Postcard from Holly: The Onion Scavenger Hunt

Postcard from Holly: The Onion Scavenger Hunt

The remote beauty of sparsely populated atolls comes with one big cost: fresh fruits and vegetables. Usually, the larger atolls have a supply ship every week. The smaller ones see about one supply ship a month. However, there are no shipments for a few weeks around Christmas and New Year’s. This in combination with my own schedule means that by the time the first ship of the new year arrived yesterday, I hadn’t had a resupply of freshies in two months. There are three stores in this village; all of them are the size of a small gas station convenience store. Freshies usually only last a few days after the ship arrives, so yesterday I joined the crowd of sailors and locals eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first vegetables. Except they never came. It turns out that the store that always has vegetables somehow didn’t get their order on that ship. A rumor rapidly spread through the aisles that the bakery down the road might have freshies. We hopped into dinghies, cars, and bikes, and made our way to the bakery. The merry crowd filtered hopefully into the store. There in the back was one tiny cooler. Bruised tomatoes, wilted lettuce, and questionable onions greeted us. It was a cornucopia! Nobody pushed or grabbed. The festival atmosphere reigned as we helped each other and tried not to step on toes. There was enough for everyone as long as we all took just enough for our own needs. Rotten spots could be cut out, damp onions could be dried outside, and limp lettuce was perfect for lunch later that day. A friend stopped by my boat that afternoon and, seeing my flaky onions lined up to dry in the cockpit exclaimed: “ah you stopped by the bakery too. Isn’t it nice to have onions again?” Cruising constantly reminds me that everything is relative. An entire island will celebrate soggy onions if they’re the first ones we’ve seen in a month.

(A further note on the onions. The last ship to arrive before the Christmas break showed up with no onions aboard. Apparently, there was a shortage in Tahiti. There was a mad dash in the stores for garlic, as it was the closest thing to an onion and people had holiday meals to prepare. This further added to the group excitement when the crate of moldy, freezer-burned onions appeared behind the bakery. As I write this, I’m gazing fondly at the five onions I have swinging gently above me in my food hammock. We don’t need expensive things to make us happy. Sometimes all it takes is an onion, or five.)

 

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Holly Martin

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