We've been eating delicious meals during our trip, mostly at restaurants where we have eaten before, and where I've taken the photos of the food. Anyway, photos of restaurant food are getting kind of boring everywhere. So here are the views from two places where we have eaten, and that's enough!
I had a long discussion today with Julia (above, holding a segment of sugar cane). She was giving out samples of food at a cultural festival at the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historica Park -- one of my favorite parks in the whole world! We got into a conversation about the food plants that are native to the Hawaiian islands prior to human arrival, "canoe foods" that came with the Polynesian settlers, and foods that Europeans brought after the arrival of Captain Cook. Besides a variety of plants, the canoe foods included pigs, chickens, and dogs. Julia has wondered if eggs from the chickens played a role in cooking in pre-western-contact times -- she has been unable to find any references to the use of eggs.
Served on a ti leaf, the sample foods at the festival included coconut, taro, breadfruit, sugar cane, Hawaiian purple sweet potato, and Kalua pig (not shown). A beverage from a plant that grows up on the higher hills tasted to me like tea. While the sugar cane and sweet potato are very sweet, the taro and breadfruit are rather bland, though not bad at all. I believe that in more recent times, the way people ate these foods may have become more complex and highly flavored.
Cooking in Polynesian times was mainly done in pits dug into the ground and lined with various leaves. They thus cooked a whole animal. The pit's contents was steamed slowly over a long period of time, and thus quite soft. Other preparations included use of water heated by adding hot stones to water held in gourds, or fermentation as was done with poi. Julia described to me the use of salted fish for long sea voyages, but said she was not aware that other meats would have been preserved by salting. The stone-age Hawaiians had no pottery or metal, so there were no cook pots.
Breadfruit was available at the farmers' market this morning as shown above. I also saw some of the purple Hawaiian sweet potatoes, which are quite small and have a light-colored tan skin.
Here is Julia, getting ready to serve a sample of Hawaiian foods.
"Curry is not only among the world’s most popular dishes; it also may be the oldest continuously prepared cuisine on the planet," according to Washington State University researchers Arunima Kashyap and Steve Weber. Working in the remains of an ancient city along the Indus river, they used modern molecular and archaeology techniques to identify residue from cooking pots as much as 4500 years old and discovered residue from ginger, turmeric, garlic, rice and other grains, and chicken. A Slate article dated last Tuesday, The Mystery of Curry, explains their findings.
"Kashyap used what is known as starch grain analysis. Starch is the main way that plants store energy, and tiny amounts of it can remain long after the plant itself has deteriorated. If a plant was heated—cooked in one of the tandoori-style ovens often found at Indus sites, for example—then its tiny microscopic remains can be identified, since each plant species leaves its own specific molecular signature." In addition to cooking residue, the research team examined the teeth and bones of humans and animals from the archaeology dig, which also provide evidence of the same foodstuffs being consumed.