The Last Luau

My last tour was one more luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. During the day, we went from event to event at the sound of the *pū:

Conch Blower, morning of Hi`uwai and Ho`okupu, Spencer Beach Park, South Kohala—Sept. 1, 2007. photo courtesy of Michael O’Brien

There were spear-throwing contests, hula dance instruction, demonstrations of early fishing with nets, and, as the “special guest” of the luau, the roasted pig (or kalua pig) was carried around for all to see.

As the evening progressed, the moon rose above the sea, and we enjoyed traditional hula dancing and singing from both women and men. The luau was wonderful; it consisted of kalua pig, pasta salad, roasted chicken, broccoli salad, potato salad and poi rolls (these soft and delicious rolls took on the purple color of poi, which is made from taro).

For dessert there was a small plate containing a slice of chocolate coconut cake, a generous slice of fresh pineapple and a square of Hawaii’s answer to tapioca pudding, **haupia.

As the night ended with applause and laughter, we all got on our respective buses, happy and contented. Our fabulous tour guide, a gorgeous Samoan girl, kept us laughing. She also made sure that the music on the radio was from us older folks’ generation. We probably annoyed the hell out of the young people as we sang along with “Sweet Caroline” (including the “bomp-bomp-bomp” as well) and other favorites.

It was a sweet and lovely end to my tours in Oahu. The following day was my last “free” day.

*From Keola magazine; post by Catherine Tarleton:

“The tropically iconic conch shell trumpet, or pū, is often seen at the lips of malo-clad beach boys, sounding the start of sunset and tiki torch lighting time. The tradition of the pū is ancient, sending out a sound that resonates attention, respect, and significance across the ocean and time.

In Hawai‘i for countless generations the pū has announced the arrival of canoes, the entrance of ali‘i, and the beginning of protocols. Today, its one-note fanfare is used to start a meeting, bless a home, or call a gathering to order.”

From Wikipedia: In ancient pū society, the aliʻi were the hereditary nobles (social class or caste). The aliʻi consisted of the higher and lesser chiefs of the various levels within the islands. The noho aliʻi were the ruling chiefs. The aliʻi were believed to be descended from the gods. They governed with divine power called mana which was derived from the spiritual energy of their ancestors.

There were eleven classes of aliʻi, of both men and women. These included the kahuna (priest/priestess, experts, craftsmen and canoe maker) as part of four professions practiced by the nobility. Each island had its own aliʻi nui, who governed their individual systems. Aliʻi continued to rule the Hawaiian islands until 1893, when Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown by a coup d’état backed by the United States government.

Aliʻi nui were ruling chiefs (in Hawaiiannui means grand, great, or supreme. The nui title could be passed on by right of birth.

**Haupia is a traditional coconut milk-based Hawaiian dessert often found at luaus and other local gatherings in Hawaiʻi. Since the 1940s, it has become popular as a topping for white cake, especially at weddings. Although technically considered a pudding, the consistency of haupia closely approximates gelatin dessert and is usually served in blocks like gelatin.


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