Farming in Samoa isn’t only about coconuts and taro. There are cows too.
They’re not so easy to spot as the chickens and the pigs, who randomly and suicidally cross the road. But the cows are here, grazing in hidden paddocks, placidly chewing their little cuds, and minding their own business.
To their consternation, interruptions are all too frequent. Nosey-parkers like us, revving up in our Toyota Rav 4, calling them by itsy bitsy names like Betsy, Daisy, and Gertrude. Ragamuffin dogs too, sniffing their way along every wire fence on the island. And then the farmers who own the cows, come to check on them, tend them, and when the time is right, lead them away to that corrugated iron shed that is the gateway to cow heaven.
Sometimes the cows receive more ominous visitors. Men with knives and sticks who creep up in the night. Murder the cows where they sleep, cut them into tiny pieces and sell them as illegal meat.
Cow theft in Samoa is big business. Or so Josie tells us as we sit eating fish in the cafe at Amanaki Hotel. She’s a pleasant Samoan lady who sometimes helps out at Kate’s school in Wellington. Josie is here in Upolu now though, helping her father with the family business.
“Several years ago, a farmer disappeared as well,” she says in a subdued voice. “No-one really knows what happened to him, but there were rumours. Then recently a man who was arrested for something else, confessed to the farmer’s murder. He and an accomplice killed the farmer while stealing his cows. They stuffed the body inside the carcass of one of the cows, and threw it in the river to be washed out to sea.”
“No sh -.” Luckily Kate isn’t in a Holmes mood today.
And thankfully we’re eating fish. The Amanaki has its own fishing boat so we know the fish is fresh and not stolen from a murdered fisherman. Although we want to eat at Burger Bill’s later. Let’s hope they source their beef legitimately.
There’s plenty of frozen beef in the supermarkets too: brownish mince and odd looking deep chilled cuts, all freighted in. None of it looks as appetising as the neatly cellophaned meat in New World. It’s a long sea voyage though. Some of the meat here, I suppose, could even be local.
Then, there’s Island corned beef. In small tins, large tins, and bloody gigantic tins. The Samoans love corned beef. Frankie’s supermarket has an entire aisle dedicated to the stuff. I expect there are corned beef recipes in the papers. And let’s not forget that corny ad on TV: a sequence of lush panoramas of Upolu’s most stunning scenery – Lalomanu Beach, The Trench, Puila Cave Pool – finally zooming in on a typical Samoan family enjoying a picnic of – guess what – several cans of Island corned beef.