A Hawaiian luau is more than just a party. A luau is a gathering, a happening, an experience. A luau is a celebration, a joyous exultation and, at its essence, a FEAST. Hawaiian food is the star of the luau–you can hula ’til the sun comes up, you can play your ukelele until Don Ho himself yells, “Enough!,” but a luau is not a luau without food. According to Hawaii-luaus.com, your luau will most likely include dishes like:
— Kalua pig
— Poi: a Polynesian staple food made of mashed taro
— Sweet potatoes
— Luau or laulau, which gives the luau its name. It’s a food made of taro plant leaves and chicken baked in coconut milk.
— Lomi Salmon
— Tropical fruit: pineapple, mango and papaya
— Haupia: Hawaiian coconut pudding. (Jesse will teach you how to cook haupia. Though, as he later learned, you don’t really need to use a blender.)
— Mai Tais to drink
Hawaii-luaus.com offers recipes for the above.
But a luau is even more than just a great meal. Ancient Hawaiian custom forbade men and women from eating together, and certain foods were even off limit to anyone but royalty. That changed in 1819 during the period of ‘Ai Noa, introduced above. King Kamehameha II welcomed men and women to the same feast and, voila…a luau!
A traditional luau takes place on lauhala mats rolled out on the floor. Guests sit on the floor and, according to tradition, eat the food placed before them with their hands. A main feature of the meal is poi, which diners scoop with one, two or three fingers depending on its thickness.
In class we’re going to have a luau, sitting on our pretend lauhala mats, eating pretend poi with our very real fingers.