Kiribati is an island group toward the center of the Pacific, essentially due South of the middle of Hawaii. This small country is the one nation in the world to have land in all four hemispheres of the world. Its population numbers just over 100,000, barely half of the population size of Providence, Rhode Island, USA. The official languages are English and Gilbertese. Coral islands, reefs, and atolls make up much of the territory. Witness a more isolated culture in outer islands like Abaiang or Butaritari, with its wealth of greenery and fruit trees. Most of the phosphate that was once a considerable source of wealth in sites like Banaba Island got mined out before Kiribati became independent in the late '70s. Climate change and rising waters pose a serious threat to the arable land that exists. Saline soil leads to relatively low biodiversity on the land, but the water teems with life. There are 600 to 800 species of inshore and pelagic finfish, about 200 species of corals, and about 1,000 species of shellfish. Seaweed farming is important business. So is copra, the dried coconut meat from which oil is extracted. Breadfruit is a homegrown starch, and fish and rice are key staples of meals in Kiribati. You can trust the freshness of fish from surrounding waters to be fine to eat raw. So many other food items depend on imports which may or may not come, and canned items tend to be regarded as luxuries. A few local specialties include boiled pandanus (screwpine) fruit with coconut cream spread on top. Coconut cream shows up again in palu sami, where it is wrapped in taro leaves with onions and curry powder, and cooked in an oven full of seaweed, just like that or along with roast pork or chicken. Try it with the local palm wine, karawe, if you're feeling bold!


South Tarawa