Respect: Poke Fad vs a Tradition entrenched in Hawaii
Mark “Gooch” Noguchi – a Hawaiian chef born in the Manoa Valley in Honolulu and owner of the Pili Group – commented in an article written for Firstwefeast that he and many of his fellow Hawaiians were not pleased when they discovered that their beloved Poke had become the core of several fast food chains in the United States.
We are not going to reproduce the actual word that Gooch used in the article to show his irritation because it is irrelevant, but for you to have an idea it was something along these lines: # $ @ &% *!
Why aren’t they happy about all the attention that Poke and the Hawaiian gastronomic tradition is getting around the world?
Yes, they are but according to Gooch, “his whole life he has witnessed the commodification of the Hawaiian culture […] We are a society closely linked to the sea and the products it gives us. If you are not spiritually connected to our culture, you will not know who we are regardless of how many posts on Instagram or Snapchat try to teach it you all about it. ”
Cultural appropriation: that’s what Gooch is talking about.
And we, at Hula Poke, are very aware of it.
We know how difficult it is to properly represent such a deeply-rooted tradition without falling into stereotypes.
We know how difficult it is to serve the food of a country without trivialising its culture, its traditions and even its people.
We know that gastronomic fashions come and go without understanding the tradition and the culture they represent.
And, precisely because of that, we try to cook and serve Hawaiian cuisine from a very special place: from a place of great Respect.
We don’t believe in Fashions. We believe in Respect
Everything we do at Hula Poke stems from the passion and respect we have always felt for the Pacific, Hawaii.
Respect for its tradition and its history.
For its people.
For a gastronomy intrinsically connected with the medium that provides much of its sustenance – the sea.
A gastronomy linked to the environment, its history, its tradition (to the point that they usually sing to the sea and thank it with celebratory melodies like this one):
At Hula Poke, we don’t want to expropriate or reinvent a tradition that for Hawaiians goes far beyond mere nutrition.
We simply want Barcelona to enjoy the exotic flavour and fresh, natural ingredients inspired by the tradition of this mythical archipelago.
We want Barcelona to enjoy Poke with Ho’okipa, smiles and well-being.
What is Poke?
The commercialised Poke that we know today consists of a bowl with small pieces of marinated fish, a rice base and various toppings to choose from such as seaweed, avocado, cucumbers, chives, fish eggs, etc.
According to Rachel Laudan in her book The Food Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage, although Hawaiians have always had a very special relationship with the sea and the products it has offered them, the name we use today for this style of food appeared in the sixties.
Since then, and especially because of the important Japanese influence on the islands, the Poke was baptised as such, referring to the fish cubes that were added to the carbohydrate base in the bowl.
Rachel explains that the Poke is a humbler version of the refined Japanese Sashimi.
The latter requires a precise and expert cut and an impeccable presentation.
The Poke cubes don’t have to be of better quality fish, nor do they have to be cut to perfection or meticulously placed on a plate.
“They start with similar ingredients, but the two dishes carry totally different messages,” Rachel tells us.
In other words, a dish that the natives of the Hawaiian Islands have eaten for centuries to regain their strength has now acquired another dimension as a result of the many external influences to which the archipelago has been subjected.
Today, the Poke is usually served with traditional condiments such as sea salt, seaweed and limu (basalt glass leaves formed in this area as the lava enters the sea) and with many other ingredients such as those we offer in our extensive menu.
What is Ho’okipa?
Ho’okipa is the first thing you feel when you get to Hawaii.
It’s present everywhere.
Ho’okipa is to interact with others “with the spirit of Aloha, giving completely and transcending the norm of serving others“.
Ho’okipa is lokomaika’i, the generosity of a good heart.
Ho’okipa is empathy.
And Ho’okipa is anticipating the needs of the other.
Yours, in this case.
We don’t intend to take possession of this intrinsically Hawaiian quality, but we would love to replica this generous, kind, affable and empathetic service for you.
We will show you that the quality of being healthy is not at odds with the quality of being delicious.
Quite the opposite.
We’ll tell you all about it in later articles.
But for now, Aloha Barcelona! We are waiting to meet you in Hula Poke!