The first to observe New Year’s Day is Samoa and the Christmas Islands.

Samoa is located north of New Zealand and made up of nine islands. These islands all have unfamiliar names, none of which I can pronounce or spell correctly.

The area has remained somewhat the same since settlement in 1,000 B.C. The first Europeans to come were missionaries in the 1700s. Today, Christianity is the major religion.

Not much has changed over the years. Each town or village has one church with a pastor being the wealthiest resident at the expense of the church. There are strict guidelines as to church financial support and church attendance.

The largest city has a little over 40,000 with the others considered a city with 1,800 to approximately 6,600 population. Believe it or not, Samoa attracts a lot of vacationers who want to escape modern society.

Their language is limited, but body tattooing represents stories, power and social status for both men and women. The process of tattooing is done with a shark tooth which is much more painful than tattooing by a needle.

Now that we know that New Year’s Day starts in Samoa. It ends in the uninhabited Howland and Baker Islands. New Year’s Day is celebrated worldwide with much the same sentiment ... parties, feastings, prayer, fireworks and the making of New Year’s resolutions. The celebrations go long after midnight with good wishes for good health, financial success, and this year our biggest hope being PEACE.

Even during a holiday celebration, the Samoan diet is not heavily spiced; it leans toward coconut milk and cream. Food staples of the area are taro, breadfruit, bananas, coconut, fish as well as chicken and pork.

Taro is considered to be a humid tropical potato. This root vegetable is used and eaten in many different ways. Over 10% of the world’s population includes taro in their daily diet. In cooking the bright white root turns to a grayish purple color.

Not grown locally in our area — it can be purchased in specialty stores and international markets. A different alternative to the potatoes we are used to cooking with.

MASHED TARO

Samoa Mashed Potatoes

1-pound cleaned taro

3/4 cup coconut milk

¼ cup broth/stock

1 Tablespoon fat (butter or oil)

Salt & pepper to taste

Cut taro into chunks (2”). Bring to a boil in enough water to cover taro; reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 25 minutes until tender. Strain and add to a large bowl. Mash with potato masher, add broth, coconut milk, oil and salt & pepper. When adding liquid — do so a little at a time (you can always add more but it is difficult to remove too much.) If you would like you can mix with hand or electric mixer. You can use this mixture in place of mash potatoes for other dishes.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Contract columnist Bette at banjack303.verizon.net. Search YouTube – with BetteBanjack as well as phoenixvillenews.com (search bar Banjack). She can also be found on Facebook.

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