Friday 11 June 2021

A recipe for poi

Thank you to all the students who contributed to the blog posts for MA module 'Race and Resistance', the range of topics and focus is fantastic!  

Our final blog post is by Kristina titled 'A recipe for poi': 

 When the wolf is at the door one should invite him in and have him for dinner. [1]

How do we begin to write on Native Hawaiians and food; these words intertwined in our western literature since Captain Cook branded the islands after the Earl of Sandwich. 

Ah, Captain Cook is perhaps a good place to begin. 

Alice Te Punga Somerville offers us 250 ways in which we may start if we want to write an essay on Captain Cook. 

Way 43: With the Beginning go 'On Cooking Captain Cook'

'If you ask the blonde-haired concierge/ at the Grand Kihei, he will tell you that we ate him whole.'

The line taken from a Brandy Nālani McDougall poem. She offers us a part of the fable of how captain cook was eaten by the Native Hawaiians. And so, grappling for context I find myself next drawn to

Ways 194 and 195: With a Google Search

"Cook", "Hawaii", "cannibalism", "food" I type into the search engine. An article by Shirely Lindenbaum pops up. In it reads that cannibalism was used by colonists to justify predatory behaviour. 

Whilst the beginning of "on Cooking Captain Cook" tells us the myth of his demise, the middle tells us of his legacy, how this settler colonialism has led to a tourism industry that centres white folk and brings light to the issue of public health and inaccessibility. 

But as Somerville does, I grow tired of entering Captain Cook in this narrative. 

Way 40: So Don't Tell Another Story about Captain Cook. 

'Okay.' Okay. 

Brandy Nālani McDougall shows us the ways in which we may begin to resist these narratives and forge a new way of approaching what resistance may look like. 

Way 34: By Pushing Back. 

To push back against colonial narratives is to see how Native Hawaiians are reclaiming their culture through food, farming and poetry. 

Way 204: In savage island

'We reclaim things and turn them inside out. We make them our own. All of us savages: we make these names our own.'

And thus, by the end of "On Cooking Captain Cook" we understand that McDougall is reclaiming these narratives and that sometimes, reclaiming is as simple as cooking a traditional recipe inviting you in 

to eat, to eat. 



Taro root* 


- In a large pot, cover taro with cold water and bring to a boil. Then simmer and cook until taro can be pierced easily. Drain and rinse with cold water. 
- Peel and cut into pieces. Put the cooked taro into a food processor bowl. 
- Add a tablespoon of water and process until smooth. The texture should be sticky and thick enough to stick to one finger. 
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Slowly pour a thin layer of cool water on top of the poi and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. 
- Allow the mixture to sit at a cool room temperature for 2-4 days. 

*if you would like to grow your own, you'll face substantial obstacles due to colonisations; limited access to water, low market values for your product, and Hawaii's growingly expensive and sparse agricultural land. 

[1]Molly O'Neill, 1992. M.F.K. Fisher, Writer on the Art of Food and the Taste of Living, Is Dead at 83 (Published 1992). [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 6 May 2021].

Some Resources: 

For an in-depth recipe:


Lindenbaum, S., 2004. Thinking about cannibalism. Annu. Rev. Anthropol.33, pp.475-498.


Somerville, A.T.P., 2020. Two hundred and fifty ways to start an essay about Captain Cook (Vol. 87). Bridget Williams Books.

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