Look what the Easter Bunny
is sitting on this year that
contains no fat or cholesterol!

 

 

SWEET POTATOES PROVIDED NATIVES FUEL
FOR MOAI BUILDING ON EASTER ISLAND

Easter Island is located in the South Pacific Ocean between Chile and Tahiti. It is the most isolated inhabited island on earth. Its closest neighbor is Pitcairn Island (population: 54) which is 1,400 miles to the west. Easter Island is a triangular shaped speck of land that is only 64 square miles. It was formed by a series of massive volcanic eruptions and only sea birds and dragonflies lived there since the beginning of time. The first people of Easter Island, who were skilled workers in stone and wood, called themselves and their language “Rapa Nui.” Upon arrival, the early Rapanui settlers planted the plants that they brought with them such as banana trees, taro root and sweet potato.

According to legend, a Polynesian chief named Holu Matu’a (The Great Parent) sailed to Easter Island in a double canoe from a Polynesian Island with his wife and family. Their motive for risking their lives to seek a new home across a perilous ocean is unclear. Some say it was because he was searching for new lands for his people to inhabit and others say it was probably because he was fleeing a land rife with warfare. Holu Matu’a and his family landed at Anakena Beach and named the island “Te Pito O Te Henua” which means “Navel of The World.” Linguists estimate that colonization occurred around 400 AD. Archaeological records suggest though that the settlement date was between 700 and 800 AD. Admiral Jacob Roggeveen (1659-1729), a Dutch explorer, was the first European to reach the island and on Easter Sunday in 1722, hence the name. The Spanish call the island “Isla de Pascua.”

The island is known for its numerous (about 800) giant stone, multi-ton monoliths or statutes called “Moai” that dot the coastline. Each statute is carved from a single block of volcanic rock and some are as high as 30 feet. Who carved them and why is one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries. Some of the last Moai made are still buried under eroded soil and show radio carbon dates of around 1350 AD. All of the Moai were torn down by the islanders. Those erected around the island are the result of recent archaeological efforts. There are also stone walls located near the Moai that were made in a prehistoric but artful manner.

The Rapa Nui found a lush tropical paradise and palm forests. But, in just a few centuries, the population exceeded the island’s ecosystem and eventually all the trees were cut down to clear the land for agriculture and used to build boats, housing, pulleys to move and erect the Moai and used for firewood. The land quickly began to erode and the minimal amount of topsoil quickly washed into the sea. The crops failed, the animals became extinct and the people began destructive battles after what became a terrible time of famine. For many, this is a metaphor for ecological disaster that is doomed to be repeated.

When the Polynesians arrived, the island had few resources and it was hot and humid. Although the soil was adequate, drainage was poor and there were no permanent streams. The only fresh water available was from lakes inside the three volcanoes that had been extinct for 400 years. There were only a few species of plants, animals and fish. The settlers found that the climate was too severe for semi-tropical plants such as breadfruit and coconut and extremely marginal for the usual diet mainstays such as taro and yam. Though nutritionally adequate, the settlers were limited to a basic diet of chicken and sweet potatoes.

The existence of sweet potatoes on the island have left archaeologists wondering who the first people were. Archaeologist Sergio Rapu said that sweet potatoes, definitely an important food of South American origin, was brought to the island to drive the remarkable cultural development. Explorer Thor Heyerdahl, said that people from a pre-Inca society sailed from Peru and possibly in an El Niño year, when the winds and currents hit the island directly from South America. He showed this by drifting for 3 months and 4,300 miles on the Kon Tiki raft that landed near the Polynesian island of Puka Puka. Archaeologist Jo Anne Van Tilburg, claims that all archaeological, linguistic and biological data point to Polynesian origins in Southeast Asia. But, that doesn't explain the stone walls that resembles Inca workmanship in Peru.

Some suggest that Easter Island is the remnant of a lost continent, or the result of an extra-terrestrial influence. To date, no one completely agrees on how the sweet potato arrived on Easter Island or who did the intricate stonework. The one aspect that everyone can agree on is that sweet potatoes were the underpinnings of Rapanui culture and according to Dr. Van Tilburg, was “fuel for Moai building.” This sweet potato culture, with its abundant and nutritious food, was able to produce one of the most remarkable cultures known to mankind. And, for hundreds of years since that time, huge sweet potato plantations have flourished.

 

 

 

YAM-STUFFED EASTER HAM WITH CAJUN GLAZE

(Chef John Folse & Company, Gonzales, LA)

2 cups Louisiana Yams, cubed 1/4 cup fig preserves
2 cups Bartlett pears, cubed pinch cinnamon
1/2 cup onions, chopped pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup celery, chopped pinch filé (Fee-lay or fih-LAY;
1/4 cup green bell pepper,  sassafras leaves -- optional)
  chopped  1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup garlic, diced 1 (6 to 7 lb.) boneless smoked ham
1/4 cup margarine salt & cracked black pepper
1/4 cup raisins 6 Bartlett pears, halved
  

Cook yams and pears in boiling water just until tender, being careful not to overcook; drain. Sauté onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic in margarine in a large heavy sauté pan over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted. Add yams and pears, raisins and fig preserves. Sauté until mixture is well blended and resembles a chutney or stuffing. Season with cinnamon, nutmeg and filé. Stir in pecans and allow to cool. Slice ham horizontally across middle and fill the center about 3/4" thick with stuffing mixture like you were making a sandwich . Top with the upper ham section and secure with skewers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish top of ham with pear halves and brush with Cajun Glaze (recipe follows). Bake at 350 degrees F. (preheated) for 20 to 30 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings. Enjoy!

 

Cajun Glaze
 
1 cup cane syrup 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup Creole mustard 1/2 teaspoon ground filé (Optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon    1 tablespoon cracked black pepper  

 

Blend all ingredients together. Pour or brush over ham before baking.

 

"Other than wild game, smoked ham is the most common meat centered on the holiday table in South Louisiana. Often "secret" stuffings or glazes are used by the bayou families to create that special masterpiece.This recipe is one of my family's favorites that is normally seen on our table at Easter time. Please don't wait for the holiday to make this part of your family tradition." -- Chef John Folse.

 

ROOT BEER BOURBON SWEET POTATOES

(Hollywood & Vine Restaurant, Disney-MGM, Hollywood, CA)

   
fresh California Sweet Potatoes, 1 cup bourbon
   peeled & sliced in 1/2" rounds pinch ground cloves
4 cups root beer 3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/4 cup margarine
   mixed with water 6 tablespoons cornstarch
 

Bake or roast sweet potatoes at 350 degrees F. (preheated) until soft. Meanwhile, combine lemon juice, root beer, bourbon, cloves, brown sugar and margarine in saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Blend cornstarch with 3/4 cup water. Add to mixture in saucepan and stir until slightly thick. Pour over sweet potatoes. Enjoy!

 

Hollywood & Vine is a "Cafeteria of the Stars," reminiscent of the 30's and 40's with a decor of pink and black. The restaurant is located in Disney Studios on Vine Street across from Echo Lake. The cuisine is American and the specialties are rotisserie chicken, barbeque ribs, seafood, chef salad and pasta.

 
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