From Hawaii with aloha

Aloha, fair readers. In case you aren’t friends with me on Facebook or didn’t notice my incessant posting, I was in Hawaii last week on a birthday trip from Charlie. We stayed in a hotel a block from Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu. Waikiki is this sort of strange paradise where everything looks like a postcard, but so much of it is so touristy that we had a hard time telling what was authentic and what wasn’t. At any moment I thought someone might jump out and tell us we were actually on a movie set and this was all a gigantic piece of scenery. Do Hawaiians actually call each other “cousin,” or did they just do that on our tours? Who knows.

Is this real life?

Like any good tourists, one of the main things on our agenda was to eat a shit-ton of food. On our first night, we were so jetlagged and confused by the fact that it was still balmy at 11 p.m. that we had a late dinner at an open-air Cheesecake Factory. Our meal was lit by flickering torches and all I could smell was the tuberose lei around my neck. (Say what you want about Cheesecake Factory, but I’ve never had a meal there that wasn’t awesome.)

The next night, we boarded a tour bus with our guide Cousin K (Yep. Try to take that seriously, if you can) and headed off to a luau. Cousin K gave us tips for getting the most out of our drink tickets and for sitting where we’d be the first to the buffet and have the best view of the ocean. And, best of all, he didn’t force us to sing anything (unlike some other tour guides I could mention).

After getting off the bus and getting leid (har har), Charlie and I shoved other people aside and booked it to go grab a table where Cousin K had recommended.

Not bad.

Charlie came back from the bar with a few extra drink tickets from an older woman who gave them to us because we “looked young,” along with a large mai tai. We both took our shoes off and watched the sun set and watched other tourists take nervous, awkward pictures with the insanely good-looking hula dancers. Neither of us had much to say. We were a little shell-shocked that everything could be so perfect. What kind of place was this?

Then, it was time to eat. We were summoned with an effing conch shell to where the pig was buried in the ground to roast.

What is happening.

After some ceremonial words and torch-lighting, none of which I understood, they enlisted two burly dudes (well, one burly dude and Cousin K) to pull the pig out of the ground. Vegetarians, you might want to look away at this point.

Thanks to Cousin K’s tip-off, we were one of the first dismissed to go get food. Because it happened so quickly, I sort of doubt that the pig pulled out of the ground was the one we actually ate. But I’m going to go ahead and pretend that either they are super fast or we ate one they’d prepared in the exact same way an hour earlier. Even though, as you know, I’m a picky eater, I filled my tray with as much as I could. I figured that even if the food was gross, I’d be eating gross food in Hawaii.

In the upper left, you’ll notice another mai tai. The left side of my plate was macaroni salad, rice, and fried fish — Americanized, nothing special. In the bottom, on the middle, was pineapple coleslaw. I’m the worst Polish girl ever in that I don’t like cabbage, but I tried a little, and my god was it delicious. Not onion-y at all. I even tried poi, a Hawaiian food made from the taro plant. It looked like a dip or a soup, but it’s not really either and we were supposed to eat it by itself. It’s known for being odd (a lot of Hawaiians don’t even like it much), and I kept confusing it with koi fish, so I got grossed out and didn’t eat much of it.

Now, let me draw your attention to the meat. When I saw the pig come out of the ground, I was sure the meat would be fatty. I’m very picky about my meat — I don’t bother with steak unless it’s a filet mignon, and I rarely eat sausage or ribs because I hate chewing on fat. Apparently some people like that? I don’t understand it at all. But this pork. It had almost the texture of pulled pork, and was amazingly tender without an ounce of fat. I could’ve eaten an entire plate of it. It didn’t need sauce, gravy, salt, or pepper. Let me tell you how good it was: I wish I’d left the cake and filled that part of the tray with meat instead.

The rest of the evening was full of mai tais, piña coladas, holding hands with strangers (several times during various “giving thanks” and/or “welcome” and or “goodbye” songs), and sexy hula dancing.

By the time we got home, we crashed and went to bed at 10:30pm like an old couple.

On one of our last days, we cut up a locally grown pineapple for lunch. Whether we were dehydrated or just wearing vacation goggles I don’t know, but the pineapple was orgasmically good — sweeter and juicier than any I’ve ever had. I feel dirty even writing about it.

We ate the entire thing in one sitting.

Postscript: In Hawaiian, aloha means not only “hello” and “goodbye,” but also “love.” So this post is brought to you from the F Word with aloha.

Jill Kolongowski is a freelance writer and editor living in San Francisco. When she’s not cooking, running, or reading, she blogs at Follow her on Twitter at @jillkolongowski.

3 Responses to “From Hawaii with aloha”
  1. Charles Roman says:

    Now I want more of that pig…

  2. Mike Vincent says:

    Myself, when I was in Hawaii, I was shocked at the prevalence of Spam at McDonalds and the fact that the drive thrus all said Mahalo. But I was in Maui….

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