During the two weeks that we were in Hawaiʻi during 2010 Alika and Dan treated Mom and I to two picnics on Magic Island on so that we could watch the Friday evening Hilton fireworks. They spread the blanket, set Mom up in a camp chair, brought out all of the containers and opened them. Two of the containers held different types of poke. Poke (pronounced po-kay) is raw ahi tuna mixed with scallions, garlic, spices and sauces. I stared at the two containers and in panic thought, “Oh no.”
About ten years ago I had made a new friend and invited him for dinner. “How about if I make us a beef tenderloin?” I asked, to which he replied, “I only eat chicken.” “What if I make us some shrimp and pasta?” “I don’t eat shrimp,” he replied. As time would reveal, that was only the beginning of the list of things that he didn’t eat: brussels sprouts, pork, fruit in general, ham, eggs, scallops, bread, Lobster and more. He said more than once that if he hadn’t previously eaten something he was not about to start. I have often reflected upon the mindset behind my friend’s war on food. I found it to be a very negative orientation almost as if life itself was something to be defended against. Secondly, it was very restricting and limiting. He was often frustrated by meals in which untried items were presented to him. In a real way his manifold dislikes had taken him hostage, imprisoning him within an ever-decreasing list of possible happinesses.
I mention this because I have this same circle-the-wagons reaction to raw fish, which is why my brother Dan’s offering me a taste of poke suddenly presented me with a decision that I needed to make about my own prejudices. As I stared at the poke in the container I thought of my friend’s unhappiness created by his basically defensive stance against any unknown-ness that life was trying to lead him into. So I reached in and ate a cube of poke. The texture was nice, the flavor tremendous, but all I could think about were parasitic eggs that I might be ingesting in the uncooked fish. On the next picnic during that two-week visit I made myself eat another cube. It’s going to take me awhile to want to choose poke of my own volition but I’ll keep working at it. In fact it doesn’t even really matter whether or not I actually come to like it so long as I don’t imperiously declare, “I don’t eat poke!”
(who just accidentally typed “Kahuna-poke Kimo!)