Eating in Palau
What do you eat in Palau?
Fish comes first in Palau, plus seafood of all kinds. The fish is also eaten as sashimi, i.e. raw, because the dishes should also match the Asian taste. There are also many people who come from Asia living here.
Sea cucumbers are also valued, but have nothing to do with our cucumbers. They are animals that live in the sea. They are also less on the tourist menus, but rather end up in the pots of the islanders. Coconuts, or rather their contents, are also eaten with pleasure, because you will come across coconut palms almost everywhere in Palau.
Breadfruit and taro
The breadfruit is an important food as in many other Pacific islands. The same is true of the taro tuber, which is grown in the island’s vegetable garden.
Modern fast food meal
One problem is that fast food has now also found its way into Palau. Burgers and pizza are eaten and high-sugar drinks such as soda or cola are drunk, especially by young people. Nevertheless, many still appreciate the traditional coconut milk. The food also shows how much tradition and modernity merge in Palau.
In some areas, for example, crocodile meat is served on the table – various types of crocodiles live in Palau’s waters – which, by the way, should taste a bit like chicken. Also, bats and flying foxes are popular, although where not much is off. Turtles, which are actually under conservation, can end up in the soup.
Traditions in Palau
Long before Europeans came to Palau, society there was quite complicated. Palau was divided into different districts, each with a boss who was called chief. Serving the family was and is the duty of every Palauer. So it is not important what the individual thinks, but what the community wants. In Palau, women have a lot of power, they own land and control the money economy. Possessions are inherited matrilinearly, that is, in a line from mothers to daughters.
Why do women in Palau wear old jewelry?
Women were basically loaned out to the husband and the husband had to pay the in-laws fees for the wife. This could be food, but also jewelry that women wore around their necks. This jewelry was practically traded like a currency and was valuable.
This explains why girls were “more valuable” than boys in Palau society, because no payment was made for them. The women had the opportunity to make important decisions and they often chose the next chief. Even today you can still see many women on Palau with this jewelry around their necks.
Many women in Palau are employed and make a significant contribution to family income. This is also necessary because the costs on Palau are very high, comparable to the costs in the USA, but the incomes are lower.
What are the Bai?
The Bai are community houses in which the young men of a village met and also got to know young women. Most of them came from other villages. The girls were called “Bai girls”. Allegedly, they should have chosen their partners voluntarily.
If there were conflicts between villages, the girls could be taken hostage. Children resulting from these relationships were adopted. When the Germans came to Palau around 1900, they forbade these relationships because they felt they were not moral. The missionaries in particular put an end to this.
For a long time there was no writing on Palau. Nothing was written down until the end of the 19th century. So people continued to tell familiar stories orally. They often sat together and passed on their knowledge from generation to generation. This important tradition of storytelling has survived to this day. Often you can see the residents sitting together and chatting about the past as well as the latest.
Much of the information we have today about life in Palau around 1900 comes from the German couple Augustin and Elisabeth Krämer. They were both ethnologists who lived on Palau, got to know the residents better and recorded their habits in several books.