Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/73

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60 THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

animals are said to be sometimes prepared by the same method employed in New Zealand and the South Sea Islands, and so familiar to every reader of history of these islands and their inhabitants. This consists in steaming the meat in an oven formed in the ground of small flat stones. A fire is first lighted in the oven, which is burned until the flags become heated to the highest degree. The fire being then removed, the meat is placed in the oven, and covered over with layers of leaves, grass, and clay, and in a short time may be removed perfectly baked. This method of cooking is said by some who have partaken of repasts so prepared to excel any other in many respects. In general, however, the pressing hunger of the Australian aboriginal does not permit him to resort to such a slow and methodical mode of preparing his food. The more usual plan is, after returning from the hunt, to skin the animal or bird at once, which operation they perform with great adroitness, and then cast the animal whole on the fire, from which it is removed when about half broiled for the purpose of being devoured. The animal is then torn in pieces by the hands of him who acts as carver for the occasion, or, if artificial means be required for the purpose of dismembering the joints, a tomahawk is used as a chopper. On these occasions the want of anything like politeness on the part of the blacks in their intercourse with each other is sometimes strongly exemplified, the food being sometimes cast on the ground, or thrown about