Poi description in English. 1909.

[Found under: “Our English Items”]

What is Poi?

Mr. Lorrin Andrews in his Hawaiian Dictionary gives the following definition of the word Poi: “The paste or pudding which was formerly the chief food of Hawaiians, and is so to a great extent yet. It is made of kalo, sweet potatoes or breadfruit, but mostly of kalo, by baking the above articles in ovens under ground, and afterwards peeling and pounding them with more or less water (but not much); it is then left in a mass to ferment; after fermentation, it is again worked over with more water until it has the consistency of thick paste. It is eaten cold with fingers.”

The learned Hawaiian lexiographer [lexicographer] do not give the exact meaning of the word. Poi is a name given to mashed Kalo, potatoe, breadfruit or banana. The Kalo (a species of arum ex-culentum [arum esculentum] when cooked, is mashed or pounded with a stone, especially made for that purpose, until it becomes like a good soft (flour) dough. From that stage it is then reduce to what is called—poi. It is only at this stage the word poi is used. When the taro is merely mashed, or pounded into a hard pulpy mass, it is called a pa’i-ai or pa’i-kalo. When it is reduced to a still softer condition, and could be twisted by fingers, it is then called poi—whether hard or soft (poi paa or poi wali). When the poi is too soft, it is called poi hehee.

Our kanaka savant ventures to give his definition of Poi. He thinks that it primarily means to gather up; to collect, to pull up; to hold or lift up an article, lest it falls down or spills over. It is analogous to the word Hii, “to lift up; to carry upon the hips and support with the arms, as a child.” An expert poi pounder will call the attention of an unskillful person when pounding taro, saying: “E poi mai ka ai i ole e haule mawaho o ka papa.” (Gather up the ai (foot [food]) lest it falls over the board). He found a French definition of the word “poi” in Boniface Mosblech’s “Vocabulaire Oce’anien—Francais, et cetera, (Paris, 1843) to wit: “boullie de taro” (soft taro). That does not give the derivative definition of the word (kalo) any better than Mr. Andrews.

In conclusion we add the old legend pertaining to the origin of Kalo (taro).

Wakea was the husband, and Papa was the wife, and they two were supposed by some ancient Hawaiian tradition, the first progenitors of the Hawaiian race. They lived on the Koolau side of the Island of Oahu, and also at Kalihi. Their first born son was of premature birth. The little fellow died and its body was buried at one end of their house. After a while, from where the child’s body was buried a new kind of plant shot up. Nobody knows what it was. Finally, green leaves appeared. Wakea called the leaves “Lau-kapa-lili” (the quivering leaves) and the long stalk or stem of the plant was called “Ha-Loa” (long stalk or stem). The plant was finally called by Wakea as “Haloa.”

(Kuokoa Home Rula, 1/1/1909, p.1)

What is Poi?

Kuokoa Home Rula, Buke VII, Helu 1, Aoao 1. Ianuari 1, 1909.

Lahainaluna School news, 1867.

Items from Lahainaluna College.

Crops.—The plants are thriving in front of the school house and the student’s dormitory, as well as in the back; those being: bananas, gourds, and trees as well, such as the pride of India, and kukui, which are all also thriving; it is very pleasant to look at, and the barrenness will perhaps be no more. But this is a considerably new thing.

The sugar cane patch.—The cane patch seems to be growing well, it is on the left side of the road going down to Lahainalalo.

The taro patches.—The teachers and land supervisors are putting effort into working the students in the patches to increase food so that they will not face problems with hunger. The patches being worked are large, and the loi that were not used before are being worked, those being the ones below the river, and the ones above it are starting to be worked (the ones at the school), and the farming is going well, and the taro production will perhaps increase in this upcoming year.

The canal.—The new auwai is being started under the direction of Mr. Andrews. This auwai runs next to the pali, and it’s source is in the district of Auwaiawao; it is called “Pipikapau” and the water will reach the dry patches here above. The students will be truly blessed by this auwai.

The anatomy book (“Anatomia”).—The College is lacking a volume of this type, but it is not totally without, there are a few; although there were a great many in the past years, this year, they are without the printed book, and the second class is being taught from a handwritten book. They are terribly lacking.

Human bones.—On Saturday, the 20th of this month, the second class went to Makaiwa, close to Kekaa, and bags were filled with bones so that they could see the kinds of bones as in Anatomia.

Lantern slides.—Pictures were projected by our instructor, S. E. Bishop, on the night of the 24th of this month in the Church; all the students gathered together, and also there were some of the teachers.
The activities that night were fine.

Joint school.—Every Wednesday, all the grades join together, from the 1st class to the 4th, and the 1st class checks the mistakes in what is written by the other classes in response to the questions given by Andrews. They join together at 10 o’clock on every Wednesday.

The enrollment.—There are 103 students at this school. And Andrews teaches the students at 5 o’clock in the evening every Wednesday, and perhaps the children are acquiring this knowledge.

Break.—The school might go on vacation during the month of December, for a month. This is what we hear from the President, whether it be true or not.

J. Kaohukoloiuka.
Lahainaluna, July 26, 1867.

(Kuokoa, 8/3/1867, p. 3)

Na mea o ke Kulanui o Lahainaluna.

Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke VI, Helu 31, Aoao 3. Augate 3, 1867.