"Everyone … was very poor, but we always had
enough food because we raised our own. We were never hungry. As kids, no
matter whose house we went to they always fed us. We played with our
Japanese friends and their mothers gave us sushi. My grandma gave my
friends Spanish food." -- La Senora, Sefa dela Torre
From The Asian Reporter, V13, #23 (June 3-9,
2003), page 14.
American dreaming, ethnic eating
West Kauai’s Plantation Heritage: Recipes and Stories
for Life From the Legacy of Hawaii’s Sugar Plantation Community
Compiled by Evelyn Cook
Illustrated by Christine Fayé
Edited by Elizabeth Hahn
West Kauai Community Development
Corporation, Wimea, 2002, Plastic ribbed paperback, 247
Local lore and cookbook with illustrations and historic
"They were young, most were poor, few owned much beyond dreams of
a better life ... They loved their new country, America, and made their
new island home, Hawaii, the fascinating blend of cultures that it is
today," reads the dedication of West Kaua’i Community Development
Corporation’s newest edition of West Kauai’s Plantation Heritage.
These opening words are important in understanding Hawai’i’s
multicultural society; they are essential also for sustaining the strength
of every cultural strand that could make the old American dream into our
Hawaiian culture and cuisine have been evolving on the island of Kaua’i
for about 1,500 years. The other families and foods featured in Kauai’s
Heritage span only about 180. These later arrivals are: Scottish and
English (beginning in the 1820s); Chinese (beginning 1850s); Japanese
(beginning 1868); Okinawans (beginning 1884); Portuguese (beginning 1878);
Germans (beginning 1880); Norwegians (beginning 1880); Puerto Ricans
(beginning 1901); Koreans (beginning 1903); Spanish (beginning 1906); and
Filipinos (beginning 1907). It is this mix — some inevitable blending,
and a lot of cultural self-sufficiency — that makes Kaua’i’s kind
society and Kaua’i’s famous cookbook as wonderful as they are.
Each immigrant group, the authors tell us, brought their own vegetable
seeds. After all, what would Norwegians do without their potato soup (potetsuppe)
or potato pancakes (lefse)? What about Germans without their rotkohl
(red cabbage) or erter (green peas)? Imagine Pilipinos without paria
(bitter melons) or utong (cowpeas). And so each ethnic American
community keeps its promise to its own unique cultural heritage, and its
own bright-eyed children. This is a big-hearted storybook and happy-tummied
cookbook, generous with Hawai’i’s aloha tradition.
A Native Hawaiian recipe borrowed from Kauai’s Heritage, bound
to be all the rage in our Pac Northwest:
1 lb. salt salmon
5 large ripe fresh tomatoes
1 large onion
2 or 3 green onions
Remove skin and bones from salmon and soak, changing
water till it isn’t too salty.
Pick apart or chop into pieces and put in bowl.
Dice tomatoes and onions.
Lomi (massage) ingredients with fingers until well mixed
and in small pieces.
Serve ice cold, mixed with small amount of crushed ice.
Tastes best when accompanied by poi (mashed taro).
West Kauai’s Plantation Heritage can be purchased
at Borders Books throughout Hawaii. Outside Hawaii, the book may be
obtained for $20.00 (includes priority mail in the United States) by
calling Lori or Liz at (808) 338-1900, or e-mailing <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
It is also available online, at <www.waimea-plantation.com/shop>.