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Food preparation & cooking methods
Prepared foods
Implements and utensils
Food Preparation Sources



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Implements and utensils

Hawaiians used a variety of implements and tools to prepare their food. Poi pounders were essential for making poi. Most were stone, made of shaped basalt with a cylindrical neck topped by a knob and with a flared, convex bottom. They generally ranged in size from five to eight inches tall and weighed two to 10 pounds. Natives on Kaua`i also made ring-shaped pounders (with a hole through the middle) and stirrup-shaped pounders designed to be used with two hands.

Pounding boards for poi making were shaped from heavy wood in the form of flat shallow trays. Rectangular with rounded corners, a one-man pounding board was approximately 35 inches long and 16 inches wide. A long pounding board built to accommodate a man at either end was 50 to 80 inches long and 22 inches wide.

Other cooking implements were scrapers, shredders and knives. The most common scrapers were made of limpet or `opihi shells that have a naturally sharp edge. Scrapers used on pig skin were flat pieces of basalt or lava that had a rough surface. Shredders were shaped from large cone shells with the lower edge serrated. The most common knives were made of bamboo. They were convenient, easy to make and very sharp. Stone flakes were also used as knives. Split from stone, they had no handle but could be firmly gripped and were very efficient. Stone knives were used for heavier cutting tasks. Hawaiians also used shark teeth to cut meat, fishing bait, or to do fine wood carving. More complicated forms incorporating multiple shark teeth were used as weapons.

For storing and serving food, Hawaiians used gourd and wooden containers. To form bowls and other vessels, they shaped their gourd plants as they grew, supporting or suspending the plants to achieve symmetrical rounded shapes. Once cut from the vine, the gourd flesh was scraped out and the gourd was dried in the sun to harden. Bowls with covers were made from two gourds cut to fit together. Gourds for drinking water often retained their narrow necks with a hole cut out for pouring.

Wooden bowls used for food storage were usually made of kou or milo wood, softer grained woods that were less prone to cracking with repeated wetting and drying in the sun. Bowls were made using carving tools and fire to remove excess wood. Once shaped, bitterness in the wood was removed by a series of steps including soaking in sea water, filling with sweet potato and taro scrapings left to ferment, filling with fermented poi then soaking in plain fresh water. These steps were repeated until ordinary poi eaten from the bowl did not transmit any bitterness from the wood. Once ready, the bowl's outside was smoothed with pumice and shark or sting ray skin, and the surface polished using green bamboo leaves and kukui nut oil.

Bowls for serving poi were rounded without handles or legs. Heavy bowls were lifted using carrying nets. Larger bowls were used to serve pork, dog, or large fish. Wooden platters were also used to serve meat. These could be elongated, round, raised on runners, or supported by carved figures. Some platters included compartments for salt or other relishes. Deep bowls stored taro or sweet potato poi; round wooden covers kept out flies and prevented a skin from developing on the surface of the poi.

Hawaiians used bowls or ti leaves in place of plates. They ate primarily with their hands, but sometimes used a spoon made of coconut shell carved to a slightly elliptical shape. Spoons were used for eating sweet potato poi that was thinner than taro poi.

Water and coconut milk were drunk directly from gourd containers or from the coconut. Cups made of wood, small gourds, or coconut shell were used for drinking `awa.



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