Living with the Nukini means my focus in life becomes food. Food keeps them occupied—day in and day out. They garden, gather, hunt, fish, cook, eat and repeat. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m not borderline insane for thinking about food all day, and it feels like coming home.
We eat between four and eight small meals a day, which consist mostly of unadorned ingredients, cooked simply until done. Animals are either grilled over a wood fire, or boiled and served in the resulting broth with a squeeze of lime—a nourishing delight.
Their diet is determined by availability. Each type of fish has its time of plenty, and when fish are few, they hunt the land. Food doesn’t keep in this tropical climate, so any surplus they have is divided up. This habit is so deeply ingrained in their culture that every meal is shared—even a single piece of fruit gets passed around. My supermarket-weary mind sees a beauty in this seasonal way of life, but Joana says having only “fish fish fish!” drives her mad at times.
But I'm in luck, because this time of year, the forest gives generously. Most days, I wake up to find some kind of animal cadaver on our lawn, delivered by our neighbor Cleme in the dead of night. My first day here, my breakfast includes the roasted cheeks of a plus-sized rodent. This meal sets the scene for the motley parade of exotic species that comes to grace my plate: armadillo, turtle, and monkey stew, piranha broth, and my personal favorite: char-grilled crocodile with a lime-pepper sauce.