Daniel Got Poi!
Daniel Anthony is as culturally authentic as anyone can get. In his 30s, this native speaker and father of three, is the founder of Mana ‘Ai (Power Food) and he's bent on changing the world by expanding our knowledge and appreciation of... poi. Pa'i'ai to be precise. So what's that got to do with Native Hawaiian culture? Everything.
It is, literally, the root of native culture and though regulations by the Department of Health are proving difficult for Daniel's traditional practice of hand-pounded kalo his belief in taro as the "source of life" and the core ingredient to Hawaiians' spiritual center and physical well being is so great that you cannot walk away without believing he will prevail.
“Most of us, our parents and even our grandparents have thought that the (bagged) poi we all have had is what the Hawaiians ate. No, this is made by machine often with low grade taro. This is not pa'i'ai of ancient Hawaiians ..."
Then you taste Daniel's pa'i'ai. It is truly mana a'i, delicate and substantial and it is everything he's described in a single bite and you are transported back in time a thousand years. I remark, "I imagine a feast with fresh caught fish, opi'i, limu lipoa, shrimp, breadfruit, coconut milk, bananas... and kalo. Such a healthy diet."
Daniel turns to Dante Camara, our host, “I’d like to see the ahupua'a, the waterways and kalo fields restored. If you like this pa'i' ai and others want it, then there is demand. When there is demand for hand pounded poi there is demand for more taro fields. When there is a need for more taro loi then there are more Hawaiians back on the land, making a very good living and rebuilding and strengthening our Hawaiian community. This will restore our sense of pride and purpose."
He is talking way beyond the obvious health benefits and environmental sustainability of these Hawaiian islands. He is talking about the key to preserving and nurturing his native culture.
So here we are in the 21st century at one of the hippest most innovative green restaurants west of the Rockies, Town Restaurant, in the sleepy little neighborhood of Kaimuki. Our girl brings the appetizer of the evening and it is beautiful. Hawaiian grass-fed beef thinly sliced on a bed of organic local greens placed on a lightly sauteed piece of pa'i'ai slightly crunchy and so fresh and naturally sweet it is like no poi I have ever tasted.
I think the future of Hawaii for Hawaiians and non -Hawaiians alike is in the capable hands of Daniel Anthony and the folks at Mana'Ai. Life is good.
For more on Mana ‘Ai or to reserve a standing order of Daniel's hand pounded pa'i'ai visit http://manaai.com/ or call 542-1326. He'll be doing live taro pounding demonstrations this week at Town Restaurant 6:30 pm on Thursday the 28th and downtown at (HiSam) on Friday October 1 at 12pm.
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