By Roxy Cafaro, Field Supervisor
Due to the varied cultures and religions of our staff and students at Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program, we held our winter holiday celebration in honor of the solstice. Our celebration included creative games and activities and of course a holiday meal. A highlight of the celebration was the “imu,” a traditional Hawaiian underground oven. To make an “imu” a hole is dug in the ground and rocks and wood are placed inside. A fire is started, creating a bed of coals and heating up the rocks. Next, banana leaves and other plant material are placed in the pit in order to create steam. The foods to be cooked are then placed inside, and more plant material is piled on top, followed by water soaked burlap sacks. Finally, the whole thing is covered with a plastic tarp and weighted down with rocks and dirt so that no steam will escape. The food steams in the “imu” for hours, until it is moist and tender.
In our “imu” we cooked ham and fresh caught Opakapaka fish. We also prepared lau lau, purple sweet potato pie, traditional mash potatoes and stuffing, apple and cranberry sauce, and salad. The groups worked all day to decorate and prepare for the feast, then shared the fruits of their labor with PQ staff and staff families. I joined one of our Ohana groups for the afternoon and helped prepare the meal. The students talked about their family traditions, and of course their favorite holiday foods, while working together to get everything done. Each student took pride in creating one dish as their personal contribution to the meal, then served that dish out to the visitors. At dinner, we each shared what we are thankful for and enjoyed getting to know one another better. The holidays can be an extra difficult time for our students to be away from their own families and so it was exciting to see them working together as an Ohana and enjoying a unique holiday celebration with our Pacific Quest family.
The following are two recipes we used in our holiday meal that were a great success.
Vegetarian Lau Lau
9 ounces sweet potato
7.5 ounces tofu
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons onion
1 tablespoon salt
12 leaves lu’au (taro leaves)
6 leaves ti
Wash and drain lu’au and ti leaves, removing stem and fibrous parts. Place lu’au at one end of ti leaf. Sprinkle with a little salt, then top with ingredients and cover with more lu’au until vegetables and tofu are completely wrapped. Roll ti leaf up tightly. Wrap another ti leaf in the opposite direction to form a flat bundle, and tie with string. Repeat process for additional lau lau. Steam 2-3 hours, making sure to add more water when needed.
Apple Sauce Hawaii Style – an original recipe from one of our students!
3 oranges juiced
Peel, core, and cube apples. Place apples in sauce pan with orange juice. Simmer on low for 20 minutes or until soft. Stir frequently to make sure the sauce doesn’t burn and add a little water or more orange juice if needed.