The Southern Hospitality of Hawaiian Aloha

Editor’s Note: Aloha, ya’ll! We’re thrilled to welcome contributing writer V.L. Batten to the Tailgate Traveler team. She brings us a unique perspective on food and tailgating–a perspective that blends both Hawaiian and Southern cuisines. In this post, Batten introduces us to the commonalities Hawaiian and Southern food share. Throughout the football season, she will tell us more about the Hawaiian/Southern food connection to tailgating. 

In 1986, I moved to Columbus, Georgia, from Oahu, the capital island of Hawaii.  Upon becoming familiar with my new home, I immediately recognized a cultural connection between Southern Hospitality and Hawaiian Aloha.  The Gazebo was one cultural connection.  A kindergarten excursion to Iolani Palace, a colonial structure on the island of Oahu with a large Gazebo in a fenced-in garden reminded me of this connection.  This palace sits across from another colonial structure, the Court House, which bears a huge statue of Hawaii’s warrior king, King Kamehameha the Great.  The Gazebos I saw on various properties in Columbus helped me to link the South to the South Pacific.

Certain food dishes from the South were another cultural connection I made between Southern Hospitality and Hawaiian Aloha.  Both cultures regard food as a way to connect with peoples from different cultures and to welcome them.  Southern Hospitality’s “Ya’ll come back now” is similar to the Hawaiian “Aloha.”

I shall never forget the similar tastes between tenderly-cooked collard greens with fatback, neckbones, or smoked ham hocks and lau lau, a dish of greens from taro leaves, stuffed with pork, butter fish, and chicken, and roasted to a moist steam in an imu, an underground oven.  Southern barbequed hog reminded me of kalua pig, a hog that is shaved, gutted, seasoned with Hawaiian salt, stuffed with hot lava rocks that had been heating in the imu to cook the meat internally, and wrapped in a wire fencing to keep the tender pig from falling apart when removed from the imu.

To enhance the flavor of the meat, ti and banana leaves are wrapped around the thin, wire fencing.  The wrapped hog is then placed into a heated grave and covered with heavy canvases first and earth second for up to eight hours depending on the size of the pig to seal in the juices.

For me, this cultural connection of the Southern Hospitality of Hawaiian Aloha through food was also confirmed when at Paula Deen’s web site several years ago, I viewed her menu which provided recipes for Hawaii’s staple foods, lau lau, lomi lomi salmon, and kalua pig, made the Southern way.  I have been living in the South for 25 years—Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.  I have also lived in Oklahoma and have found Hawaiian culture there too.  When I eat collard greens and barbeque hog, I am reminded of those luaus, those large parties that celebrate Hawaii, Hawaiian culture, and Hawaiian cuisine.

Hawaii is much like the South in many ways—its royal Gazebo, the structure of its colonial buildings, and its food.  These connections helped me to avoid culture shock when I first moved from the South Pacific to the South, from Hawaii to Georgia.  These connections also helped me to overcome missing island cuisine.

Image credit: The Tailgate Traveler

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