PUPUS, Hawaiian snacks similar to hors d’oeuvers, tapas, and canapés,
make up the third segment of my A-to-Z Challenge theme.
Kalua means “to bake in an underground oven” known as an imu. A very short excerpt from my novel With Fiery Vengeance illustrates a sliver of the preparation behind that luau pork you devoured on your last trip to Hawaii.
Wedding guests had stationed themselves two and three-deep around Uncle Mondo’s imu, the underground pit he had prepared for baking the pig. Since last evening, he had directed all the outside projects. He had instructed the keiki to scour the property for kindling and fist-sized rocks.
“Get plenny twigs and small branches ’cause we need a blazing hot fire to heat these stones,” he’d called out to the older children as they headed to the overgrowth beyond the landscaped yard. To the young ones, he said, “Help your mothers gather ti leaves, grasses, and banana leaves.”
Aunty Vai and some of her friends had rubbed the pig inside and out with rock salt. She refused my help, citing my lack of experience. “Need everything for go just right,” she’d said. Though I had been born in Hawaiˋi, and visited my son in Hawi every year, it didn’t seem to qualify me for participation in long-standing rituals. Or else she secretly thought I was incompetent. Her one concession had been to let me help pound taro roots into poi. My arms would be sore for a week.
Everyone watched in anticipation as the men removed the baked pig from the ground. Then someone yelled, “Outta the way, make a path.” Rick grabbed Cary and Cassie by the arm and pulled them to the side. Men and boys grunted with the effort of carrying the bundle to the back door of the house, Nate grinning the entire way.
No time to build an imu? Check out Chef Sam Choy’s oven-roasted kalua pig: