Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/230

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it is beaten up with water till it becomes a glutinous yellowish mass, indescribably sticky, and with a slightly acid flavour.

To the initiated there is always a malicious pleasure in watching the undignified efforts of a new hand at dipping into this dish; for of course there are no spoons or forks in the question; and a stranger, seeing the neatness with which an experienced hand feeds himself, is apt to imagine that it is all plain sailing, and so plunges recklessly into this most adhesive paste, probably with the result of lifting the whole calabash, instead of the mouthful he expected. The correct method is to dip the forefinger of the right hand in the bowl, and as you draw it out smoothly coated with poi, give it a series of rapid twirls to prevent its hanging in glutinous strings; then with a final flourish, to keep it from dripping, land the finger in the mouth, and draw it back quite free from the paste, and ready to repeat the process. Two or more persons generally eat out of the same bowl, in which case they have cocoa-nut shells of fresh water beside them in which to wash their finger before dipping again in the poi; but it really does not much matter, as the preparation is so very sticky that you must of necessity appropriate every particle you touch, so you and your neighbour are in no danger of exchanging atoms! as you would be, in sharing a bowl of well-chewed kava.

That beverage of the isles did not appear at this native feast; in fact I have never seen it in Tahiti, and suppose it must have died out before the superior attractions of orange-rum and similar decoctions. On the present occasion, cocoa-nuts were the only drink, with the exception of pure water. As regards the latter, I was much struck by an ingenious substitute for water-jars. At every supporting post of the booths was fastened an upright bamboo, perhaps twelve feet in length, and pierced from end to end, only the lowest joint being left intact. Here a spigot was introduced, and the bamboo being filled with water, supplied drink for all the thirsty multitude. As drinking-cups, the people here still use cocoa-nut cups, scraped very thin and polished by constant friction on a stone in water, till they become as light, and almost as transparent, as tortoise-shell. The himènes here were the prettiest we