Friday, October 21, 2005

Adventures in Barbequing

Today was alot of fun. Two of my friends from Guam, Vince and Doreen, (now living in Seattle) flew in to attend a concert in San Diego and somehow or another they ended up turning today into a fiesta day. Last night after they flew in, Vince was already craving some Chamorro food, and started making a list of all the things he wanted to make today. I was freaking out. It was like 1 in the morning and there we were talking about what kind of tatiyas to make, what kind of steak to buy, and suddenly it was decided that we would barbeque up a typhoon the next day.

One problem is, that as a poorly equipped Chamorro I don't have a tanke' or anything, so we had to find a cheap fanunuyan or barbeque. We went to several different stores, shocked to find that the only barbeques that we're being sold, were either tiny ass camping gas stoves or huge gas barbeque grills. It actually took us several hours to find a decently priced, humble little charcoal grill.

For those who don't know, the difference between gas and charcoal grills definitely shows up in taste. Gas grills maybe be easier on the eyes and less mess, but if you use charcoal or wood in your barbequing, it can actually improve the taste. On Guam, tangantangan is a plentiful invasively nasty plant which was sowed after World War II to "cover up" the gaps in the plant landscape which were created by typhoons and the war. As anyone driving around Guam can see, it has taken over many areas, preventing different kinds of trees and plants from growing as well. Tangantangan serves a few purposes, such as feeding livestock, but also great for barbeque. Some of the best kelaguan mannok I've ever had was cooked on a tangantangan fire.

The consensus was of course that we couldn't go gas, but had to stick with charcoal since there's no tangantangan out here (sina guaha, lao ti hu tungo').

So for the first time in my life, I had my own barbeque grill. On Guam, there was never any reason to have my own. Grandpa had one. My cousins have their own. Even the offices at the University of Guam sometimes have their own grills. It was definitely a special day, made more special by the feast we cooked up.

We put that thing to good use on its first day, barbequing flank steak and beef short ribs (marinated Chamorro style, hmmm gof mannge), and then chicken for kelaguan and even corn on the cob. Vince even made tatiyas and fina'denne' from scratch, as well as banna fritters and hineksa' aga'ga'.

The cooking took a while, and it was strange doing it all on a weekday too, since out here this stuff only happens on weekends, if they ever happen at all. But it was nonetheless an important experience for me.

Several weeks ago I attended the Mangilao fiesta here in San Diego, and spent some time talking with my Tiha Janice about the Chamorro social club down here, The Sons and Daughters of Guam Club, and how we could best make use of it to reach out to our people and in particular our youth. Throughout the United States, but in particular on the West Coast in California and Washington, very concrete social networks have been established by Chamorros and these fiestas become very organized, very huge and very delicious affairs. But one look at the people in the kitchen and those replacing the dishes at the tables, will tell you that those who are supporting these events are middle age to manamko' age Chamorros. What will happen to these networks as this people pass on? Will Chamorros my age, be able to continue these events and maintain these networks in this way (cooking, organizing) or will these events become evidence of the social mobility that we have (supposedly) attained? That we don't have to cook for these things, or organize them, all we have to do is pay for them?

My Tiha Janice had a great idea, and that was to write up an education grant where young Chamorros would apprentice under different people in the Sons and Daughters Club. Where they would assist in the organizing as well as be taught how its done. How to make the food, how to plan the events, etc. A wonderful idea, and it was with this in mind, that I spent most of the day cooking with my friends. Knowing full well that in time it will be my turn to assist in providing space and events where our families and people can maintain ties and stay connected, and so I better start practicing my barbequing and preparing for fiestas.

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