Themes: Food

Food in Papua New Guinea

 

The traditional Papua New Guinean diet is largely vegetarian.  Pigs and chickens are typically only eaten on special occasions.  In areas where communities live near rivers, fish, crab and crayfish form a substantial part of people's daily diet.

 

Taro, sago and yams are the three major staples of the Papua New Guinean diet. In certain areas the yam is cultivated to reach enormous lengths and will sometimes be carved with elaborate patterns. Yams are often displayed in festivals and are connected to ideas about fertility and ancestral power. Yams such as these are highly prized, and not intended to be eaten.

 

Sago is a starchy substance obtained from the sago palm.  Sago is extracted from the trunk of the palm, and pounded with blunt wooden implements into a very versatile powder that can be easily stored to be used when needed. 

 

Another food source from this plant is the sago grub, which is eaten raw as a special delicacy.

 

Harvested food is often carried and stored in large string bags, known as billums.   In some areas Billums are hung from carved wooden hooks, which are often made with the image of an ancestor or spirit figure who looks over the bags and protects their contents.  The hooks also suspend the food well away from the ground, protecting it from animals such as rats.