This week we celebrated our little granddaughter's first birthday with a luau. This is a four generation picture of me, stepdaughter Becky and granddaughter Ellie (sorry, no steps for the grandbabies) and Cabbage Patch Baby Eugenia Aurelia. I told Becky that since I'd never gotten to do the mother-daughter dress-alike thing, she had to humor me.
Before they arrived, I had done some "Hawaiian graffitti" writing a message with coral on the black lava, and I was excited to take Becky and Josh and Ellie to see it. I had strategically located the message near the airport, so it would be easy to show them. When I located it, someone had dismantled our writing and it said "Yoko" where it was supposed to proclaim "Ellie is 1." (That took less time than writing "Happy Birthday.") Yoko may be a Japanese tourist not versed in the etiquette of rock writing, such as not taking apart someone else's still-legible message to write your own. We set things right, however.
A local friend told me that I need to pile up some black rocks on either side of my rock writing, and that makes it "kapu" to mess with it. If that works, then I can just go out each year and change the number. I even spray-painted some coral and made a plumeria and a heart. Only the best for Miss Ellie!
When Becky told me she wanted to come to Hawaii and celebrate Ellie's first birthday Hawaiian style, I asked a friend at church, knowing the no-expense-spared way the locals put on a luau, if I might be able to get away with a luau-light. She came alive and informed me I could not host "one junk Haole luau" for baby Ellie. With that in mind, I set out to do the best I could to come through with the local dishes and not to send my friends away hungry. In earlier times, it used to be quite an achievement to keep a baby alive until a first birthday, so the first birthday was celebrated in a big way. The tradition has continued.
When I first moved here and was handed an invitation to a baby's first birthday party by the wife of a member of the stake presidency, I thought they must want to get to know us and was very flattered to be invited to what I thought was probably an intimate family gathering. I have attended a number of baby luau's since then and I know better now.
So I have been planning this mega-party for the better part of a year, collecting pictures for a slide show of Ellie's first year, planning the menu, coming up with a theme. In preparing food this week, I broke one of my cardinal rules of cooking which is not to try and fix ethnic food for people of that ethnicity. My first attempt at Haupia (coconut pudding) was a dismal failure. It looked good, but I had overcooked it waiting for it to thicken, and the burnt taste permeated the entire four-pan batch. Undaunted, I made another smaller batch, this time pouring it into the pan at the first sign that it was starting to thicken. I then asked my aforementioned friend to sample it and let me know if it was worthy of being served. I told her it was "Haole-pia." That batch passed. Encouraged, I moved on to the mochi.
My mochi appeared to look the way I thought mochi was supposed to look, but when I tried to cut it, it was sticky and didn't resemble any mochi I had ever eaten, although it tasted okay. Discouraged, I put it out for the geckos, only to discover later that the problem was that I cut it with the wrong kind of knife and missed the step of rolling each piece in potato starch. It is always good to try new recipes out before the actual party, but where's the adventure in that?
We nailed the bread pudding, so that should have bolstered my ego, but Becky made that, and my only contribution was ripping the bread into little pieces. People were raving over it, but nobody mentioned the uniformity in size of the little pieces of bread and how evenly pieces with crust were interspersed with non-crust pieces. Still, it counted as another victory.
I had professional help with the laulaus and the kalua pig. (It is always good when attempting to entertain the masses to have at least one friend who owns a restaurant.) Many friends brought side dishes, and not only did people not go away hungry, they went away with some of the leftovers. The important part is that friends and family gathered to celebrate this beautiful little girl's first year of life. That and now nobody can accuse me of being "a pig short of a luau."