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The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage (A Kolowalu Book) Paperback – April 1, 1996

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The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage (A Kolowalu Book) + Best of the Best from Hawaii Cookbook: Selected Recipes from Hawaii's Favorite Cookbooks (Best of the Best State Cookbook Series)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press; 1st edition (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824817788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824817787
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 8.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #772,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Hawaii has perhaps the most culturally diverse population on earth. The story of how the Polynesians, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Korean, Filipinos, Okinawans, Puerto Ricans, various Southeast Asian peoples, and Caucasians (known as haoles) brought together their culinary traditions on these islands makes fascinating reading. Laudan concentrates on local food rather than the world-class glamour of the Hawaiian regional cuisine cooked up by famous island chefs Amy Ferguson Ota and Roy Yamaguchi. She presents the polyglot world of the plate lunch, Spam, mochi, seaweed, shaved ice, sushi, and all the other dishes that Hawaiians really eat every day. Primarily a living and lively culinary history, this book does include recipes for the most commonplace Hawaiian dishes.


"A welcome and absorbing surprise." Gourmet

"Definitive." Honolulu Magazine 

"Marvelous." Los Angeles Times

"Brilliant." Alan Davidson. Petits Propos Culinaires

"I am clued into what has been an almost invisible society to me." San Francisco Examiner

"The best culinary ethnography ever written." Sun-ki Chai, Sociology, University of Hawaii

"Wonderful." Asian Foodbookery

"Rich in unexpected insights, ironic turns of history and off-beat facts." John Thorne. Simple Cooking

"A consummate work of anthropology." Kaori O'Connor, Anthropology, University College London

"The best book of its kind available. . . . Never pedantic, always entertaining. . . . Here is a book to savor."

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Customer Reviews

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One thing she has done is to compare different editions of local cookbooks.
Harry Eagar
Professor Laudan, who is primarilly a philosopher of the history of science, has produced an outstanding book on the origins and background to Polynesian food.
Mr. Thomas Thatcher
This book is not just thoroughly researched, but is very entertainingly written.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By "ajaks" on January 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
It seems this book was born out of Laudan's attempt to categorize and make sense out of the foods in Hawaii. I was raised in Hawaii and grew up surrounded by the foods that Laudan presents in her book. Many of the local cookbooks put together and sold by Hawaii's churches, schools, and communities give you recipes from local home kitchens; nothing too fancy and usually no description of the dish, because it is assumed you know what the ingredients are and how they are used.
More than a cookbook, Laudan has written well-researched histories of how various local foods have developed throughout the islands before each main and sub sections (The Plate Lunch, The Matter of Mochi, Sorting Out Sushi to name a few). And, she includes a brief explaination of the dish before each recipe.
I bought this book hoping to shed some light on "crack seed" and how to make it. Unfortunately, it appears that she was able to get only the more well known recipes due to the fact that the main ingredient (oriental flowering apricot) is not widely available.
This book is a good resource, if not for the recipes, then for the history of Hawaii's local food for both non-Hawaii and island cooks. One caveat: a recipe found in a cookbook is no more than a base on which to add/subtract/change ingredients as you see fit. There is no such thing as "The Recipe" for teriyaki sauce - recipes vary from home to home and island to island.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on May 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
Rachel Laudan has written a hymn to the plate lunch, a rhapsody on the theme of two scoop rice.

The presses are running hot with glossy books about Pacific Rim cuisine. Laudan says she has nothing against it, but she is interested in local food. The recipes that conclude each of the essays in this book include such fare as Okinawan pig's foot soup. You will not find anything with lilikoi-Maui onion-ginger salsa on top. (Lilikoi is the local term for passion fruit.)

For someone who had been in the islands only eight years (as a teacher of history of science at the University of Hawaii), she really knows her local grinds (but grinds, surprisingly, is not used anywhere in this book).

For Laudan, food is not just a way of keeping the body fueled. The way people east, their tendency to avoid strange foods, their willingness to make great efforts to maintain culinary traditions in new settings tell a big story.

In Hawaii, they tell a story of a creation of a successful multiethnic, multicultural society. She doesn't go as far as the historian Gavan Daws, who says, correctly, that Hawaii is the most successful multiethnic society on Earth, but she does note that in the islands, half of marriages are across ethnic or cultural boundaries.

Crossing food boundaries is just as significant, in her view. Local food is a meaningful development, the offspring of "a culinary Babel."

"There are few places in the world," writes Laudan, "where the creation of a cuisine is so transparently visible."

Well, yes, if you look, and this is where "The Food of Paradise" excels.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
Read this book before or after you visit Hawai`i, and you'll increase your appreciation of the people, the place and the food. As one born and raised here and of mixed ancestry, I treasure this book. The only significant group the author missed is the Puerto Ricans, and consequently some of the Afro-Carribean influences in our cuisine.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tiki Puppy on May 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
THE FOOD OF PARADISE ~ Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage
Rachel Laudan
University of Hawaii Press ~ 1996
296 pages, softcover

I must say that I was delightfully surprised when I received this book in the mail- I had expected just another Hawaiian cookbook, and that would have been great too. Instead, I found not only recipes that were not available, ad nauseum, in every other Hawaiian cookbook, as I do seem to have an over-abundance of these, due to my obsession with Hawaii, but I was happy to get a few history lessons, as well.

As many already know, besides the first Polynesian settlers to Hawaii, from the South Seas, Hawaii was settled by many diverse cultures. Certainly, the Asian influence is very heavy here: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Southeast Asians. There is a big Portuguese and Azores influence too. Europeans came to conquer and subjugate, but most of their food culture was not so compatible with the climate. New World foods did do very well, and many of the common foods we associate with Hawaii actually were imported from the Americas, such as pineapple.

It seems that most Hawaiian residents are a mixed up combination of heritages and cultures, and they are very proud of that assimilation, and their food choices reflect that. The beloved comfort foods may have originated across the globe, but Hawaiians have reinvented them uniquely in their own way.

A few favorites that are now heritage dishes are Jook, a porridge soup, Musubi (see my SPAM review!), Saimin noodles (available even at McDonalds), Shave Ice, Malasada donuts, and Crack Seed, which even has its own store in Ala Moana mall.
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