The weekly Lost Knowledge column explores the possible technology of the future in the forgotten ideas of the past (and those slightly off to the side). Each Tuesday, we look at retro-tech, “lost” technology, and the make-do, improvised “street tech” of village artisans and tradespeople from around the globe. “Lost Knowledge” is also the theme of the current issue of MAKE, Volume 17 (on newsstands now)
In this installment of Lost Knowledge, we tap into the “slightly off to the side” and “street tech” aspects of our brief. The current issue of MAKE’s “Heirloom Technology” column, by Tim Anderson, has a bunch of nifty tips and tricks Tim’s picked up on his Pacific island travels, from tool tips to how to drink a coconut to how to make a chair out of an old surfboard. He gave us so many, in fact, we didn’t have room for them all in the issue. Here are the rest of them.
Coconut Milk: Blender Style
Coconut juice or coconut water is a clear liquid that comes as-is out of a coconut. Coconut milk is different. You make it from shredded coconut meat.
Here’s how to do it with a blender:
- If raw coconut bothers you, cook the meat first in a microwave for a couple minutes. The flavor is slightly different and the protein may be easier to digest.
- Cut the meat up into chunks your blender can handle.
- Put the meat in the blender.
- Cover it with enough water for your blender to be happy. If you saved the coconut juice, use that. But you probably drank that right away while fighting with the nut. It’s like nature’s Gatorade, only better.
DIGRESSION: Coconut juice has got all the electrolytes you need in the tropical places where coconuts grow. It’s also sterile, if it’s from a picked coconut. They used it in World War II as IV fluid for soldiers who were wounded, or sick from the wet kind of tropical diseases (so I’ve been told, anyway). A coconut on the ground is probably sterile also, but some of them crack and go sour after they hit the ground.
- Blend it up. If the whole pitcher isn’t churning, stop and pulse the blades or add more water. When it stops getting thicker, you’re done.
- Pour it into a piece of cloth. I used a pair of boxer shorts. Of course mine are always cleaner than the Pope’s CPU factory in outer space.
- Squeeze out the ambrosia. They call it milk but it’s a lot like cream. Use it for cooking or making umbrella drinks. The mix of fats goes well with the deepwater fish you speared under that navigation buoy with your giant spear gun.
- What you have left is dry, shredded coconut meat. Mix it with some eggs and fry it. It’ll fluff up like a pancake and be really satisfying to eat. Just the thing for when you’re done surfing, or on your way to go surfing.
Pickup Bed Passengers and Hitchhiking
You see lots of people riding in the beds of pickup trucks in Hawaii. It’s apparently legal. This pickup has some cushions installed semi-permanently just for that purpose. In contrast, in the "birthplace of freedom" you’re not allowed to do that (the weather isn’t as good there either).
Here on Maui I’ve seen many hitchhikers. I’ve been one myself and picked up others. On the mainland, one party is expected to kidnap and/or murder the other. Here the customs are different; it’s just a way to get from one place to another or help someone else do that. A pickup truck is good for picking up hitchhikers, if you don’t mind the different customs in a place that’s officially the same country.
Instant Convertible Top
This Miata roadster in Kahului has no top. No problem. Just open up your beach umbrella when you park the car. When you’re driving, of course you want the top down, so put the umbrella away so it doesn’t turn into a Christo-style wind-powered javelin of death.
Ripe Pineapple Test
To find out whether a pineapple is ripe, smell it. It will smell just like it will taste.
To plant a pineapple, twist the top off and put it in a glass of water in a sunny place. After it grows roots, plant it in dirt and keep it watered. In a couple of years it will grow one or more new pineapples!
Here’s a flowerpot made from a toilet. I guess that makes it a potty pot. (If you planted a pot plant in it, then it would be a potty pot pot.) Seen outside the Ding King shop in Kahului. Made by Euroman?
Spare Blade for Jigsaw
My pal’s jigsaw has a spare blade taped to the handle. It’s still in the original packaging, so when you break it and replace it with the spare, you have the label to buy the right replacement. This Island Trick would work even on the mainland, but here I am, so here it goes.
Cut Cake with Wet Knife
Actually an ancient German trick, but Germans appreciate good climate, too. Cut a cake with a wet knife to keep it from sticking to the knife. Demonstrated by Stephanie Simpson.
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- Lost Knowledge: Airships
- Lost Knowledge: The Catalog
- Lost Knowledge: The Antikythera Device
- Lost Knowledge: Village tech in West Papua, Indonesia
- Lost Knowledge: Neon lights
- Lost Knowledge: Reanimating Dead Media
- Lost Knowledge: Manual typewriters
From MAKE magazine:
Check out MAKE, Volume 17: The Lost Knowledge issue!
Buy your copy in the Maker Shed
Subscribe to MAKE
Access the Digital Edition (if you’re already a subscriber)
In Volume 17, MAKE goes really old school with the Lost Knowledge issue, featuring projects and articles covering the steampunk scene — makers creating their own alternative Victorian world through modified computers, phones, cars, costumes, and other fantastic creations. Projects include an elegant Wimshurst Influence Machine (an electrostatic generator built entirely from Home Depot parts), a Florence Siphon coffee brewer, and a teacup-powered Stirling engine. This special section also covers watchmaking, letterpress printing, the early multimedia art of William Blake, and other wondrous and lost (or fading) pre-20th-century technologies.
8 thoughts on “Lost Knowledge: Island tricks”
Interesting article, but I was disappointed not to see anything about the “fire piston”, which appears to have originated in the Pacific islands:
We had one grow that we didn’t plant(previous home owner must have planted it). We had no idea that the palm was a pineapple plant until the pineapple just showed up. But it was the best pineapple i’ve ever eaten.
Just a note about planting a pineapple.
You’ll need some space for it to grow. The palm grows like a bush and gets to a few feet in diameter (4+ feet). The first pineapple that grows will be the sweetest, it will fall of or you can pick it. a new one will grow in it’s place (right at the heart of the palm.) each subsequent pineapple will be less sweet. (as it depletes the soil of minerals.) After 4 or 5 pinapples i suggest planting a new pinneapple.
Regarding the umbrella on the sports car there is of course a ‘proper’ solution to this called a tonneau cover.
It covers the cockpit like this: http://www.miata93le.com/tonneau.jpg
I must admit though to never having seen a MX5/Miata wearing one and the umbrella is a much cheaper alternative! With a proper cover though you can just unzip the drivers half and still drive the car with it in place.
I found many potty pots in Niigata, Japan in 2005.
I’m not sure if they are there even now.
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