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1940s Recipes + Menus

How to Have a Luau

The Way We Cooked: Vintage Gourmet

January 1948

Gather a gang of native Hawaiians and all the dogs you can find. Take them out into the Waialua Mountains and start a wild-pig hunt. That is partly to get a pig and partly to work up an appetite. If you should happen to hunt all day without finding a pig, don't worry. Just turn your back and the natives will have one for you. When they produce it, dont count the dogs too carefully.

Once you have your pig cleaned, the next thing is to prepare your imu, or oven. Dig a deep hole in the ground, line it with rocks, and build a fire in it. When the stones are good and hot, wrap the pork in ti leaves and lower it reverently into the glowing cavity. Over it pile mullet wrapped in ti leaves, yams, breadfruit, laulaus, baking bananas, and anything else you want to cook. Pile more ti leaves over the whole, add a bucket of water to supply steam, and cover with hot stones and earth.

Leave the imu closed for half a day, then get a kahuna, or native magician, to perform the proper incantations and open it. Dig out your pig, chop it into morsels about the size of your fist, get a supply of the other items the imu contained and start in. No complications like knives, forks, or napkins enter into a luau, but you have fingers and teeth and the grass makes a pretty good napkin. When it gets soiled, just move over a foot and have a clean one without any laundry bill.

Of course, you can't get ti leaves in this country, so I have told you about it just that you won't fail to take in a luau the next time you are in the Islands. If you're afraid of a real native one, try one of those put on for tourists. The food is well cooked in the proper manner, and you can be sure that the pork grunted instead of barked before it was butchered to make a kanaka holiday. All of which brings me to the Alexander Young Hotel method of making an eggplant into a highly edible dish.

This exclusive recipe is pulled directly from Gourmet's archive. It has not been re-tested by our food editors since it was published in the magazine, but it's a pretty good indication of the kinds of things we once cooked—and ate—with great pleasure.