The Hawaiian Secret of Life

By Makana Risser Chai  copyright (c) 2015 by Makana Risser Chai, all rights reserved

Tutu, which means grandmother in Hawaiian, is my husband’s mother. One day I asked Tutu, “If you were going to tell people about what it means to be Hawaiian, what would you tell them about?” She said, “I would tell them about going squidding with my Tutu.” I laughed out loud. This was not what I expected! I thought she would talk about aloha, or another Hawaiian value. “Tell me about squidding,” I said. Tutu said, “We go Anini Beach. Gotta take my sister Annabelle cause she has good eyes, she can see the squid. We walk along the shore, looking for squid.” I asked, “What happens when she finds one?” She said, “Annabelle calls, ‘Tutu!’ Then Tutu come over and spear the squid and put it in a bag. The squid is about as big as my right hand. You only need two or three. Take it home, pound it, pound it, pound it, cause it’s tough that’s why. Pound it til the legs curl up. Then you take garlic, and take some ink out of the sack of the squid, and put that on it. Eat it raw. Eat it with poi.” Tutu laughed at the memory. “Good eating!”

You might think this is just a nice story, but later I visualized what she had told me. Imagine getting up in the morning and grandmother saying, “We go squidding!” You know you will have good eating that night, and it means you are going to the beach! The kids scramble to get the spear, the squid sack, and whatever else they need. Then like little ducklings they follow Tutu down the road, over the bridge, along the bay and around to Anini Beach, maybe a mile away. It’s a beautiful day, with blue skies and white clouds. The sun warms them, the water cools them. They play for a while and then get down to the serious business of finding squid. You have to be quiet, and move carefully. As Annabelle moves down the beach, Tutu instructs the younger children about where the squid live, what they look like under water, how to move so as not to scare them. Later, at home she shows the children how to pound the squid, and gives everyone a turn at it. Finally it is time to eat! They say grace, thanking God for this food. You can taste the sea in the squid. You can taste the whole day! The sun and the beach and Tutu’s love, all in the squid.

A day at the beach in Hawaii, surrounded by a loving family, walking, swimming, laughing, eating of the earth and the sea. The secret of life is all there. Mahalo Tutu. And it is not only something that an be done in Hawaii. What can you do, where you live, to create squidding for your family?


To hear stories like this in person in a presentation on Hawaiian traditions, call Makana at 808-282-2743 or contact us.