Pigs and Hawaii

This class taught me about the dynamic between food, culture, and interpersonal connections through the context of the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese zodiac is an intricate system that assigns an animal to each year, each with its own set of traits and characteristics. In this food studies class, we took a unique approach to explore the zodiac by bringing in food that represented our respective zodiac animals and sharing personal stories related to our connections with food. I found this process to be an enlightening experience that enabled me to better contextualize the place food has in my life and the stories that are shared with me through life experiences, my peers, and my family. The stories we heard in class while enjoying food capture the zeitgeist of past cultures and people, which acts as a way of preserving the past while serving as a catalyst for deeper conversations about our place in society and culture.

I come from Hawaii, a place rich with history as a mixing pot of cultures and languages. The people in Hawaii speak pidgin, an English-based language with influences from a variety of other languages such as Portuguese, Hawaiian, Cantonese, Japanese, Ilocano, Okinawan, and Korean. Much like how the members of our class come from various backgrounds, Hawaii is a place of immense diversity, which has shaped my early development.

The pig, known as the puaka in Hawaiian, has a significant role in Hawaiian culture and mythology. In traditional Hawaiian society, the puaka was highly valued for its meat, which was considered a delicacy and used for special occasions and important ceremonies. It was also used as an offering to the gods during the Makahiki festival, a four-month-long celebration of the harvest season.

The puaka's importance in Hawaiian culture is further reflected in its association with the goddess Kamapua'a. Kamapua'a, also known as the "pig god," was a popular figure in Hawaiian mythology and was often depicted as a half-man, half-pig creature. According to legend, Kamapua'a had the ability to control the weather and was associated with fertility and abundance.

While Hawaii doesn't have an official zodiac system, many people in Hawaii do celebrate the Chinese zodiac and its associated animals, including the pig. In the Chinese zodiac, the pig is said to have certain personality traits and characteristics, such as kindness, loyalty, and generosity. People born in the year of the pig are often viewed as dependable and hardworking, with a natural talent for finance and business.

The puaka is also an important part of Hawaiian cuisine, particularly in the traditional dish kalua pig. Kalua pig is made by slow-cooking a whole pig in an underground oven, or imu, resulting in tender and flavorful meat. This dish is often served at luaus and other festive gatherings, highlighting the cultural significance of the puaka in Hawaiian society.

Overall, the puaka is a fascinating and multifaceted animal that has played a significant role in Hawaiian culture and mythology for centuries. Its association with the Chinese zodiac only adds to its cultural significance, making it a beloved and auspicious animal for many people in Hawaii and beyond.

Kalua Pork (Slow Cooker, Instant Pot, Oven) - Cooking Classy

The Ultimate Guide To The Hawaiian Islands

Kamapua'a - The Pig God - Private Tours Hawaii : Personalized - Customized  - Private Tours on Oahu

Links for further readings:

https://abookofcreatures.com/2015/04/13/puaka/

https://kaiwakiloumoku.ksbe.edu/article/essays-makahiki-an-overview

http://www.coffeetimes.com/kamapuaa.htm

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