Cooking for Nauru…Making it Up as I Go Along

I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m not the only person who’s blogging this cooking-around-the-world thing. While I find my fellow culinary globe-trotters to be inspirational, I’ve noticed that for some countries, the same two or three recipes are being highlighted all over the place. Not really a problem – sometimes the recipes in question are a whole bunch of awesome – but it does feel like cheating to ride the coattails of those who have gone before me.

So, I’m just winging it for Nauru. I have no idea if anyone on that island has ever made anything close to this recipe…

Back in the day, before colonization, Nauru had a healthy ecosystem and a stable, sustainable population level. Between fishing and native crops, people were pretty much doing just fine. There are small remnants of that self-sufficiency: pineapple, bananas, coconut palms, pandanus trees…I figured it would be paying homage to Nauru to focus my cooking on those ingredients. Banana Pineapple Bread and Pandanus and Ginger Tea. Sounds good to me!

(image by The Global Reader)

Banana Pineapple Bread

(Adapted from a recipe from Averie Cooks)


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted (smells and tastes awesome – make sure to use extra virgin and/or unrefined coconut oil)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (I’ve made this twice: the second time I used 1/4 cup sour cream – both were equally good)
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (2 large or 3 small ripe bananas)
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple, diced (read the original recipe to find out why baking with frozen fruit is a good idea)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 8-by-4-inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, coconut oil, buttermilk (or sour cream), sugars, vanilla.Stir until well combined and smooth.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, optional salt. Add to egg mixture, stirring only until just combined. Do not overwork!
  4. Fold in bananas and pineapple.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for about 45 minutes, or until top is golden and set, a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. (I have a super aggressive oven. It bakes the heck out of things. If this happens to you too, you may wish to lower your oven temperature to 325F in last 15 minutes of cooking, or tent the pan with foil). Allow bread to cool in pan for about 15 minutes before removing and transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Vintage Stove
The aggressive oven in question. Vintage and built like a tank. Cooks like a dream, but can overbake if I’m not careful. (Image by The Global Reader)

Pandanus and Ginger Tea

(adapted from a recipe from The Indolent Cook)


  • 4 cups water
  • 4 pandanus leaves, tied into knots (fresh or frozen only)
  • 6 cm ginger (2.5 inches), sliced
  • Sugar, to taste (optional – I didn’t use any)
Pandanus and Ginger Tea
(image by The Global Reader)
Knotted Pandanus
Knotted Pandanus (image by The Global Reader)


  1. Bring all ingredients to boil in a saucepan.
  2. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes, covered.
  3. Add sugar, stir till dissolved and remove from heat. Strain to discard ginger and pandanus leaves.
  4. Serve hot or cold.
Banana Pineapple Bread with Pandanus Ginger Tea
Banana Pineapple Bread with Pandanus Ginger Tea (image by The Global Reader)

Paradise for Sale – Reading about Nauru

Well. This was not happy reading time. At all.

Nauru is a small, isolated place. Its economy is almost entirely based on phosphate deposits that originate from sea-bird poop. These deposits made Nauru one of the richest countries in the world in the 1970s, but a combo of dwindling supplies, market adjustments and bad investments have sunk that ship. Today, the country deals with a devastated landscape from the mining, high unemployment, and the distinction of being one of the most obese nations on the planet. And to add to all of that, it’s now home to Australian-run detention camps for refugees and asylum seekers, which the Aussies creepily call “The Pacific Solution“.

(Image by US Dept of Energy, via Wikimedia Commons)

The title I chose for Nauru, Paradise for Sale: A Parable of Nature, discussed most of the above. It’s a cautionary tale about the many ways our species goes off the rails: greed, imperialism, environmental destruction, the ability to ignore what is happening directly in front of us, what we lose when we sacrifice the future on the altar of Now…the list goes, depressingly, on and on.

I found the book to be informative in a general sense, about how the issues that plague a small country like Nauru are really just lying in wait for the world at large. You can push an ecosystem so far out of balance that things won’t right themselves for a very long time…it’s a lesson we would all be smart to heed. I’m sure we’ll get right on that!

However, I didn’t really come away feeling like I’d learned much about the people of Nauru. The authors of the book took a very high-level view; they certainly were not dismissive, but I never got a sense that they made a deep connection with anyone on the island. I don’t think that was a goal of the book, so it’s not really a criticism – just a little off the mark for my mission of trying to get a sense of real life in a place.


Country #16 – Nauru

Nauru is one of the smallest countries in the world, and my 16th stop.
Out on its own in the Pacific Ocean, this tiny country struggles with some big problems: obesity and profound environmental issues to name just a few.

Let’s see what more we can learn…