Eating dog in the Tuamotos
Photo: Koko and Roy
The year was 1990 and the sailboat Felice Serena and her crew of four were anchored in a tranquil lagoon in the largest chain of atolls and islands in the world, the Tuamotos. The lagoon was blue, just as a lagoon should be; the green from the palm trees could be seen reflected in the clouds. The sound of barking dogs drifted across the water. The 62’ wooden ketch shared this little bit of paradise with five other sailboats—Fram, Windrose and three others whose names have long been forgotten.
The boats had been swinging on their hooks for a few days when a family on shore invited all of the cruisers—about 20 people—to their home for an evening of dinner and dancing. Not only were the islanders happy to see new faces on their remote Pacific atoll, but they were thrilled that one of "Felice Serena’s" crew members, Roy, had repaired a 40-horsepower outboard that had been headed for a Tuamotan junkyard. Rumor had it that the evening’s festivities were in his honor.
All of the yachties accepted the invitation except for a couple who had sailed to the atoll to reunite with friends made on a previous visit, locals who lived on the island. They clearly were annoyed that so many boats had dropped anchor smack dab in the middle of their idyllic off-the-beaten-path visit.
Preparations for the party began early in the morning. The crew of Felice Serena watched as a freshly slaughtered pig was hacked into a multitude of bite-sized pieces, laid out on a hot bed of coals and covered with palm fronds. They wondered how such a petite porker could feed so many people, but the thought was brief and passed from their minds as quickly as it entered.
That evening, Koko, the head of the house where the party was held, was the only family member that joined the group at the dinner table, a wooden behemoth so long and so big it filled the entire room. The others either cooked, served or observed. Koko, wearing a crown made of yellow ribbon, seated Roy next to him. Roy was his hero and his buddy.
After a great deal of picture taking, grace was said and dinner commenced. Meat, rice and bread were passed from person to person and everyone heartily ladled food onto their plates, seemingly undaunted by the hair-studded ankle and ivory toes protruding from bits of pork in one glass bowl. A few forks did pause mid-air but then bravely dove in. A second bowl of meat had been cooked in a dark, spicy broth seasoned with soy sauce which everyone spooned over rice. This bowl contained no appendages. Instead, the heart and liver were nestled amongst the pieces of meat. Undeterred, the cruisers ate with gusto.
Once all bellies were full, benches and chairs were scooted against the walls, the table was carried outside and the dancing commenced. The band played guitars, ukeleles and the spoons and everyone danced the tamure, the women swinging their hips from side to side, the men flapping their bent legs open and closed. The yachties moves were less than stellar; they were, in fact, hilarious.
After a couple of hours, the band packed up their instruments, Koko presented Roy with his crown of yellow ribbon and the sailors walked in the dark to their dinghies. On the way they reviewed the dinner and dancing. As far as the meal was concerned, it was unanimous, the meat with the soy sauce was definitely their favorite.
Two days later, the male half of the couple who had abstained from the epicurean affair, told the partygoers, with what looked like glee in his eyes, that the favored dish of the evening had been dog. What?! They had eaten dog?! It seems feeding so many guests had put a strain on the family stores so two dogs had been sacrificed to flesh out the menu.
To cope, the cruisers laughed and made jokes. “We not only ate dog, we had second helpings,” laughed Steve from Windrose. His crew member LeAnne declared she was glad she had eaten dog. Nobody asked her why.
And, finally, the question the crew of Felice Serena had asked, more than once, was answered: “Why aren’t there any old dogs on these islands?”