Sunday commenced dark and early with Greg and I lighting the fire we'd laid the evening before, and Greg watching it while I got the pig out of the freezer, dressed it a little (mostly by carving open the "armpit" area so that the shoulder joints were exposed), salted it, and started putting together the laulaus. About an hour and a half into the burn, we discovered that I'd made an error in judgement in the rock-buying department. There were many loud pops, which I in the kitchen just took for normal fire sounds (we'd put some softwood in to get things going), but when I went out to check on Greg, and he told me rocks were exploding, and I said, "Nah, that's just ordinary fire," he retorted, "You haven't seen the shrapnel."
In fact it was a Good Thing[TM] that we'd wetted down the ground around the pit so thoroughly before we started the fire; as it was, Greg had to put out two little grass fires caused by shards of hot rock. It was an even better thing that Greg himself didn't get hit by flying rock bits. The most dramatic explosion for me actually flung no shards, but came a further couple of hours after that, as I stood on the back steps just saying to Greg, "Gosh, I haven't heard one in a while -- I wonder if they're done?" Scarcely had I done saying it when there was a deep, powerful boom, and I felt the vibration in the soles of my feet. I'm just glad the neighbors didn't sic the fire marshall on us!
Finally, after the sun had been up for a bit, it was time for me to break
down and wake up Martin to help me make laulaus -- I hadn't meant to roust
Carol out of bed too, but she came down in quest of coffee and once she
had been satisfied in that regard, she set to as well. Item of information:
if you plan to do this yourself, make sure you have a couple of reasonably
kitchen-competent friends to help; my luau would never have come off as
well without my two lovely assistants.
We made sure Greg got coffee too; he deserved it. The cute white cat on his knee is the one we call "Pig" on account of her appetite when she was a kitten. It made it a little interesting trying to figure out which "pig" was being referred to at any given time -- context was not always indicative...
Around 8 o'clock, the fire had burned down to coals. We took a roll
of chicken wire that lives in my backyard for gardening purposes, and cut
it to a length we figured would serve. We laid it out on the ground and
laid some banana leaves on it, and then Martin and I hauled the (non-feline)
pig out of my pantry and laid it on the leaves. We wrapped more leaves
around, and some in the cavity, and then Greg put on the welder's gloves
you see sitting beside him in the picture, grabbed a couple of rocks out
of the pit, and stuffed them into the cavity where they steamed furiously.
He had to work quickly, because the rocks were so hot they started to heat through the gloves; one more rock for each of the armpit gashes I made earlier (which we also lined with leaves), then we tied up the wire around the pig and laid it in the imu. And there it is! Look at that yummy steam... makes me hungry just looking at it -- luckily for me, I still have a fair amount of leftover kalua pig in my freezer... ;)
(Remember, by the way, that if you want to see big versions of the pictures, you should go to the picture index and click on them there; these are just adjuncts to the story here.)
Martin and Greg grabbed shovels and buried the whole thing. Then, for
better or worse, all we could do was wait. One nice thing about spit-roasting
is that you can see what's going on while your meat cooks; the disadvantage
of spit-roasting is that if the wind is blowing, you might end up with
underdone meat, like I did once.
So wait we did, and in the meantime, we put up decorations, did the last-minute clean-up stuff, got rice going, changed into Aloha shirts, and Martin started frying the lion-head balls and the spring rolls. We set up a boombox outside and put on Gabby Pahinui; inside, Keola Beamer, and later an album of slide guitar masters.
Martin has a reputation in the
crowd in the context of which I met him, as the deepfat fryer par
excellence, hence his sobriquet as Fryer
Martin. This isn't one of his bazillion-BTU cookers, but it's what
I had... ;)
started to show up around 3-ish; we set out pupus and put out a cooler
of ice for peoples' drinks and just hung out. Everybody got lei'd at the
front door. Greg's old friend Daniel, who was one of the three friends
who came over along with Greg when they left Hawaii, read a
fun poem in pidgin about Greg and that exodus. We schmoozed (what's
schmooze in Hawaiin? ;) Like I said, it's hard to be patient when
you can't really see what's going on, but you could feel the ground was
a little warm over the pit, and occasionally there'd be a little plume
of steam. One reason why I have leftovers even today is that we made so
many pupus everyone was pretty stuffed by the time we decided that the
pig just couldn't possibly get any more cooked.
So finally we dug it up, unable to wait any longer. It was here that we realized we really shouldn't have skipped throwing a burlap or a tarp or a something over the pig, because it was really hard to unwrap the pig without getting dirt in the meat. I thought the banana leaves would protect it, and while it was buried, that was true, but once it came time to unwrap, some of the dirt that was left on the leaves got into the meat. We knew it was sterile dirt though, after being steam-cooked for 12 hours!
what can I say about that meat? It was, pure and simple, the utterly best
pork I'd ever tasted. It was damn near ambrosial. Falling off the bones,
sweet, smoky, juicy... (Now I really am gonna have to haul some
leftovers out of the freezer... did I mention it freezes well?)
it was pretty close to the best party I ever threw. I don't think I could've
had more fun if I tried. I learned a few useful lessons from it, which
are on the next page, and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again, knowing what
I do now.