Mea’ai Samoa – Robert Oliver

Posted: November 12, 2013 in cookbook, Review

meaai samoaBeautiful islands… beautiful book… This is a celebration of Samoa and Samoan cooking, one of those cookbooks that are lovely to look at, and a pleasant read, even if you never cook any of the recipes. The author does have an agenda though; to teach us about traditional Samoan cooking and to show how it is being pulled with surprisingly little screaming into the healthier ways of the twenty-first century. It’s not hard to be “organic” when you never really got into the factory farming business!

The recipes form the latter two thirds of the book, divided into sections mainly by source; beginning with traditional recipes from the Samoan village, through recipes from modern Samoan housewives, restaurant recipes, and ending up in the Samoan community in Aotearoa and finally new recipes for a healthier Samoa.

Now, the challenge for the New Zealand cook attempting these recipes is going to be getting the ingredients, some of which do not travel well. Sometimes substitutes are suggested, and there is a list of online sources, but I suspect that I’m not going to do a whole lot of cooking from this book. That said, I’m tempted by the coconut oil hummingbird cake, especially for an Island themed party!

However, that’s not really the point of this book. It’s more about telling the world about a cuisine which is frankly not well known outside the South Pacific (do not get me onto the subject of the Las Vegas “Luau” and American ideas of Island food). And it has to be an inspiration to Samoan cooks to use their ingredients in new and healthier ways. Which cannot be a bad thing.

Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

  1. Annette says:

    This is a beautiful book. I am living in Samoa, starting to learn the language and hope to use many recipes from this book. My only comment is that in places, the text is difficult to read. For example white text on pale blue is pretty but hard on the eyes. Also some of the fancy font used in headings is hard to decipher. For example ‘a’ often looks like ‘u’ as in Fa’alifa and Auntie Fai’s and the style of the ‘a’ is not consistent even within one word. Makes it a bit tricky for a beginner. Other than that a great book to have and use.


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