And there, in front of me, crouching on a large plate on the trestle table and looking up at me, was a crayfish. Red. Enormous. Cooked, of course. And lonely. I could tell it was lonely. No one seemed to want it. I wanted it, but so would everyone else, I assumed, so I just looked.
An impressive Tongan lady was sitting opposite me, watching me watching the crayfish. She was clearly a matriarch, in traditional Tongan dress and a woven mat around her waist. Strong face, black eyes, hair piled high in a shining black comb.
I smiled at her. She grinned back at me, then leant forward and picked up the crayfish in one hand and planted it down in front of me.
“Eat,” she said.
“Eat?” I protested. I had to try, now didn’t I?
“Palangi, eat!” she commanded.
I tore off the tail, peeled back the shell and bit into the sweet, oh-so-delicious flesh. I cracked open the claws and legs and sucked and chewed, then finally, when it was done, I licked my fingers dry.
My friend had watched me throughout the whole performance, grinning. I asked her if I could take her photograph.
“Yes!” she cried and buttock-bunted the man on her left out of the picture. And then the woman on her right. Then she posed, head high, arched neck. I clicked.
Her bunted neighbour on the right pushed back into frame and said, “Me too!”
I clicked again. Then the couple next to her, then the whole row. A Tongan tradition.
I trust Italians as much as I trust my dog,” says Avio, “and I do not have a dog.”
Posted: Friday 4 March 2022