Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mentawai impressions: sago

Sago is the staple food of the Mentawai people. The trunk of the sago palm must be six meter high before the tree is felled. Once the tree has been felled and the branches cut, the upper layer of bark is taken off.
Another tree trunk is stemmed into the sago tree to help turning it.
A one meter long piece is then cut, halved, each part being halved again. The pith is taken out and manually grated or chipped in small pieces in a machine.
These pieces are then put on a platform over water, water is poured on them and a man threads on them to sieve the starch out (photo below). The starch is stored in banana leaves, soaked in the water and taken out when needed.
The sago is put in long banana leaves and grilled over the fire (photo below).
Old or sick trees are felled and left to rot for two to three months. The worms which find their way in the rotten trunks are a great source of proteins and a delicacy.
Sago trees of lesser quality are used to feed the animals.

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