That would be in Nauruan! What about in English? “I go to the beach”… This is the origin of the word Nauru.
Nauru is a Micronesian island totally isolated in the Pacific ocean and an independent republic, halfway between Australia and Hawaii. Paradise on Earth? Well, it is the front of the postcard of the smallest island nation and the smallest republic in the world!
The back of the postcard is that Nauru is also one of the poorest countries in the Pacific, a country where the average life expectancy is just 49 years, where the rate of diabetes is the highest in the world and…. a world champion when it comes to obesity! Maybe not the paradise you were thinking about…
When the island was discovered, in November 1798, it was called “the pleasant island”. Today, it is rather a story of rise and fall as this island has lost its splendor. Indeed, the island was a money making machine thanks to its invaluable resources of phosphate, the best in the world!
In the early twentieth century, phosphate resources went dry. The state declares bankruptcy because of its disastrous economic policy including extravagant and dubious investments.
Today, almost all of the territory of Nauru resembles a desert of stones and as there is not much to do on the island, the majority of people are victims of junk food, passivity and lack of exercise. That explains the obesity!
Injured by a heavy burden, the smallest island nation on earth is currently rebuilding itself just financially, mainly through fishing and export of coconut. How great is that? Coconut is the main ingredient of my recipe today: coconut mousse.
During our last visit to Oceania, my Micronesian recipe, chicken kelaguen featured coconut as one of the key ingredients. So I did it again today with the most ubiquitous dessert from Nauru.
Coconut is definitely the biggest star of 196 flavors. But what are its origins?
The origin of the word coco would be the Portuguese word “cocho”, meaning bogeyman because of its shape, or the Italian word “cocho” meaning shell.
Discovered by Marco Polo in the early 14th century, it is native to Malaysia. Nobody knows if it has been introduced by humans or by a natural migration phenomenon. In fact, coconut can germinate even after floating a hundred days in the ocean, which is a journey of nearly 3000 miles.
Well, coconut is also one of the fruit with the most calories! But let’s try to see the bright side of things:
Its flesh gives some crunch to fruit salads and other desserts.
Its milk and cream perfume many dishes, both savory and sweet.
Its oil is very useful in cooking and cosmetics.
It is rich in dietary fiber.
It is full of nutrients, including iron, manganese and copper.
You can’t have everything!
And here is a first for me with coconut: I, for once, haven’t made a mess while cracking it open. Everything went very well as I used the following technique:
I initially poked both eyes with a corkscrew. I emptied the coconut of the water. Then I put it in an oven preheated at 400 F for ten minutes. And tada! It cracked open in two automagically! No need for a hammer or an ax! Just patiently peel the flesh with a sharp knife.
The foam was airy, light as a cloud and delicious. So delicious that we ate it at breakfast with muesli!
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ¾ cup fresh coconut , finely grated
- 1 teaspoon agar-agar
- ½ cup heavy cream (very cold)
- 4 teaspoons vanilla-flavored sugar (or 4 tablespoons sugar, with ½ teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 2 egg whites
In a large saucepan, heat coconut milk, sugar and grated coconut without boiling.
Remove from heat and stir in the agar-agar. Whisk until it cools.
Beat the heavy cream gradually incorporating vanilla sugar.
Beat the egg whites until stiff.
Fold in whipped cream.
Gently fold the egg whites. The mixture should be very airy.
Allow to cool at least 4 hours.