This was one of the best ideas I'd ever cooked up.
First I decided that it would be fun to take a tour of the Taro Brand Poi Factory. When an email to them returned no reply, I looked for other poi-centric ideas. My search on the Intertubes brought me to the Johnny Appleseed of poi. We'll call him Johnny. I contacted him and he and his business partner, Rain, cooked up a day for us.
Rain picked us up at our hotel at 7. We ate banana pancakes and fruit at the park, then headed to the Windward side.
We met Johnny and Uncle Johnny at a native Hawaiian plant nursery, got an introduction to native species and picked out some plants to plant later on at the house. Unfortunately the moon was wrong for planting. The moon advocated relaxing, which was the opposite of what we were about to do, but whatever.
At the nursery I also met a dog.
We headed for the kalo patch, a little ways away. We changed into different shoes and walked up the hill. Somewhere near a Board of Water Supply station sits a very old set of kalo terraces that these guys are rebuilding. They were getting close, when the storms of last month ruined the water supply. Our part of giving back to the project involved helping restore the water flow by moving large rocks out of the way. For a few hours. In the heat and mud. I had a surprisingly good time, while also covering myself in mud and wielding a pick axe. After a while I got to the point where I couldn't lift anything else that was in the way. I was pau.
The before picture met with misfortune, which means that this after picture isn't quite as exciting as I'd hoped.
They decided it was time for lunch. We stopped by the fish pond on the way, to see where boards were soaking for a few weeks before being carved into papa ku'i'ai (poi pounding boards). Then on to the house.
The pressure cookers were steaming two different things: one had laulau and the other had kalo. It smelled heavenly. First, poi.
Mrguy and I sat on either end of a two-person papa ku'i'ai making pa'i'ai for a few hours. The most important thing is cleanliness. Cross-contamination is easy and I had to start from the beginning several times. They have special ionized water there that helps with the cleanliness. We learned how to clean our kalo, pound (good technique is more difficult than it seems) and go through the various steps to making it acceptable. All the while we talked about culture, legislation related to poi, what kinds of documents and legal services are available in the Hawaiian language (not many) and many other things. Our heads were swimming with all of this.
Toward the end of pounding poi, you add a little water and knead. The starch of kalo has begun to release its sugars and it takes on the color and sheen of Silly Putty. My pounding arm was really sore for a few days. Surprisingly, my back and knees felt great the next day.
After pounding we ate laulau and played a few tunes for our hosts. Rain took us home with our pa'i'ai vacu-sealed in bags. Nobody looked twice when I carried it on the plane with me.
You'd think that we would just crawl into bed after that, but we went to a Japanese soup restaurant instead. I wasn't sure I could hold chopsticks after our workout that day, but we made it fine. You'd think we'd walk out when we saw that ordering involved a flow chart, but we didn't.
I'd never seen nabe cooked over a flame in what looked like a coffee filter before (not that I'm an expert).
It did catch on fire a little bit at the end.
After our day's excitement it was time for bed :)