Story by Kathy Collins
Listen to this column read aloud in pidgin:
Couple, t’ree days ago, me and my friends was playin’ da “What if?” game. One a da questions was, “What if you only could eat one food, da same food, every single day fo’ one whole year? What food you would pick?”
Fo’ me, da words come out automatic—Spam musubi! But aftah I wen’ t’ink about ‘em liddo while—an’ aftah I wen’ considah hot fudge sundaes, lobstah, an’ bacon—my final, final ansah was . . . poi!
Yeah, I know some guys tell, poi taste like paste. You know what? Dass dis-ra-speckful. No make fun of poi, ‘cause poi come from kalo (taro), an’ kalo is not jus’ food, kalo is fam’ly. Fo’ real kine! Get ‘em in da Kumulipo, da Hawaiian creation chant.
Was da gods Papa an’ Wakea who wen’ start da Hawaiian race. Papa was da earth maddah an’ Wakea was da sky faddah, so Wakea was da papa an’ Papa was da mama. Their firs’ kid was make-die-dead when he was born, an’ when they wen’ bury da poor t’ing, out from his body, da firs’ kalo plant wen’ grow. Da next kid was healthy, da firs’ human fo’ be born ovah hea. From him, wen’ come all da Hawaiians. So kalo is da big bruddah of da Hawaiians. Dass why we treat ‘em wit’ ra-speck an’ take care our taro patches. An’ our big bruddah take care us by givin’ us da perfeck food.
Aftah maddah’s milk, poi is da firs’ t’ing we feed our babies. No need chew, easy fo’ digest, good fo’ da body. Small-kid time, my maddah used to mix in liddo bit sugar fo’ me, but I no eat ‘em li’dat now. Excep’ once in a while, when I get da urge fo’ eat poi fo’ dessert. Shh, no tell nobody! Real titas no put nottin’ in their poi, excep’ maybe poke or lomi salmon or opihi. But sugar? No ways! Dass my guilty secret.
One a da bes’ ways fo’ eat poi is straight from da bag. Jus’ cut off one a da corners of da bag, small kine, an’ squeeze out da poi. Like da fancy kine yogurt tubes they get nowadays. Good fun eat ‘em li’dat, an’ no mo’ dishes fo’ wash afta’wards.
But da mos’ ono poi is da liddo bit left aftah I pau eat da kalua pig or laulau or even beef stew. Dass when I use my fingah fo’ scrape da bowl clean an’ suck up ev’ry last drop.
Get odda ways fo’ eat kalo too, like steamed or baked like sweet potatoes. My fav’rite is kulolo, which is like one real t’ick pudding, cut in blocks. Nowadays you can buy taro chips an’ taro rolls or buns in da supahmarket. An’ if you go to da East Maui Taro Festival, you can grind da mos’ onolicious taro pancakes.
This year, we going celabrate da twennieth anna-versry of da Taro Festival in Hana! Da festival going be at da Hana Ball Park, like always, on Sattaday, April 21. If you one a those guys who no care fo’ da taste of poi, maybe you jus’ nevah try da good kine yet. Garans ball-barans, going get da bes’ kine at da festival. Good if you stay ovahnight, so you can go da pancake breakfast Sunday morning. If no can, at least check out da poi an’ da party on Sattaday. Jus’ no let nobody catch you putting sugar inside.