"24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs" is a global blogging event, devised, collected and showcased by the amazing folks at Foodbuzz.com. This event celebrates the scope and diversity of food blogs by capturing the cultural diversity and unique local perspective of bloggers from around the world: it's real food, experienced by real people, and shared real-time.
In Hawaii, community celebration comes in the form of feasting on delicious food in the company of family and friends. Today this feast is often called a luau, but sadly, the only luau that visitors to Hawaii (even long-term visitors) are able to participate in has gone the way of many other fine traditions – turned to entertainment for tourists and comprised of a pared-down menu of accepted (and expected) dishes...and I believe, losing the very reason for its being in the process.
For the first time, Hawaiian delicacies such as bananas and coconuts that were previously reserved for royalty were enjoyed and shared between all and traditional Hawaiian staples such as poi (taro), crab, pig and yams, were eaten alongside exotics from the New World. Since the inception of the`aha`aina, culinary influences such as miso, rice and teriyaki from the Japanese; sweet bread, sausage and malasadas from the Portuguese; and dishes like lomi lomi salmon from the West have been incorporated into Hawaiian cuisine.
`aha`aina for the for the Foodbuzz “24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs” event. To create this `aha`aina and to promote the sharing of cultural ideals and food traditions, we brought our friends and coworkers – all home cooks - together to celebrate global diversity in true Hawaiian style…to simultaneously recreate and reinvent the `aha`aina on a tiny island off the coast of Oahu.
1) Create a new version of a traditional Hawaiian dish, using ingredients that are prominent staples of their country or ethnic background; orThe response was overwhelming – we had nearly 30 people, most of whom didn’t know each other prior to the `aha`aina. Our one requirement, beyond the creating of the dish, was that each person be willing to share a bit of themselves, their culture, and their cooking with the rest of us. The group embodied the global community that has been drawn to Hawaii because of its unique location and spirit of aloha, and included people from over 16 different nationalities - from Hawaiian to Guamanian, Japanese, Mexican, Lithuanian, and beyond.
2) Make a traditional dish from their country or ethnic background using locally available Hawaiian ingredients.
To bring home the concept of community, not only between those of us living here in Hawaii, but across the world wide web as well, we even invited other Foodbuzz Featured Publishers in Hawaii to join us - to bring their own cultural identity and cooking prowess to the table, and to cover it on their own blog and in their own style. Only one, Deb, was able to attend and you can read her thoughts about the whole experience on her fabulous blog, Kahakai Kitchen.
`aha`aina, cooks and non-cooks alike came out swinging – the food was a veritable feast, both for the stomach and for the eyes. Since each recipe was newly created by the person that brought it to the table, many people were hesitant when they arrived – worried that their food wouldn’t taste right, wouldn’t be right; that it might not look or taste “good enough,” but as the tables were set up and filled with beautiful food, there were satisfied faces and smiles all around. There was no “best dish” of the day – instead of competition between dishes and people, there was only sharing, tasting and discovering the tastes of everyone’s unique heritage, combined with the flavor of land we live in and love (Hawaii, of course!).
The quality and deliciousness of the feast was clearly evident in the audible exclamations and sounds of surprise and delight that were heard across the table amid the other conversation (and in how much and how fast all of the food disappeared). Before long, as the scent of coconut, mangoes, and pork wafted out into the air, we even had "neighbors" that began to trickle in and ask if they could join the feast. The food literally brought an unexpected and unique group of people together. There were kids running around exploring the new surroundings and providing the feeling of a large family joined together, while the adults were having a different kind of new experience – on the palate and in the spirit of fellowship and new friendships forming.
Many people reflected that they reconnected to parts of their heritage through the experience of coming up with their dish – to mothers, to grandmothers, to childhood memories and family gatherings, and even through traditional recipes they had never heard of nor tried before. Some created their dish as a way to thank the land and the people there – using ingredients from Hawaii and integrating a piece of themselves and their culture with the land they now live in, and sharing it with the people there. One even swore off the luau, exclaiming they would "rather have an `aha`aina any day! Everyone agreed they would definitely come back together for another one (next year, perhaps?).
`aha`aina and the aloha spirit of the people of Hawaii, reinvigorating the tradition of fellowship and community celebration in the hearts and minds of the people who attended. But the `aha`aina needn’t be specific to Hawaii. It could be recreated anywhere - near or far, around a smoldering imu (an underground oven for cooking Kalua pig) or in your own backyard...you can recapture the global flavors, and the spirit, of the luau in your own way.
As you know, the food blog world truly represents a global community – connecting people across the world at tables and in kitchens, regardless of any borders. But food itself is the universal language of the planet: no matter who you are, where you live or how much money you have, you have to eat – it’s a requirement of human survival and part of the whole human experience. But there is a global community, and a world of creativity, existing right outside your doorstep too – in yourself, your family and your friends. Bring them together, ask them to share a bit of themselves with you, and relish in learning something new about them. I guarantee you’ll be feasting and celebrating life together around a table of amazing food...and what could be better, or more worthwhile, than that?
Stay tuned for the incredible recipes (plus more photos) from this amazing event - they'll be posted soon!