As a newcomer to Guam, one of the things I struggled with was the quality of the food I was buying, especially the green stuff. On the one hand it’s actually impressive that our grocery stores stock as much edible produce as they do considering how many thousands of miles it has to journey to get to get here. But on the other hand, I got the feeling I was buying second-rate produce. I mean, the very fact that perishables can make it this far without, well, perishing became a bullhorn for the preservatives and processing it takes to stock our grocery shelves with the food we former mainlanders expect. I found eating healthy to be frustrating at times, since often the items on my recipe lists weren’t available or just didn’t seem fresh.
Sure, I had always passed by the local produce stand in the grocery store. I had strolled by the farmer’s market at Chamorro Village. But aside from the obvious bananas and cucumbers, the vegetables and fruit offered there weren’t things I knew anything about. In fact, many of them I couldn’t even identify and certainly had no idea how to cook.
Enter Thailand. While in Chiang Mai, I took a cooking class in which our instructor took us through a local market to pick out the fresh veggies and meat we would use to create our dishes. As he walked through identifying the papaya and long beans and kaffir lime, I thought, hey we have these at markets on Guam! Back at the kitchen, I got so excited preparing and cooking the food, and not just because the Thai recipes steaming with fresh produce were so amazing (they were!). I was excited thinking about going back to Guam and recreating this experience… shopping at a local market for fresh produce grown by local farmers, and finally understanding how to prepare it into something delicious.
Many of us who come to Guam are quick to explore the jungles, and we jump right in to the glistening seas. As a haole, my journey to incorporate local food into our daily diet has been at a much slower pace, but it’s been well worth it in more ways than I anticipated. For one, handing over a couple bucks to a farmer who grew and picked this crop himself makes good sense economically. Learning recipes and cooking methods from individual growers has empowered me to try new flavors, making cooking on Guam its own adventure. Best of all has to be sinking my teeth into a sweet Fiji banana knowing it grew somewhere within a 20-mile radius of my house and was picked this morning. It’s pure heaven!
For those who want to join me in learning to eat and cook local, the Fresh Factor is our forum as we discover island flavors, share recipes, and support local farmers. Look for more posts here on farmer’s market interviews, island produce how-to’s, and step-by-step cooking demonstrations that will make our little slice of paradise that much more delicious. After all, it’s not the ingredients or the recipe that makes a meal so memorable. Ultimately, it’s the fresh factor.
Peyton Roberts is a military spouse who moved to Guam from the States in July 2010. She started her blog, Peyt’s Island, as a way to keep friends and family informed about what island life is like. Over time, that space transformed into a forum for writing about her experiences discovering Guam’s beauty, and more recently its flavors. Peyton loves all Guam adventures, whether land or sea, and has a passion for sharing ideas about incorporating local produce into regular family cooking. At the Fresh Factor, Peyton shares recipes, interviews, and information about all things fresh on Guam.