Story by Diane Haynes Woodburn
I wake to an olfactory reveille—a pungent, sweet and spicy aroma—and follow my nose to the kitchen, where my husband, a sunrise alchemist, is shaking mustard seed into his bubbling cauldron. “Mmmm,” I hint, leaning in for a better look. In the pot, exotic spices collide with bright orange mango, yellow ginger, raisins, brown sugar, onions and (oooeee!) vinegar—a kaleidoscope of fragrance and color.
My husband makes the best mango chutney in Maui County. I say that with complete modesty, because it once won Best of Show at the Maui County Fair. When Jamie stood to collect his blue ribbon, he was not only two heads taller and a lot more masculine than the competition—but, well, haole (in his case, Caucasian). Talk about stink eye! Happily, a few moments of trading canning tips won over those local ladies, conferring him with kama‘aina credibility.
At the office, there’s been some debate over the term kama‘aina. (After all, this is our kama‘aina issue.) “The literal meaning,” our senior editor notes, “is ‘child of the land,’ someone born here.” By that criterion, my twenty-something sons are kama‘aina, while I, who have lived in Hawai‘i more than thirty years, am not. Another opinion, please.
“It’s a mental state, a willingness to embrace what is already here,” says our associate publisher, who arrived here at the ripe old age of two. “That’s why some people who come here are never considered kama‘aina—they never let go of how they think it should be.” Hmm.
I ask Kimokeo Kapahulehua, a friend who’s Native Hawaiian. “Someone who fits in,” he says. “Do you have to be born here?” I ask. After a moment’s thought, he says, “No, that’s kanaka. Love the land and the people, and be respectful. That’s kama‘aina.”
The chutney is ready to jar. I cautiously spoon out a hot dollop to taste and am rewarded with a glorious burst of sweet and sour, spice and bite.
“What do you think kama‘aina is?” I ask Jamie as I reach for another spoonful. “Maybe it’s like chutney,” he suggests, “a blend of opposites that get into a pot together and make it work.” I think he has something there—a sweet mix of foreign and local, spiked with a bit of vinegar for respect.
It’s a perfect recipe for our kama‘aina issue, too: a savory story blend of local and haole, kanaka and malihini. Enjoy!
A hui hou,
Diane Haynes Woodburn
Publisher, Maui No Ka ‘Oi