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Purnell, Colbert, Garcia, Minarik, Wyman

Professor Doris Derelian


FSN 250
December 9, 2015

Select-A-Culture Paper: Hawaii

History and Cultural Aspects Associated with Food and Food Practices:

When we look at the product of something, it is always good to look at its causes as a

place to start. In the case of the Hawaiian islands and Hawaiian people, there have been

numerous historical and cultural events that have shaped not only their way of life, but also their

cuisine and food culture.

The creation of the islands was a paramount event that lead to the culture and cuisine of

Hawaii. The island chain was and is isolated, which allowed particular influences on the islands

to take hold and flourish. There were waves of different cultures that arrived in Hawaii, and

brought their food and culture with them which then became integrated into the society. Since

travel to Hawaii was considered difficult and risky, Hawaii was very much isolated from the

outside world until its discovery by Captain Cook.

The first major influence was by decedents of the Marquesas Isles of the Southern Pacific

(a part of Polynesia), who used their outrigger canoes to travel for over 2000 miles north around

300AD. When they arrived, Hawaii was fresh, fertile, uninhabited, and free from pests and

disease. The land was still too young to have developed evolved plants and animals to sustain

human life, so it was good luck that the sea voyagers brought their own food with them. Crops

that are currently synonymous with Hawaii were not actually native, but were rather brought by

the Marquesan settlers. Banana, coconut, sweet potato, taro, breadfruit, noni, guava, papaya and

sugarcane were brought by this agrarian society that consisted of high chiefs and commoners
who shared the land equally amongst each other. Lono was the paramount deity, the God of

peace, agriculture, harvest, fertility and rain. For a thousand years, the various tribal aggregates

did not war against each other, and the islands remained in peaceful isolation.

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The Tahitians came next, between the 11 and 14 centuries. A Tahitian priest, Pa`ao,

left his homeland due to a quarrel with his older brother, and his coming to Hawaii had a lasting

effect. The Tahitians conquered and enslaved the Marquesans, and began the kahuna nui, or the

high priest line that lead to a ruling king for each island. With this came a more stratified society.

This increased stratified society begot divisions of labor/jobs. Some would work the fields, some

would cook, or some would just train to fight, but overall, each caste had specific duties and

responsibilities within society. Pa`ao also influenced the popularity of the deity Ku, the God of

War, and the concept of mana. Mana is an animistic idea of the power, effectiveness and prestige

of the spiritual energy (life-force) that people have and acquire from pono (balance with nature

and surroundings), acts of bravery and war, and the idea that it can be taken from another to

strengthen oneself (similar to the premise of the Highlander movie from 1986). This brought

much conflict and war in a place that knew only of peace and coexistence. Now people fought

just to prove strength and courage, and to acquire more mana; the more mana, the more power.

By the time the first European visitors happened upon Hawaii, under a dozen chiefs had

achieved the status of moi/ali`i nui, or supreme ruler of the island(s) or region. Captain James

Cook was a British explorer who commanded the Resolution and the Discovery, and discovered

Kauai on January 18, 1778. Anchoring just outside of Waimea, the Hawaiians greeted the boats

and men in a welcoming and generous manner. Their god, Lono or kino lau, took many forms,

and the Hawaiians mistook Captain Cook for an altered form of Lono, being that he came on

massive wooden boats with huge white sails that trumped their most pristine canoes in size.
Despite the royal Hawaiian hospitality given to Captain Cook and his men, some of the

men fornicated with or raped Hawaiian women which spread venereal among other diseases. A

few days afterwards, the Hawaiians drove Cook and his ships out of the island of Kauai. Cook

noticed the spread from Kauai to the big island of Hawaii when he was welcomed there on his

return from a futile attempt to search for a northwest passage to the Atlantic Ocean a year later.

He was met again, and greeted with open arms, plenty of food, and treated as a high chief during

luaus where Hawaiians showed their culture and history to him and his men through hula and

chants. Cook was the first outsider to witness and document seeing the hula as well as surfing. In

early February of 1779, Cook and his seamen left the big island of Hawaii in search of the

Northwest Passage to the Atlantic, but were hit by a large storm. The mast of the Resolution

snapped, which forced him back to Hawaii, where the Hawaiians presented him with a different

vibe. The Hawaiians had revered Captain Cook as a form of Lono, but if the captain was truly a

deity, he would have been able to control the storms. After this event, the Hawaiians lost respect

for their guests who had long overstayed their welcome. Hawaiian harassment lead to

confrontation, which led Captain Cook trying to capture the Alii (Kalaniopuu) in order to get his

stolen belongings back. This led to his death on February 14, 1779 at Kealakekua Bay.

Cook introduced the world to Hawaii, which brought new future travelers who influenced

the land. He also introduced the Hawaiians to western knowledge of warfare, weaponry, and

tactics which greatly influenced a young Hawaiian Kamehameha. Kamehameha was enamored

by the power of the weapons that Cook and his men had, and he wanted to utilize them during

his campaign to power. Ironically, there would have been no united Hawaiian Kingdom under

King Kamehameha if there was no western influence. Kamehameha utilized the western guns

and cannons to conquer the other islands, which gave him a dramatic advantage over the other
Hawaiians due to the increased range and damage that guns and cannons could inflict compared

to typical Hawaiian warfare. Eventually, John Young and Isaac Davis, US sailors, were captured

and coerced into working for Kamehameha, which helped acquire more western weapons. They

also served as military and political advisors. Kamehameha bloodily conquered Maui, Molokai,

Lanai, Kahoolawe, and Oahu, and after two failed attempts to conquer King Kaumualii with

Kauai and Niihau, diplomacy was utilized to finish the unification of the Hawaiian Islands in

1810. The unification of the islands marked the end of the ancient Hawaiian way.

With the Hawaiian Kingdom established, King Kamehameha proclaimed a peace

proposal to allow the Hawaiian people to heal after all the bloodshed that took place during the

unification. Hawaiians were not allowed to war against each other which allowed time for other

rebuilding activities, such as: crop cultivation, culinary development, and textile working. King

Kamehameha had created a monarchy of allied chiefs whom paid taxes to the King from their

common people who worked the arable land. This was similar to the ancient ahupua`a, which

divided land by available resources, and distinguished which part would specialize in what for

the betterment of society. For example, places closer to the ocean would harvest seafood, ones in

the mountains would harvest trees for canoes, and ones by the river would utilize water for

agriculture. Each sect of the ahupua`a was meant to be self-sustainable, but still worked together

to create a solid society. Kamehameha was focusing on the rebuilding and enrichment of the

Hawaiian way, but outside nations like the United States, Britain, France, and even Russia kept

trying to take over. In response, Kamehameha created a Hawaiian flag that resembled the French,

British, and US flags combined in the hopes that each would see that the Hawaiian Kingdom was

friends and allies to all three powers. He hoped that they would help to protect the Hawaiian

Kingdom and recognize their independence.


By this time, Kamehameha had adopted many western ways, but he held true to

traditional Hawaiian culture when it came to religion and spirituality. He kept, and promoted the

Kapu system which dictated who, when, and where something could be planted, harvested, or

eaten. Even where one could sleep and with whom it could be done with; Kapu dictated a

Hawaiians daily life. Kapu instructed commoners not to touch the king, his clothing, or even his

shadow. Nor were they allowed to look directly at him, as it was thought that mana could be

taken away from touching as well as direct eye contact. Therefore, only a select few were food

preparers for the King and his family. As typical of ancient Hawaii, males and females prepared

their food separately and ate separately as well. Kamehameha also made it so that only

Hawaiians could own land; even though land ownership was a foreign concept, he vowed to

make it that no foreigner would own Hawaii.

On Kamehamehas death bed in 1819, he followed traditionally English ways and named

his eldest son Liholiho (Kamehameha II), to be king. Normally, the land and power would be

divided up equally amongst the chiefs, but he did differently in order to maintain the unity he had

fought his whole life to attain. Ka`ahumanu was Kamehameha Is favorite wife (out of twenty,

and there is suspicion that she actually poisoned and killed the king), and became the self-

proclaimed kuhina nui (queen regent) of Hawaii. The first thing that Liholiho and Ka`ahumanu

did shortly after Kamehamehas death, was abolished the kapu system. They also discredited the

old Hawaiian gods, and ordered the destruction of temples and religious images. There was

resistance to this movement lead by Kamehamehas nephew Kekuaokalani, but the rebellion was

shot down by Royalists in musket smoke. Their bodies were then left there, and remain to this

day under volcanic lava rocks at the Kuamo`o burial site on the Big Island. They started the `ai

noa (free eating) by Liholiho feasting with and eating food from Ka`ahumanus plate, which
helped destroy the kapu system and the foundation of the ancient way that had been in place for

over 2000 years. With the abolition of the kapu system, the daily ways of Hawaiians were

drastically changed because there was no longer a set of rules and systems to guide daily living.

The English Protestant missionaries came to Hawaii in less than a year after the kapu

system was destroyed, and helped to fill the void left in the Hawaiian people. The missionaries

helped to create a written language for the Hawaiians and develop a printing press which

predominantly covered their new religion, Christianity. Ka`ahumanu was the first public convert

to Christianity, and acted as a crusader by constantly proclaiming its power. Once, she publically

disgraced Hawaiian gods and goddesses, and when she wasnt immediately killed by some godly

act, more Hawaiians converted to Christianity. These may have been pious acts, but were started

in selfishness. Ka`ahumanu put Hawaii into chaos by the overthrow of the ancient ways, and

Christ was the answer that kept her in charge and brought order. Missionaries used the fact that

many Hawaiians had been dying from western diseases and linked it to their lack of piety to

Christ. Liholiho died of western disease in 1824, and his younger brother, Kauikeaouli became

King Kamehameha III at the age of 9. The missionaries also enticed Hawaiians to become

literate through reading the bible. Primers, which are handouts about the topics and songs, were

given to those who attended church, and by 1831 most Hawaiians were literate. As a matter of

fact, at that time, they had the highest literacy rate of any nation. Ka`ahumanu wrote new laws

based on the Ten Commandments, and heeded the demands of the missionaries to abolish the

traditional Hawaiian ways further. In the missionarys eyes, the Hawaiians were terrible

barbarians that were underdressed and lacked civilized character. Sacred rituals, chants and hula,

which were forms of expression that passed stories and knowledge from one generation to

another, were outlawed. The hula had an erotic undertone, and also celebrated the gods and
goddesses that opposed Christian ideals. The missionaries also created preschools where they

were given the right to mold the children as they pleased; this was brainwashing/westernization

of the next generation for their own good. The main benefit of this was that the young, literate

kids were still able to talk to their elders who lived and remembered the ancient times. This

allowed documentation to take place and prevented the Hawaiian culture and history from being

lost forever.

By 1832, missionaries had dominated all the islands, and used Christianity to influence

the masses. The missionaries came here to do good, they stayed to do well, and the

missionaries came with a Bible, and the Hawaiians owned the land. When the missionaries left,

the Hawaiians owned the bible and the missionaries owned the land, are statements that sum up

the missionaries experience in Hawaii. European influence was overpowering; King

Kamehameha III was forced to sign treaties at cannon point with the French that allowed France

to dump and sell wine without tax at inflated rates. Kamehameha III realized that since Hawaii

was not a military threat, he needed to go a different route to protect his people. He was advised

by William Richards, the first missionary to join his cause, to write a constitution for the

Kingdom of Hawaii to show that the civilized practices of foreign institutions were honored, and

in return, the national powers should honor Hawaii. In 1840, the constitution was written. The

protection of the constitution was tested when, in 1843, a British commander took over the

Islands. Within months, another British naval commander intervened and reestablished the

Hawaiian Monarchy. After this event, both Britain and France recognized Hawaii as an

independent nation. In the same year, the US vowed to never permit a foreign power to violate

the sovereignty of Hawaii (however, it seemed they did not include themselves in the

consideration of being foreign). In 1845, the US noted the importance of Pearl Harbor. Many
US born missionaries became part of the cabinet of Kamehameha III regime, and heeding the

advice of his council, Kamehameha III allowed foreigners to become naturalized citizens of the

Kingdom of Hawaii. He also did the Great Mahele, which was a land division that drastically

changed the traditional system of land use. Before, land couldnt be owned, it was used

appropriately according to ahupua`a for the benefit of all, but after the Great Mahele in 1848,

land was now owned. A fee needed to be paid in order to own the land, and land could be sold to

anyone. At first, the land was divided 23% to crown lands, 40% was divided amongst chiefs, and

37% were government lands utilized by commoners who were active tenants and provided for

the nation. This opened the door for missionaries to purchase land at rock bottom prices, which

cascaded the sugar rush, Hawaiis Gold Rush. This act led to a vast majority of Hawaiians

becoming landless in their own country.

In 1845, the missionaries sponsor, the American Board of Foreign Missions, declared

that the missions of Hawaii were successful and stopped funding them. The missionaries

however, liked their new lifestyle, and needed a way to maintain it. Many bought land, and

started the sugar and pineapple plantations which ushered in a new era to Hawaii. Cooke, Castle,

Dole, and Spreckels capitalized on the US market for sugar. These men, who now owned

successful businesses in Hawaii, wanted more power, and since the monarchy had 3 kings die

within 20 years, the businessmen keep pressing for more power and control.

There were many waves of immigrants that came to Hawaii to work the plantations, and

they also brought their culture and food with them. The Chinese were the first to come in 1852,

the Japanese came in 1868, the Portuguese in 1878, the Germans in 1881, Koreans in 1903, and

Filipinos in 1906. Obviously, there was immigration outside of these dates, but these dates are

when the biggest influx of immigrants came to Hawaii. These immigrant workers brought with
them a wide variety of foods. The Chinese brought dim sum dishes and sweet and sour flavors.

The Koreans brought kimchi and cooked marinated meats. The Japanese brought Bento, sashimi,

tofu, and soy sauce. The Portuguese brought pork, and malasadas. The Filipinos brought beans

and peas, and vinegar and garlic dishes. After the Vietnam war, immigrants from Southeast Asia

brought fish sauce and lemongrass. Each culture introduced their customs and diet to Hawaii,

and even though there may have been segregation, theses cultures melded together to create a

new language (pidgin), and culture that still permeates Hawaii. The plantation times can be seen

as one of the most influential periods on present day Hawaii.

The next major influence happened when King Kalakaua was elected king in 1874, after

the last Hawaiian with traceable ties to Kamehameha I died. Kalakaua made many actions to

revive the Hawaiian culture. He wrote a comprehensive history of his ancient people, and

brought the Hula back. He laid the cornerstone of the `Iolani palace, which was the royal

residence for the monarch, and built a statue in honor of Kamehameha I. In 1887, the treaty of

reciprocity came up for renewal and the US, based off of Schofields assessment of Pearl Harbor

as the best natural harbor and perfect position in the Pacific, demanded sole control of the harbor.

When Kalakaua wouldnt acquiesce to these demands, a group of male descendants from

missionary and plantation families plotted to overthrow the government and obtain power. The

Bayonet Constitution of 1887, which Kalakaua was forced to sign at gunpoint, took away

Kalakauas exclusive power and gave power to the cabinet, which was made up of the men that

planned the Bayonet Constitution. With this new constitution, the cabinet signed the new treaty

of reciprocity, and allowed the US exclusive rights to Pearl Harbor.

After Kalakaua died in January of 1891, her sister Liliokalani became Queen. Within two

years, the US navy forcibly took over `Iolani Palace, and the Hawaiian monarch. Hawaii was
then annexed by the United States, and became a state in 1959. In August of 1991, twelve

Hawaiian chefs came together and discussed Hawaiis locally grown food and ethnic styles

brought in by immigrants. Hawaiian Regional Cuisine is what the fusion of ethnic culinary

influences of Hawaii was now called. These twelve chefs, took their styles of cooking and tried

to connect local ranchers, fishermen, and farmers to the restaurant and hospitality side in order to

try to reflect the entire community and to include in their new standard of Hawaiian food. Roy

Yamaguchi was one of these chefs that represented the style of cooking on an international level.

From the arrival of the first Marquesas, to the statehood of Hawaii, many events took

place that shaped the culture politically and spiritually, which then affected the cuisine. With the

outlawing of the ancient Hawaiian ways, the Hawaiians adopted many new, foreign customs and

traditions. What used to be a society that lived off and with the land, became like any other post-

industrialization part of the US. Nowadays, most people in Hawaii get their food from packaged

and frozen sections of large chain stores that get products shipped in, adding to the inflated cost

of living in paradise. A place that used to grow specific foods for the world (i.e. sugar and

pineapples), no longer grows food for itself as a whole. There are some permanent agriculture

movements in Hawaii that cherish the now considered native plants, but there are also strong

influences of corporate mono-cropping agriculture that have no care for the land, only profit.

This is a new battle that Hawaii faces, and thankfully Hawaiians are not alone, and have many

immigrant descendants supporting them.

How are culinary skills transmitted? By whom? How?

In ancient Hawaii before Ka`ahumanu abolished the kapu system, the men and women

prepared and ate the food separately. Different classes even had different classes of servants. For

instance, a low born commoner couldnt cook for a chief, and a member of the alii wouldnt
mingle with commoners. Hence, males would cook for males, and females for females, while

people of the same caste would prepare food for people in that same caste. Skills would be

passed down from generation to generation by oral tradition and showing; there were no manuals

or books to read, one would learn by doing and observing.

Now in modern times, with the abolished kapu system and written language, culinary

skills can be passed down in multiple ways. Of course there is still direct learning by example

and observation, but now it doesnt matter what sex or class one is a part of. With written

language and videos, one can read or watch and learn indirectly from another how to prepare

delicious food. Before the time of computers and internet, books and school was the predominate

method. Learn by doing.

Staple foods and common flavors:

Although its checkered history has led to a diverse cuisine, there are flavors that are

common and distinctly seen as Hawaiian. Pork is the most common meat, while starchy

vegetables like the taro plant, sweet potatoes, and yams are a mainstay of the diet. Also Nuts

are a core ingredient. (Kittler, Sucher, Nelms, pg. 382). A huge flavor that is throughout

Hawaiian cuisine is coconut. Coconut is used in so many different aspects of cooking. It is the

preferred fat and oil to cook with, it is used to top dishes, the juice is drunk, or the sap is used for

fermentation, and immature coconuts are considered a delicacy (Kittler, Sucher, Nelms, pg. 382).

An interesting aspect of Hawaiian food is its seasoning and use of herbs, or lack thereof.

Multiple sources state that Hawaiian food is not heavily seasoned. Lime and lemon juice, along

with coconut milk or cream is a traditional seasoning in this cuisine.

When it comes to the actual preparation and cooking of food, an outdoor pit called an

imu should come to mind. Stones line a pit thats in the ground and a fire is built on top. After the
stones are hot, banana leaves or palm fronds are placed on top. Whatever is being cooked (like

pork, bread, etc.) is placed on the leaves and then covered with more leaves. The pit is then

closed with dirt. This method bakes the food, but sometimes right before the pit is closed water

is poured over the rocks so the food is steamed. The food is left in the ground for hours until it is

completely cooked (Kittler, Sucher, Nelms, pg. 382). Meat is also commonly spit roasted over a

fire.

Eating Behaviors:

Throughout the meals shared, adults would use certain behaviors and manners in order to

teach their children traditions and etiquette. It was considered polite to eat what was put in front

of you and to finish each dish, not leaving food to waste. The act of smacking the lips was

actually seen as a compliment to the food you were eating, showing appreciation and good

manners. Diners would sit on the floor on either side of a long mat known as pa kauau. Poi bowls

were set between individuals who were sitting across from each other and meat bowls were

placed between those sitting next to each other. Proper etiquette was used for both genders. For

men, they either used one or two fingers while eating poi. A mans finger would be dipped to the

first joint if eating lightly and the second joint when eating heartily. However the act of using

three fingers was considered gluttonous. Sitting cross legged was appropriate for both sexes

however women would sit with their legs together and to one side. Furthermore, an ancient

Hawaiian code of conduct known as, Kapu, was a system that was universal in lifestyle, gender

roles, religion, etc. Ai Kapu was the kapu system that governed contact between men and

women. Under this code, men and women were not allowed to eat together. Any offense to any
of the Kapus often lead to immediate death. However today, Kapu is used as a substitute for

phrases such as keep out and no trespassing.

Influence on American Eating Patterns:

Hawaiian food is very difficult to define because the food is a mixture of a lot of different

cultures. The ancient or traditional Hawaiian diet was once one of the healthiest in the world. It

mainly consisted of poi (which comes from the taro root), fish, birds, breadfruit, pigs, yams,

shellfish, and seaweed. It was very healthy because it consisted of a lot of starch and fiber, while

having low sodium, fat, and cholesterol. However, as immigrants came to Hawaii, they brought

their tastes with them which changed the traditional Hawaiian food and diet. For example, the

Chinese wanted rice instead of the traditional poi. As more and more immigrants came to work

the sugar plantations, food was mixed, and therefore, the traditional staples had changed.

After centuries of immigration, a specific food developed. Hawaiian cuisine today is

known as Hawaiian food or Hawaiian barbecue", however, in Hawaii the locals call it local

food. Local food is less healthy and contains a lot more fat. Popular local foods include

musubi (spam wrapped in rice and seaweed), macaroni salad, kim chee, long rice, and saimin

(Japanese noodle soup). A very popular chain, L&L Hawaiian BBQ, brings this local food to

the American mainland. L&L serves Hawaiian plates which can include pork, beef, spam and

seafood. Hawaiian food in the mainland is very popular and easy to obtain.

On the other hand, traditional or ancient Hawaiian food is not readily available in the

mainland. Not only are most of the ingredients hard to find in the mainland, but to make a

traditional ancient Hawaiian meal took a lot of hard, physical labor. Also, the ancient Hawaiian

meal was as fresh as it could be because the ingredients were usually gathered right before the
meal was prepared. Unfortunately, the healthy ancient Hawaiian diet is not available in the

United States mainland.

As a group we decided that a great representation of the Hawaiian culture is Spam. Spam

became popular in Hawaii because it was served to soldiers back in World War II. By the end of

the war, the meat became a part of the Hawaiian culture. Spam consists of pork shoulder, ham,

salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrate. It has a long shelf life of 2-5 years. Spam is

very popular in many different recipes such as musubi. Musubi is spam wrapped in rice and a

nori dried seaweed. Spam has become an identity of Hawaiian culture.


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