By Diane Haynes Woodburn
In honor of MNKO’s twentieth anniversary, we’ve been looking back at our archives. Seems fitting to share this story from our May–June 2012 issue, when I was recalling plans for my dad’s eighty-seventh birthday. It is about food, after all. My dad has since passed, but I imagine him laughing, his blue eyes twinkling. I hope you enjoy it, too.
What should have been a gorgeous summer day had turned into The Day the Sky Broke Open: The heavens dumped enough rain to last the next six months. It was the day before a big lū‘au we had planned for my dad’s birthday — and we had spent it in the yard, preparing for it with friends and family. Needless to say, nothing was going right.
An hour or so earlier, Kimokeo Kapahulehua had delivered a 150-pound pig that we weren’t quite ready to receive. “How about that lawn bench?” I suggested. The center was scooped out lengthwise to make it more comfortable for rounded bottoms, and in this case, just right for holding a very large pig. “Perfect,” husband Jamie pronounced. Soon the pig was ensconced on its makeshift table. This was my first close-up encounter with a lū‘au pig, and I found it disconcerting. “Is that thing smirking?” I wondered, images from Lord of the Flies dancing menacingly through my mind. As the men began preparing the pig for the imu, I retreated from the sodden affair to the cozy warmth of my kitchen.
Sometime later, having won the battle over elements and pig, the men tromped into the house, soaked to the skin, but with their machismo intact. We gathered around the family table for a welcome, hot dinner. “What did you finally do with the pig?” I asked. “It’s fine,” my husband answered. “It’s on the bench by the imu.”
“Umm,” I began cautiously, “you aren’t worried about the dogs?” We had four — three of them each weighing nearly as much as the pig. Jamie looked up from his plate, eyes wide. He glanced at friend Kendall Struxness, who returned the look of abject fear. Both bolted for the door. “We can load it in the back of the truck,” my husband hollered, as they raced out into the downpour.
Jamie backed the truck as close to the pig as possible. I can only imagine the conversation between the two men as they struggled to pick up the bench, each slipping and sliding in the mud, trying to balance and maintain his grip. Huddled around the kitchen window, we watched as the bench slowly rose, Jamie at the back, Kendall at the front, pig in the middle. Step. Step. Step. In a gingerly unison the Rockettes would have admired, men, bench and teetering mass of pig approached the truck. While Jamie steadied the back end, Kendall hoisted the front over the lowered tailgate. (I could swear that I heard a grunt; I just didn’t know whose.)
They had it. Or did they? The pig began inching downward, the carved-out center of the bench a perfect shoot. Like a cartoon character in slow motion, the grinning pig slid further and further down its slippery slide, gaining momentum. As Jamie struggled to restore equilibrium, tomorrow’s dinner became an unstoppable porcine torpedo. With legs splayed as if for embrace, the pig engulfed Jamie, who slipped in the slick grass and fell, pinned helplessly under the pig’s indomitable, er, charms.
The roar of the rain barely dampened our earsplitting laughter. “Someone help him,” I managed to plead, wiping tears from my eyes.
Jamie survived the ordeal, and the pig came to a just and delicious end. Dad returned to celebrate another birthday — happily, in better weather. And the memories and laughter have remained with us, ever since.
I believe the best of Maui is the stories we share, with love and aloha. I feel honored to share them with you.
A hui hou.