Food and other Ngadjonji uses of Rainforest Plants and Animals
Ngadjonji Use of
The Ngadjonji were highly skilled at quickly making fire (buni) and the hearth fire, used for cooking, light and warmth, was at the centre of Ngadjonji daily life.
Fire was made using firesticks. A straight stick of hardwood (preferably jiman) was rapidly twirled between the hands while its end was pressed into a hollow in a flat piece of softwood (usually jaanggany) held on the ground. The friction between the two firesticks caused a bunch of dry grass or other tinder material, laid around the tip of the twirling stick, to begin to smoulder. The tinder was then blown into flame.
Photo from the collection of A.Nye
This picture shows two boys making fire in the traditional way. The older boy is rapidly twirling the firestick while the younger is blowing to bring the fire to life.
Cooking was done in different ways according to what was being cooked:
- Large pieces of meat and seeds which had to be processed to remove poisons (see Food Processing) were usually slowly cooked in the moist heat of an earth oven. A shallow pit was dug and lined with round stones. A fire was built over the stones. When the stones were hot enough, the fire was raked away and the food, wrapped in green leaves, was laid on the hot stones. More leaves were spread over the food parcels and then earth and ashes from the fire were raked over the heap and the fire rekindled on top. When the food was cooked, the top of the oven was carefully cleared away and the food taken out.
- Most smaller animals, birds and fish were cooked simply by baking in the coals of an open fire in the hearth.
- Some foods were cooked more gently by wrapping in leaves and laying in the embers or on hot stones at the edge of the fire.
- Snakes and, especially, eels were cooked on a spit. A green sapling was supported horizontally above the fire by two forked sticks. The snake or eel was wrapped around the sapling and tied in place. The spit was turned over the fire until the food was done (about an hour for eels to remove the oiliness).
Flaming torches, made from sticks of the very flammable jidu, were used for night fishing and at other times when light was needed away from the campfires.
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