Are you interested in working more with natural resources, deviating from an inorganic lifestyle, or just living more sustainably? Learn from the women of Fiji how to make pure coconut oil, a sustainable essential that can be used for a myriad of things in your everyday routine.
This summer I left behind everything I’m comfortable with – showers, shoes, makeup, my cell phone, friends, and cheeseburgers – to live on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It was there, on this island of Vorovoro, that I learned more than I ever have about what it means to love others, love myself, and love nature. I realized just how satisfying it is to live sustainably, enjoying the fruits of your labor and giving back to Mother Nature – but also how much hard work it can be. One way I saw this manifested in the Fijian lifestyle is through the natives’ use of coconut oil. Coconut oil is an absolute essential for the Fijians. They use it for moisturizer, hair health and shine, fragrance, stomachaches, and cooking. It feels amazing, it smells amazing, and, knowing it’s difficult to get absolute pure coconut oil at my local market in the States, I asked a native Fijian lady to explain the process to me. And my oh my, it’s not easy! It’s also not cheap if you don’t live on an island where coconuts fall freely. However, my hope is that after reading this, you realize just how much labor goes in to producing natural products, why you should pay the price, and how you can create this lifestyle for yourself. At the end of it all, living with nature as a priority is not always easy – it can be time-consuming and expensive – but it is all-important for the soul.
Before I explain how the Fijians make the purest form of coconut oil, let me issue a quick disclaimer. In Fiji, it’s not typical to measure things or to follow a set form of rules. There will be a lot of give and take. So for those of you adventurous souls who want to make this recipe your own, just follow your heart and adjust as needed. After all, that is the Fiji way: heart over everything.
Heads up, this recipe makes four to six small bottles of fragrance-free oil.
Okay, first of all, you will need to gather forty brown coconuts. Preferably, you gather them from an island where they lay freely, rather than buying them from a market... You then need to husk each coconut by jabbing them into an iron stick held in the ground. Once you have a good puncture in the side, pull down and away and repeat this until the shell is removed. Next, use a machete to slice the coconut in half – top to bottom. Now you will have eighty coconut bowls, and you will need to scrape the white flesh of each coconut out into a basin. Mix the “white stuff” with about a gallon of warm water. Close the bucket well and keep overnight. The next morning around noon the bucket will have three layers. Use a spoon to remove the top layer. (I’ll come back to the first layer later... )However, the second layer is the layer used to make virgin oil. You’ll put it in a bucket and let it sit in the sun for one day. Afterward, strain the oil through a white cloth. Put it back in the sun, and when it is clear, it is ready for use. You now have four to six bottles of coconut oil!
Back to the first and third layers - these can be used to make coconut soap. Simply stir these layers over a fire. With six cups of the cooked coconut oil, mix three cups of water and a cup of caustic soda (an acid). Mix well and pour into small square containers. Your container will determine the shape and size of your soap. Leave inside for one to two days, but make sure wind can reach them. After two weeks, the soap will be ready for use!
Congratulations! With forty coconuts and many days of labor, you now have virgin coconut oil and soap. As can be seen, the process isn’t an easy one but the products are perfectly untainted and healthy for both earth and its beings.
For more information about the Fiji/New Zealand Study Abroad program, come by the Office of Global Education located in Spidle Hall room 232, or e-mail Kate Thornton.