It would be the height of folly to marry into a new family but not make its history, its customs and its food your own! To keep the new customs at arm’s length is to condemn one to never understanding that culture. The symbols and customs of a culture provide points of reference by which people in that culture can locate themselves and know who they are. Without a relationship with the culture in which one lives we cannot “belong”.
Of all the mysteries for Mainlanders about Hawaiʻi perhaps the most inscrutable is poi. Since I want to be a member of the Hawaiian family and not simply a guest in the house, on one of my early trips I was determined to taste the mystery of poi. After tasting it a few times I honestly didn’t know what to make of it! I neither like it nor dislike it! And then during a lūʻau a Hawaiian told me that many Hawaiians use poi like a condiment. A light-bulb went on for me and I began to watch Hawaiians and their relationship with poi. I began to feel that my own approach to ketchup seemed to be similar to that of Hawaiians to poi, meaning that food is simply a means for conveying ketchup/poi to the mouth! The more the better!
When I moved down South to Georgia I became exposed to grits, a food staple which puzzled me as much as poi does for Mainlanders. I couldn’t see the point of it yet I was determined to try and understand what people here see in grits. I ate it every so often but it wasn’t until I made a recipe of cheese-grits with a spicy shrimp and mushroom mixture over it that the grits suddenly made sense to me! Alone it was like eating cream of wheat but paired with something spicy it became the perfect contrast to the spiciness! The fact is that if we are determined to dislike something then we will. If we are determined to embrace what someone loves whom we love then we will. I will embrace poi!