Welina me ke aloha! Warmest greetings to all!
This past weekend (March 5-6), a few of the Nāaoloa participants gathered to make a traditional underground oven, an imu for a fundraiser that they are holding. These particular students are part of Ke Aho Nāhoahoa, the student group of the Ka Haka ʻUla o Keʻelikōlani. The guiding statement of the group is to practice, promote, develop and strengthen the Native Hawaiian culture, its values, and traditions as outlined in the Kumu Honua Mauli Ola (A Native Hawaiian Educational Philosophy) through applied use of the Hawaiian language. If following this philosophy, making a traditional oven to cook food for a fundraiser makes a lot of sense. Not shying away from a challenge, they cooked over 500 pounds of pork butt!
It was definitely quite a feat. First up, they defrosted the meat and prepared the meat in the pans, with more Hawaiian salt than you would expect, and wrapped in aluminum foil.
While this was happening, another group was preparing the imu itself by heating up the rocks with a firewood flame.
Since the rocks needed to heat for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours, they slowly got other parts of the process done, like shredding the pūmaiʻa, the banana stalk. Also, they gathered ti leaves, lāʻī, which, like the pūmaiʻa will help give moisture in the imu since it will cook the meat via steam.
When the rocks were heated, they were arranged so they were flat and then the hard work began. At this time, everyone came over to help because a lot of things needed to be done and very quickly. The meat went in, the pūmaiʻa, the banana leaves, the lāʻī, wet cloths and then a tarp to trap the steam. And then they rested.
In the morning, after about 12 hours in the imu, the group opened it up and started shredding it to get it ready to eat and enjoy! The whole experience was refreshing and another way for the Nāaoloa group to bond and restrengthen their traditional knowledge as college students.