No åfok, no buzz!
For many years already in the recent past, people chew pugua' without pupulu and without åfok. But our mañaina could never have done so. They chewed all three, and added when available amåska or chewing tabacco. When pugua' was used as a gift, åfok was always included.
Åfok really provides the buzz in chewing mamåon - the whole package. It brings out the bloody red juices in mamåon.
It's made from coral rocks! But the rocks are baked for a long time over an intense, slow fire on a hotnon åfok (åfok oven or lime kiln). Coconut logs are criss-crossed and stuffed with leaves. The rocks are thrown on top and over time the fire makes the whole pile crumble. The baked stone is extracted.
Lime wasn't just used for the pleasure of adding it to mamåon. It was used in mortar to seal stones used in building or to caulk timbers, and åfok was also used in pottery and as a lye to soften corn and to make konsetba (candied papaya).
As a kid I heard that åfok contains quinine, which is used in the treatment of malaria.
Åfok really does make your pugua' chewing experience much more pleasant. Especially after a meal, there's nothing quite like mamåon, complete with åfok, to rid the palate of the aftertaste of your lunch or dinner.
If you're able to find åfok and want to start adding it to your mamåon, be careful.
1. Åfok, for the novice, is pretty strong. Use it sparingly as a beginner. If your head starts to spin and you feel nauseous, the man åmko' taught me to drink some sugared water. That should take care of it.
2. Since it's made of rock, åfok will slice up the inside of your mouth pretty good until it becomes accustomed to the lime. The man åmko' say linassas; the inside of your mouth is skinned. Again, use just a little when starting out.
NOT JUST CHAMORROS
Åfok is used all over the Pacific and Southeast Asia, in the same way we use it with mamåon. And the word itself is Austronesian; it has nothing to do with Spanish. The Tagalog word for åfok is apog.