide verandahs, the jumbled stores each with some one unpredictable thing for sale “En Vente Ici.  Dernier Arrivage.  Campbell Soup.”  I like the noisy poolrooms, the perfume shops, the policemen on rickety bicycles, the Chinese dress shops with sewing machines whirring like mad, the dreadful hotels, the worse ice-cream stands and the happy faces.  It has been aptly said of Papeete, “It drives Englishmen, schoolteachers and efficiency experts crazy.”  There is something childishly delightful about every aspect of the place.  One movie house advertises the Hunchback of Notre Dame as “Supersensational, Archiformidable, Hyperprodigieux!!!!” Whereupon the competition states baldly of Rene Clair’s Le Million: “The best motion picture in the world.”
In Michener’s day it was pretty hard to get to Papeete.  He even discusses how hard it was to get a visa.  But in the early 1960s the French, needing an international airport to service their nuclear test site in the Gambiers, built one in Papeete.
Now Tahiti is a direct flight from LA.  The prevailing winds blow from LA towards Tahiti, making this a pretty attractive sail, easy enough that it’s called The Cocoanut Milk Run.

One thing I was surprised by in Papeete was how much I liked the food.  The market is full of fresh, wonderful stuff.

There you can get a baquette stuffed with meat (pork or chicken) and french fries.

At night the roulettes are the place to be.

Peugot food trucks.

The staple is poisson cru, a cocoanut milk ceviche.  Grilled mahi mahi seen here, too.

Further out of town you can buy a boiled breadfruit:

Nourishing but it needs a little something.  Salt’s a good start.

 

 


Breakfast inequality

saw this on Bloomberg, but I don’t think it really tracks.  Maybe just the specific combination of regular milk, one egg, two slices of toast, and one fruit, an ideal of breakfast we can probably say evolved in Europe, is just easier to get in North America and Europe than it is in sub-Saharan Africa?

As Bloomberg notes:

Bloomberg picked the four food items based on widely available commodities that allow for price comparisons globally. What people across the world actually eat for their first meal of the day varies from egg-and-potato tacos in Mexico City to fried pork buns in Shanghai to cooked fava beans in Cairo.

Damn all those sound good.

In my own experience trying to get breakfast in Latin America or Asia, you might not be able to get milk, an egg, two slices of toast, and one fruit, but you can easily and inexpensively get say pupusas or a tasty medu vada or something.

Still, the point they are going for, worth considering:

The 30 cities with the least affordable breakfasts were largely concentrated in South America, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa. Many of these regions suffer from food insecurity, or limited access to affordable and nutritious food, which can lead to additional problems such as disease and even death.

In Accra and Lagos, the two cities with the least affordable food prices, the standard breakfast would take more than 2 hours of work to purchase. The index would show an even more staggering disparity if Caracas were included. However, due to hyperinflation and the complex currency situation, that nation’s capital was excluded from this year’s list.

 


Shrimp

New Orleans heaved a collective sigh of relief when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that Gulf seafood was safe to eat.  The sigh was premature.  The FDA made its assessment using the model of a 176-pound adult who ate, for example, just four shrimp per week.  Yes 75% of women in the United States weigh less than this, as do nearly all children.  Gulf residents also generally consume a far larger and more diverse seafood diet than the one considered by the FDA…

from this incredible atlas of New Orleans.


Let’s sort out once and for all what Michelin stars mean

source:


Steak fries well done and a virgin pina colada

Christine Baskets room service order on a Baskets ep, catchin’ up.

 


Shake Shack fries

The fries at Shake Shack are what I hoped Micro Magic fries would taste like, in my boyhood:

Anybody ever eat things?  The packaging was attractive.  They fooled me quite a few times.

Perhaps they failed in attempting to live up to an idea of a “fry.”  A fry is firm, and Micro Magic just couldn’t get there.  But they were making a salty mushed potato product that might’ve been attractive on its own terms.

A taxonomy error, perhaps.

Google led me to that image of Micro Magic fries on the website of New Adult Contemporary Romance author Jennifer Friess (don’t know if it’s a coincidence that her name is fries)

There was really a period there where the expectations put on the microwave were insane.  Supermarkets were full of hallucinatory projections of what was gonna come out of the microwave.

 


Quite reasonable

Mark Bittman in Grub Street’s omnibus interview.