A rainy and windy trip to the market…Rounding out the week’s menu…

Talk about tropical climate!  Today’s view from the veranda.
The muddy roads, the long, steep drive down and then back up this mountain was an adventure in itself. All we needed to do in the pelting rain, was to get to the village to shop at the Vodafone kiosk, the Farmers Market, the New World grocer, and Fiji Meats where Helen was holding some items for us.  

Helen often runs out of ground beef, referred to as mince in many parts of the world, requiring we call ahead to place an order for the meat and roasted chickens to ensure we can get what we need. Otherwise, she runs out of chickens by noon each day and other meats within a few days of her Saturday delivery.

All the meat in Fiji is grass-fed. The beef cuts are different than those we’ve found in other countries and the beef can be tough if not slow roasted. With only a countertop oven and no large roasting pans, slow roasting is not an option, especially when it would use considerable power to run. (We try to stay mindful as to how much power we use, wherever we may travel).

As a result, the only beef we eat is the grass-fed mince, ground pork, and free-range chickens, which we’ve found to be excellent. We’ve narrowed our weekly menu down to a science, carefully planning each day’s meals. 

The tiny freezer contains meat for the week, streaky bacon, bagged portions of Tom’s daily egg dish, homemade low carb flax and almond meal lemon poppy seed muffins and low carb coconut cookies. Also, ice, ots of ice.  We Americans like ice with our cold tea.

After trying various cuts of the beef we’ve determined we prefer the taste and texture of the mince better than the other cuts of beef. It’s not your usual “ground beef.”  It has a texture and flavor far beyond the red-dyed ground beef we’ve had most of our lives. It’s comparable to a rough grind of the finest steaks in the world, even a bit chewy as if roughly ground at home. No dyes, no chemicals. The way we like it. 

To add fat to the beef, we often include ground pork, “pork mince,” making some of the most delicious “mince” dishes we’ve had to date. We have a variety of recipes we alternate, never becoming bored with the varied options. 

Unable to purchase fish, other than huge whole fish caught fresh daily, we haven’t had fish once since our arrival. With little room in the tiny freezer, buying an entire fish makes no sense, nor are the knives here sharp enough to filet a fish, even if there was room in the freezer. 

The freezer door is also jam-packed. I’m not as organized in putting food in the fridge. Its not my “thing.” I stuff it in. If the door closes, I’m happy. Notice the ice pack, just in case, we old-timers, have an achy joint. Thank goodness, we haven’t had to use it since we left Hawaii.

Having beef and pork, including occasional pork chops, five nights a week and chicken two nights has been how we’ve rounded out the week’s menu. Of course, there’s a degree of repetition, but with the good recipes we’ve found or created, we hardly flinch at having a particular dish time and again.

There’s a favorite recipe, Mushroom Burger Scramble, that we particularly love, making it as often as the ingredients are available. The recipe requires fresh mushrooms which are only available on occasion at the New World Market. Mushrooms aren’t a popular ingredient in Fijian cooking and aren’t available at the Farmers Market.

The recipe, which I borrowed from a low carb site, (click here for the recipe) also requires cream cheese. For weeks, there was no cream cheese at the market. I asked the store manager, Sarah, if they ever get cream cheese and she said they do, but not often. A few weeks later, there was a dozen packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese for sale in the refrigerated case.

A few weeks ago we finally found cream cheese at the market. Now, they keep it well stocked. Also, I’d asked for a “turner” and a few weeks later, it was there.

Yesterday, after our usual purchases at the Farmers Market, we walked over to the grocery store to find Sarah smiling when she saw us. They had a huge bin filled with fresh mushrooms. We grabbed all we could, changing our menu for the upcoming week to include the above recipe, now that we’d have mushrooms.

Sarah and I have chatted on each of our weekly visits. Yesterday, she invited us to her home for dinner. I felt badly having to decline when she was so kind to offer. I explained, profusely apologizing for declining, that my life-changing way of eating would make it impossible for her to prepare traditional Fijian foods that I could eat, when most include starches and sugar. 

How we’d have loved the experience. But, I always remind myself  that we wouldn’t be traveling the world if it weren’t for my way of eating totally changing my life. By now, surely I’d have been in a wheelchair or living like my dear eldest sister with the same condition, who’s been lying in bed 24/7 in horrible pain for the past 10 years. I was heading down that path a mere four and a half years ago. Today, I’m pain-free and active.

The black bag contains the remaining chicken which we’ll have tonight. Today, I’m making the muffins and Tom’s green beans. Each day we stay in, I cook a portion of the foods we eat regularly, spacing it out to ensure I don’t have a single day that requires all-day prep. Messy? No matter.

After the market, Ratnesh picked us up and we headed a kilometer down to the road to see Helen at Fiji Meats to pick up our order: two roasted chickens, several packages of the finest streaky bacon on the planet and numerous packages of beef and pork mince. 

We’d need to eat the two small roasted chickens over two nights when the fresh mushrooms needed to be used as soon as possible when they don’t stay fresh more than a few days.

Since we loaded up on extra products they happened to have in stock, we spent more than usual for a total, between the three markets, of USD $228, FJD $484. This included two packages of ground coffee which is referred to as “plunger coffee” as shown in the photo below. 

The plunger coffee sells for FJD $14.89, USD $7.03, for a 200 gram bag which lasts for a week. Each package has a complimentary little package attached.  The coffee is grown in Fiji and compares to the finest we had in Hawaii.

New World has been out of plunger coffee for the past two weeks. While I shopped, Tom ran out to the street to two other markets looking for plunger coffee, thrilled to have found these two packages, the only available.

Soon, we were back on the road home. It had rained during our shopping trip. We were wet but not “to the bone” as expected. We hung our parkas to dry on the backs of the dining chairs (no hanging rods here) and the dampness in our clothes soon dried.

Getting up the steep muddy road to the house was equivalent to “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” as Ratnesh expertly maneuvered his way up the muddy rocky climb. We couldn’t help but squeal and laugh with the roughness of the drive up the mountain.

To begin the shopping trip each week, Ratnesh drops us off at the Vodafone kiosk on the street picking us up later after we call from the market as we’re checking out. As a final stop, he waits for us while we collect the meat at Helen’s store. 

Today, I’ll work on making more room in the refrigerator to fit these eggplants. A few times each week, I make a huge wok of vegetables, stir-fried in ghee, well seasoned, often including eggplant, peppers, onion, carrots (small amount) and lots of fresh garlic. Tom won’t taste it. For him, I make a batch of fresh sautéed green beans with onions, streaky bacon and spices, also cooked in ghee.

He helps us carry our huge haul up the long uneven walk to the house. Lately, with his help, we’ve been able to carry everything to the house in one trip. As a result, we’ve paid him FJD $30, USD $14.13 for the round trip as opposed to his usual FJD $20, USD $9.42. 

Many of the local businesses only accept cash payments. The New World market is the only store that accepts credit cards, charging an additional 2.5% fee on the total bill. 

Between the Vodafone store, the Farmers Market, the meat market and the driver, all requiring cash only, we spent FJD $435, USD $205. (This total included FJD $150, USD $71 cash for data). At New World, we paid, FJD $260, USD $123. 

With the fees charged by our bank for using the ATM in a foreign country and the charges the local bank charges for using the ATM machine, it pays to use a credit card at the grocery store.

Its raining so hard we can’t see the ocean.

Once back home, as always, I spent the better part of an hour washing and sorting all the produce and making room in the tiny refrigerator, the same size we’ve had many times in the past. We’re getting good at this.

We never left the house the remainder of the day when the rain continued non-stop as is the case again today.  So be it. We have plenty of food, plenty of “strong signal” data, lots of books to read, and now a plethora of movies and TV shows we’ve recently downloaded to watch in the evenings. We’re almost tied at playing Gin.  What more could we possibly need or want? 

Photo from one year ago today, October 16, 2014:

One year ago today we flew from Honolulu, Oahu to Maui. Many flights had been canceled due to warnings for possible Hurricane Ana. Luckily, our flight made it through and after picking up the rental car, we headed to the Costco store in Maui, where we loaded up on food and supplies we may need if the hurricane hit with power outages. For more details, please click here including the final total expenses for the 11 nights in Waikiki Beach. 

Comments and responses A rainy and windy trip to the market…Rounding out the week’s menu…

  1. Michelle Burger Reply

    I would love to see pictures of the village where you shop and the stores. Also pictures of the cars they drive would be interesting.

  2. Staci Finch Thompson Reply

    Sounds like your Gin skills are coming along – Tom better look out! I love the phrase – if the door closes, I'm happy. That pretty much describes my freezer organization process too! Sounds like a fun day, as usual. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Jessica Reply

    Staci, you made me laugh. Its nice to know I'm not the only person with a messy refrigerator! I wash the shelves often but I not interested in organizing it each week when soon it will be empty again.

    Thanks for writing to us once again. We always love hearing from you and appreciate your insight and playfulness, obviously evident in your passion for sports as we see in FB.

    Warmest regards,
    Jess & Tom

  4. Jessica Reply

    Michelle, your ideas are appreciated. Next time we shop, we'll take more photos of the shops and also the cars. We've included a few here and there but will certainly we'll focus on the shops we frequent. Thanks so much for your good suggestions. Please check back at the end of next week for the new photos.

    Warmest regards,

    Jess & Tom

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