Hawaii's Culturally-Inspired Cuisine

by Kim LaPat / Travel Editor, Emma Spencer Living
Image: Plate lunch

Trying to cover the topic of Hawaii’s cuisine in one blog entry is like trying to cover the entire state with one beach towel…so bear in mind, this is a general overview, not a complete history! Still, if you’re looking for some tropical inspiration to get your mouth watering for a taste of the islands, consider this an amuse bouche of sorts…one tasty bite rather than an entire buffet of information. And that’s more than enough to get you into an Aloha state of mind!

Image: North shore shrimp

When most people think about Hawaiian food, they probably think about the stereotypes—pineapples, coconuts, macadamia nuts, Spam, and lu’au-esque barbecued meats. And they wouldn’t be wrong...because those are all found in the Hawaiian diet. But Hawaii’s cuisine, like its picturesque backdrops, rich history, and melting pot of people, is multi-layered and diverse.

Image: Malasadas
When Ancient Hawaiians ruled the islands, Polynesian settlers introduced poi, taro, sweet potatoes, coconuts, sugarcane, pigs, and chickens, as well as the kalua roasting method of cooking underground in earth ovens or imu. The modern-day lu’au was also derived from the ancients, who celebrated special occasions with an aha’aina feast. Being an island state, it’s no surprise that seafood was also a main staple for pre-contact settlers—with hundreds of varieties of sea creatures making their way onto Hawaiians’ plates. Today, no visit to the island would be complete without partaking in a lu’au, sipping a cocktail from a coconut, or noshing on a fresh seafood platter—especially in Oahu, where the North Shore shrimp trucks are out of this world!

In the late 1700’s, the west discovered Hawaii. The first cattle were brought to the islands as a gift to King Kamehameha I, introducing beef to island cuisine and laying the groundwork for future plate lunches, tasty burgers, and teriyaki beef dishes. By the late 1800’s American settlers began cultivating sugarcane and pineapple. With plantations on the rise, immigrant workers started arriving from China, Japan, Korea, and Portugal, bringing their cuisine with them. Foods like Chinese dim sum and stir fry, Korean barbecue, Portuguese malasadas, and even shave ice from Japan began taking root in the culture. Later, Thai and Vietnamese influences came into play around the time of the Vietnam War. Today, Asian foods are ingrained into the cuisine of the state, so when vacationing in Hawaii, you’d be remiss not to indulge in these delicious ethnic “Hawaiian” specialties.

Moving into the 20th century, more “American” influences began shaping the cuisine of Hawaii. During World War II, American GI’s stationed in Hawaii brought that infamous luncheon meat SPAM with them as part of their rations. Soon, it caught on as a staple food for Hawaiian families, who enjoyed its low cost, long shelf life, and yes, delicious taste! After Hawaii’s statehood in 1959, and continuing into the modern day, a new wave of regional fusion cuisine began taking shape, blending locally-grown ingredients with the diverse ethnic styles of the region. Farmers markets, which are found throughout the islands, epitomize the basis for this fresh local cuisine.

Today’s Hawaiian cuisine blends the traditions of the past, the diversity of the people, and the freshness of local ingredients to create a landscape of simple, tasty dishes as well as elevated, chef-inspired masterpieces. In Hawaii, you’ll find it all—and believe me, it’s all delicious!

For more on Hawaii's cuisine...order our cookbook "A Taste For Travel," which features recipes and inspirations from Emma Spencer Living properties in Oahu and The Big Island as well as those in Guatemala and Palm Springs. Go to www.emmaspencerliving.com and order through the RETAIL section for just $19.95 plus s/h. Makes a great gift or souvenier!

Health and Nutrition: Trust the Journey

by Cynthia Revesz / Spiritual Coach, Emma Spencer Living http://cynthiarevesz.com/
From the moment we emerge into the world, we are travelers embarking on an unknown journey. Where will the road of life take us? We don't know. While we can steer towards a particular destination, there may any number of obstacles or detours. It’s a humbling realization that much of what happens in life is beyond our control. We have to trust the journey. Choosing to trust accelerates our soul’s evolutionary path because it allows us to transcend internal blocks to moving forward, which in turn provides the strength to release whatever may bind us to the past.

The concept of a journey is a well-known metaphor for life. Of course, a journey implies movement. And, moving forward often requires that you take the first step without knowing how things are going to turn out. When you go somewhere that you have never been before—whether it is a literal place on Earth or an intangible experience, such as undertaking a startup business venture—you have to trust, because there is a risk that things will not go according to plan. The uncertainty and perceived risks may pull your focus. But it’s important to remember that there is also the potential for something unexpectedly wonderful to happen. If you take that first step, you may, in fact, go somewhere even better than you had imagined. So, while venturing forth may feel uncomfortable, if you can allow yourself to trust it, and maybe even have a sense of adventure, you free yourself to grow through the experience of something new!

As souls, we are not separate, but integral parts of the continually expanding Consciousness of Life itself, which evolves as we stretch ourselves through new experiences. So when you feel the pull from within to try something different, or life brings an opportunity to your doorstep and you are drawn to it, trust the energy. Trust your connection to higher consciousness and say "yes!" Don’t confuse yourself with worry about whether or not you are good enough, talented enough, or “whatever” enough. Know that if you are truly meant to go somewhere, or accomplish something, the path will open up—e.g., you will find the resources, or be guided to find your inner strength and whatever is needed to reach that goal. Don’t put energy into worrying about how, when, or if you’ll arrive at a destination. Keep your eyes on the road, allowing yourself to be guided forward by the energy of your path.

"If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it is not your path.

Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path." Joseph Campbell

Although I don’t know where life is leading me, the steps on my path have a lot of energy around them. Some part of me lights up with excitement and anticipation (sometimes even a note of fear) at the prospect of something that is connected to my path. I have learned to trust and act on this inner sense of knowing. Consider the proverb, “The path of the Just is like a shining light.” (Proverbs 4:18) While the word “just” can mean upright, righteous, and morally judgmental, those traits are contrary to the idea of connecting to the continuously expanding consciousness, which is the source of all creation. However, “just” can also mean equitable, objective, neutral, and open-minded—attributes which point to those who are free from rigid belief systems and personal bias. Those who are just in this manner can see beyond the perspective of the separate self, or ego—allowing them to better trust in and accept the magnetic attraction of the path they are being guided towards. The energy around the path does not come from magical thinking, which happens at the level of the egoic mind—it comes from deep within one’s very being, at the soul level.

At the soul level, we are all inter-connected. Trusting the journey means remembering that you are part of something greater than yourself and committing to doing whatever it takes to be in greater harmony with that. It is consciously connecting to Oneness. Therefore, a big part of trust is accepting that things are exactly as they are meant to be and that things will work out for the best.

This reminds me of the sweet film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The distributor, Fox Searchlight gives this summary of the film’s plot:

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel follows a group of British retirees who decide to "outsource" their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel and bolstered with visions of a life of leisure, they arrive to find the palace a shell of its former self."

Imagine the massive disappointment of these elderly people who had taken a courageous leap by moving to “spend their autumn years” in India. To reassure the distraught guests, the young, indefatigable Indian proprietor, Sonny, says, “Everything will be all right in the end. If it's not all right, then it's not yet the end.” The film summary goes on to say of the retiree guests, “Though the new environment is less luxurious than imagined, they are forever transformed by their shared experiences, discovering that life and love can begin again when you let go of the past.”

There are valuable lessons to be learned from this film. Although circumstances may not be what you expected or what you hoped for, don’t turn away. Be present with what is. Not everything is as it first appears. It is not the circumstances that we find ourselves in, but rather the tendency to run away from, avoid, and resist them that causes suffering. Being present may require that you release familiar comforts, expectations, hopes, and even dreams that you’ve imposed on reality. Only when you let go can you discover the gifts waiting there for you. As Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” We must trust the journey.