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Kalo, a legendary plant, has deep roots in Hawaiian culture.

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Although the Sylvas no longer grow their own kalo, they continue the traditional methods of preparation. And judging from the steady flow of observers in the carport during Adelaide’s kalo-pounding demonstration, the interest level is high.

The “best” poi is ultimately a matter of personal preference. How do you like your poi? Thick or thin? Lehua or ‘ele‘ele? Sweet or sour?

Adelaide likes hers three days old: sour. June likes hers fresh. Another visitor to the carport, Pua Lalea, says she likes to put poi in muffin tins in the freezer, “then pop them out and put them in the microwave.”

Many Hawaiian babies are raised on the traditional staple. “You have to start from small to get them used to it; otherwise, they don’t like,” Mary Bud says. “You can eat it with anything: canned salmon and sardines, poi with limu [seaweed]—that’s a meal in itself!”

The ideal is miki poi: two-finger. One finger (super-thick): “Only for professionals,” the Sylvas say. Three-finger (runny): “You gotta be shame.” Serve it pu‘upu‘u, or lumpy, and you insult your guests.

The group in the carport is momentarily transfixed by the emergence of Frank, who at 95, is “close to Paradise,” Adelaide says with a sweet smile. He is wheeled to the head of the table, where like a man in a dream, he grasps the heavy pohaku ku‘i ‘ai with arms knotted like wiliwili branches, and pounds vigorously, scraping the sides, calling for more water.

Then, it’s over and he pushes away from the table, and they clean his hands. But the moment has cast a spell on everyone at the table, as though they had watched him, young and lean again, pounding his family’s food with strong, sure strokes at the farm in Olowalu.

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