I’ve finagled an invitation to a meal called a ma’a Tahiti on Moorea. “Come tonight when I light the fire,” says a man named Taaroa, one of the volunteers from the village of Atitia. This will be a round-the-clock undertaking, and the resulting spread will raise funds to help the Atitia Cultural Center in its collaboration with the University of California at Berkeley. When I return at midnight, Taaroa says I’m early and gives me a mat so I can sleep on the ground. At 3:17 a.m. I feel a tap on my shoulder. It’s Taaroa. He ignites husks and fronds under a layer of rocks, which will turn hot in the hole. People trickle in at 5:35 a.m. They greet me like a friend, though we’ve never met.