Mumu, New Ireland style

This is a mumu (Tok Pisin), i.e. a stone oven. In the highlands of PNG it would be a cooking pit, but in the islands it is usually above ground. Fire is made inside a ring of stones and other stones are heaped on top. When they are hot, the fire is put out and food, wrapped in leaves, is put in among the stones to cook. The pile of stones with the food inside is covered with more leaves, and/or sacking (lying around among the stones in the picture). Depending on the size of the food parcel, it can take 20 minutes to a few hours to cook. The leaves can be of different kinds, e.g. banana, pawpaw and others. Food cooked in this way is delicious, especially if there is a lot of coconut milk...

The Kuot language has words for everything to do with mumu -- the stones in the ring, the stones that make the floor of the mumu, the stick for putting out the fire before putting the food in, the two sticks used to move the hot stones, small food parcels, big food parcels (for feasts), leaves to cover the mumu while cooking, dried/burnt leaves from food parcels to be thrown away, and so on and so forth. Mumu is clearly a salient part of life in Kuotland, and has been so for a long time.

The picture was taken in Roslyn's cooking house (haus kuk in Tok Pisin).


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