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The Samoan UMU!

The 'umu,' or oven, consists of a hole dug in the ground, about two feet deep for ordinary purposes, and lined with smooth stones. In this a fire is made, which having burnt out, the cavity is swept and lined with fresh banana-leaves. On these, done up in leaves, are placed the various viands to be cooked. A thick layer of more large leaves or cocoa-mats is then placed on the top of all, covered again with earth and stones, on which, if thought necessary, another fire is constructed. After this there is nothing more to be done but to wait patiently for the time when the contents will be required.

The way in which these ovens retain their heat is very wonderful. There is no trouble whatever after the oven is closed, and no such thing as overdoing, although it often happens that the oven is left unopened for twenty-four hours or more.

Pork, fish, vegetables, fowls, and the many made dishes peculiar to the country are all cooked at the same time, without mingling flavours, each separate article being wrapped in its appropriate leaf When pigs of any size are cooked, their insides are generally filled up with hot stones previous to the oven being closed over them. Fish are cooked uncleaned, just as they are caught from the sea, but are plaited up very neatly in cocoa-nut leaves, which, adhering tightly to the shape when ready, are easily broken off, carrying with them the skin and refuse, and leaving the edible portion quite clean. Vegetables consisting entirely of taro and yams, are scraped clean and placed in the oven as they are, from whence they emerge cooked in a manner which no European method can hold a candle to. The various made dishes are tied up in small bundles in portions of banana-leaves, and take their chance with the rest. The only one of these last which at all attracts Europeans, from any other motive than that of curiosity, is a dish named 'Palu-sami,' made from young taro-leaves, with the expressed juice of the cocoa-nut, mingled with seawater. Bread-fruit needs only to be thrown on the ashes for a few minutes to receive all the cooking required by that most useful esculent.

The Samoans do not make an oven every day. Perhaps a family will not have one more than once a week, generally towards the end, when enough will be cooked to last for the whole interval.