By Rochelle delaCruz
Here on the continent, everyone thinks that pineapple is a Hawaiian fruit. Whenever someone wants to link their product to Hawai`i, they haul out the pineapple. Hawaiian pizza? Sprinkle crushed pineapple with ham and cheese. Hawaiian kabobs? Skewer pineapple chunks between the cubes of meat. Blue Hawaii? Hook a wedge of pineapple on the edge of the cocktail glass holding some weirdly blue liquid. And what about the Pineapple Express that blames Hawai`i for all that warm air from the mid-Pacific causing temperatures to rise and snow to melt? As if!
For those of us from the Islands, pineappke isn't anywhere near the top of the list of local fruit. In fact, it isn't even on the list! Guava, waiwi, pohā, liliko`i, papaya, mango...YES. Pineapple? Nope. In my generation, the only link to pineapple was whether or not you worked at the cannery or out in the fields during the summer.
There were never any pineapple plantations on the Big Island (we had sugar cane) so when I was growing up, the only pineapple I ate came in a can. It isn't that I don't like it-- I do! Especially the fresh kind now that I've learned how to deal with all those spiky leaves and pokey skin. But what I don't like is how it's the first thing that comes to people's mind when they think about Hawai`i -- an erroneous connection if ever there was one. Pineapple only arrived in Hawai`i when somebody decided that the islands had optimum conditions for growing them on a large scale. Over a hundred and fifty years later, the last plantation finally closed down, but I wonder how long it will take for the mistaken identity to disappear? Probably forever.
But in spite of my annoyance at this pupule connection, I like pineapple and eat it fresh whenever I can. People in Hilo now grow it in their gardens and whenever I'm home, someone leaves one on my mother's doorstep. I like both the yellow and white variety especially when it's dragged through li hing mui powder. And there is no such thing as a bad pineapple. If I get one that's not so sweet, I cut it up into small pieces and simmer it with a cup or so of sugar until the sauce is syrupy. And now I have pineapple sauce for my ice cream. So there's your first recipe.
I know you're all thinking about the classic pineapple up-side down cake, rings of pineapple with maraschino cherries in the center but everybody already has that recipe, right? Howzabout some pineapple nut bars instead?
1 stick butter, melted
Combine butter and sugar; mix in eggs. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mixture. Add pineapple and nuts, mixing well. Bake in a greased 8" x 16" pan at 350° for 30 minutes.
from Favorite Recipes of Hawaii, 1965.
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