One of the best places in Kauai to eat is at my neighbors house on Thanksgiving Day. Close to our Kauai vacation rentals, we can roll into the front yard, park the truck, and you will be treated to a Hawaiian feast. No matter what time you arrive, you will be on time, from noon till 5pm the food flows.
For those of us not from Hawaii, we recall our first Hawaiian feast on this mainland holiday, celebrating the generosity of native peoples to the first immigrants from Europe. While this historical act may have been lost in today’s culture, to the Hawaiians it is a chance to connect with the land, with family, and with the malahini, or newcomers.
It’s also a chance to sample Thanksgiving fare that we would never have had imagined growing up on the mainland. Thanksgiving “local style” is not to be missed. Gone from the table are the mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, candied yams, and sometimes the turkey. In their place are the bounties of Kauai, and a celebration of cultural diversity that has made Hawaii so special.
Of course before the main meal, there is a meal that we call ‘pupus’. These could be savories or more typically, ‘mini entrees’. Raw fish is quite popular, and depending on the size of the tuna caught there maybe more than one iteration. One rarely cooks tuna, to a Hawaiian, the flavor is lost, and replaced with a dry piece of meat that only tons of mayonnaise can salvage.
Poke, pronounced POH-kay, means to cut in pieces in Hawaiian. This traditional dish is usually accompanied with salty seaweed, onions, and soy sauce. Sashimi will be on the table too. Thinly cut slices of Tuna with an options soy sauce and wasabi sauce. If there is too much wasabi in the mix, no problem. This is an opportunity to mitigate the pain by adding maki-sushi. Hand rolled white rice with a cucumber filling all wrapped in crunchy seaweed.
Dried aku fish, bowls of salty peanuts, mounds of snowy, sticky white rice, chow mein noodles, would sit beside a baked turkey or chicken. All served on paper clad picnic tables under a mango tree that should have been trimmed 20 years ago. But Sam comes back with, “then how could we fit 5 tables in the shade”?
Each year I hope this tradition never changes, however, I am a realist, diets change, new favorites emerge with each generation. I recognize too, that the big box food factories are influencing our culinary habits, and not in a good way. Perhaps I am missing an important ingredient that food provides. It unites, bringing people closer together, celebrating in their shared experiences.
We at Turtle Cove Suites wish you and yours a holiday season full of joy and Aloha.