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mercredi 19 octobre 2016

"Sao" Generations

Saga of an Oceanian cracker

At random vessels sailing Pacific during the last third of the twentieth century, the “Sao”, a cracker, intended first for the long-haul fleets as "sea biscuit" for its conservation, approached the continent of the Oceanian Islands.

It has been gaining in popularity during the 1914-18 World War, entering the "Poilus"' package and the civilians' ordinary fare (traditional home) as "war biscuit". Since, it formed part of breakfasts, lunches and late-night snacks, typical of French Polynesia today. It's still widely consumed.

A pioneer baker's boy
The Sao generations, aren't a myth. Much of the population was brought up on Sao. Caledonians joke thus: "Two glued to butter, three exploded in bowl." Over 50 years, it has been regularly imported and a branch of Arnott's biscuits is located in Titioro valley at Tahiti.

But to whom do we owe that famous Australian cookie which replaced the evening dinner in poor families?

A William Arnott…
Scottish, William Arnott, a baker's apprentice, immigrated onto the southern Australian coast, at Maitland (New South Wales). He tried without much success, as a gold prospector, while developing his small bakery. It was carried away by a violent flood. Sao's fate could be stopped there, suddenly overwhelmed by the waves. But, it didn't count on its inventor's determination. Ruined, he moved to Newcastle in 1865, thanks to friends' loans.

Arnott's brand was born. William Arnott rebounds with his label "Arnott's". The little shop of "biscuit creations", was transformed into advanced factory! The firm, using steam engines, relocates to the economic capital, Sydney, securing its indisputable prosperity. For the record, thanks to his tenacity and the quality of his products, but also because of his undeniable integrity, William repaid until his last debts. And definitely he played a social role.

Flooding Maitland, in1893
Today, besides the aura of its philanthropic foundations, gender cracker is flourishing. It diversifies for toddlers. It also complements appetizers and cold starters. But this step brings about another era, one where nutritional habits mimic the American way, with its excess fat of store-bought sauces. In spite of the introduction of tomatoes and salad with local hydroponics, it increases the constant nibbling and the easy overnutrition.

The Sao in Tahiti and its islands...
Let's back to these Sao-generations, when the economy is out of whack and doesn't benefit from the effects of CEP, except for the increase of imports and the recession of staple crops (coffee, copra , various vegetables and uru flour)... When vanilla, taro and coconut doesn't yield a secure income for a family farm, nestled on a hillside, Sao is relatively cheap. It has spawned a new food attitude. Lola's Grandma had her "recipes", easy for all ages and all purses. Our raromata'i friend (native from Taha'a), swears by the cookbooks ever written by her grandmother.

Suitable for pupils who have few time to wake up, swallow a little quick lunch before joining the road to catch the truck (schoolbus): early in the morning, in a bowl of cold milk, sweetened as desired, crumble Sao and let it absorb the liquid. Take time to see the level of milk until it’s reduced. The content is like a cove whose icebergs overlap. Mix again. The more it's thick, the more it's nutritious. Enjoy with a teaspoon.

Sao milk
Later today, dry, Sao is an appetite suppressant when you put the pick or machete down. It can be spread with cold "punu pua'atoro" (corned beef). It can accompany a banana or another fruit. The salty-sweet contrast stirs the taste buds.

For children's snack, it's a reconstituting with mango compote or all kinds of tropical jams (pineapple, passion fruit, guava, tamarind, lime green, soursop, papaya...). Everything depends on the resources of your fa'a'apu (vegetable garden). The peanut butter is a luxury or overpriced. And if the harvest is consistent, honey is welcome. But it's scarce because of the pesticides that decimated the bees.

Sao coffee
In lean times, the Sao dipped in sugar water is a substitute for any meal worthy of the name. Eaten cold, it thickens these sorts of fresh soups at the end of hot days. Somehow, the equivalent of the traditional Berrichon mijo. Economic, fast and nutritious. The peasants of yesteryear, in all latitudes, possessed great secrets!

In the evening, after sunset, in hot coffee, it gives a boost to workers who grab some hearty breakfast the next day, as usual.

Little update…
The real Sao-generations count about over three decades. At a time when the food fashion involved a certain austerity. Sao was a kind of exclusive. No frills. Of course, it put on hold the traditional lavish breakfast. The generation after takes advantage of opportunities and nutritional temptations, tinged with Asian cooking on the capital island, Tahiti. But it suffers from a nutrient imbalance and compensatory manias that result in a tendency to the overweight. This scourge affects many children!

So, what uncovers this rectangular cracker whose overall appearance is not uniform? The matt crust cookie has a mildly neutral taste. His weight lightness combines with its virtue of wholemeal bread. Crispy, crunchy, it's a feast for the teeth. Suddenly silent if it's well moistened. Practical, it slips easily into a bag or schoolbag. And in Sao-generation's memory, it acts as emotional delicacy, linked to childhood.

A feast of fingertips...!
A page of history is turned. The Sao episode enters a new cycle. Such as rice, inducted from the Asiatic cohabitation, it's a part of everyday life. Contrary to what might be expected of a food ingredient, it's becoming commonplace with the utmost discretion.

An article of Monak

Copyright Monak. Ask the author’s agreement before any reproduction of the text or the images on Internet or traditional press.

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