Thursday, August 8, 2019

Fijian Public Dinner Etiquette

Above, a Fijian Cannibal Fork– The reasons for cannibalism varied throughout Fiji’s millennia-old history, but, by the late 1700’s, cannibalism was thought of as the ultimate sign of disrespect by Fiji islanders. Cannibalism rituals in Fiji were brutal, and many 18th C. observers reported that the bodies would be treated with a terrible savagery. According to Ripley’s Rarities, “Some members of the tribe—like priests and shamans—were forbidden from touching the ‘unclean’ meat and would be fed by other tribe members.The most prolific cannibal is said to have consumed 872 people. Chief Ratu Udre Udre would place a stone in a pile every time he ate a person to keep a record of his battle achievements. Rumors and legends abounded among Europeans about Fiji, and they became popularly known as the Cannibals Isles across the world.”

Etiquette at the Fijian Table: 
Guests Would Do Well to Familiarize Himself With the Rules, Which Are Exceedingly Strict

If ever you go to Fiji and are asked to attend a public dinner, pray be very careful how you behave or it may cost you your life, is the injunction of a writer in “London Answers.” A public dinner in Fiji is a grand affair, and all the guests give a hand in feeding the oven or stirring the pot. A floor of clean leaves is covered with coconuts, on which are heaped baked taro and yams—like a large potato—to the amount of several tons. The next tier comprises a well oiled “pudding in green leaves” called “vakalolo.” Baked turtles are next heaped on top of these puddings, or two or three hogs baked whole. 

At one public dinner in Fiji there were fifty tons of yams, fifteen tons of vakalolo puddings, seventy turtles, five carloads of yagona and 200 tons of uncooked yams. A Chief, having eaten a coconut without offering a piece to one of his followers, the latter went over to the enemy and singled out his former master in their next battle. Asking for mercy, the stern reply was. “Don’t you recollect the nut at the last public dinner? For that you die.”Another Chief once sat with his father-in-law and on passing a dish of cooked fish, he broke off a bit of its tail. A dark scowl covered the relative’s face, and before many hours were passed, he slew his son-in-law, having first intimated that he was insulted by being offered a broken tail. – “London Answers,” 1920

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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