I know, I know. What a totally alarming and inappropriate title, right? And way too close on the heels of the “Killing Coconuts” post. Don’t worry, though: we’re not psychopath fruit slayers. I’m simply referring to the word “rape” in French, not English. We still think coconuts are one of the best inventions on earth: tasty, nutritious, and useful for everything from curries to daquiris.
First, a funny story about how I learned the meaning of this French word (bringing my Fench vocabulary up to a grand total of 26 words). During a potluck on Bora Bora, Isabel asked Daniel what cheese he used in his delicious pasta dish. “I’m embarrassed to say it aloud,” said Daniel, the Aussie owner of 39-foot Beneteau called Red Sky Night. “I suppose you’ve probably seen the cheese in the markets anyway, though. It’s called ‘rape’ cheese.”
Isabel, a native French speaker from Canada who sails on Caribe, burst out laughing. “That means grated cheese, silly! It’s not a brand, it’s an adjective.” After she caught her breath, she patted his arm. “Don’t worry. When I first moved to Vancouver and was learning English, I used to ask my friends if they wanted me to ‘rape the cheese’ when I went for dinner, figuring it was the same verb.”
From then on, we made constant jokes about raping food. Nowhere was it more accurate a description than when we shredded a dozen coconuts on Compass Rose(y). Isabel’s partner, Gabriel, wanted to try out his nifty new coconut grater, which is what all the local Polynesians use to scrape the rich, nutty, delicious coconut meat from inside the shell. (The word for the grater here in Tonga is “hakalo.”) Once it’s shredded, you add some water and squeeze the meat through a cloth to make coconut milk. Like all new tools, the grater elicited the rapt interest of all the nearby males in the anchorage.
First, the men brainstormed a creative way to husk the nuts: a dinghy anchor wedged into a cleat so that the spokes impale the tough fibrous outer later. Next, they took turns raping the nuts into a fluffy white pile. Last, they cleaned up the big mess they made. The grater tool left oily residue, white flakes, and brown nut-dust all over the deck. The upshot, though: we made lots of politically incorrect jokes and we stocked up on coconut milk for the passage to the Cooks. We also had some killer rum daiquiris with fresh coco juice that night (which only served to make the jokes worse).