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If, during your Hawaii vacation, you find yourself and/or your family invited to a potluck barbeque by someone you’ve met here, there are a couple of important things to consider. First, you’re probably pretty awesome. Locals here are warm and welcoming. But that doesn’t mean that we’re cavalier about who we allow into our lives. If you’ve been invited to someone’s home or family function to partake in feasting and fraternity, it means that you’ve earned the trust of a kamaaina family. That’s an honor.
The other thing you must remember is this: do not show up empty handed. We have a term here for that. It’s called being an “aku bird.” Aku birds are the flying critters that swarm over fishing boats, hunting and scavenging the schools of smaller fish that anglers seek for larger predators, like aku (tuna). On the mainland “aku bird” is the same as “mooch” or “freeloader.” Don’t be that guy.
Seeing as how you’re just visiting Hawaii, you won’t likely have any way to prepare something to bring to a barbeque. You can always opt for a bag of chips or a tub of mac salad, but that’s just so…haole. Rest assured, though, because there are four things you can buy at most grocery stores that will make you a welcome guest at any family barbeque.
Meat. This is a surefire winner. Large grocery stores in Hawaii all have a section with pre-marinated meat, fish, and chicken. On Oahu, Tamura’s is the local favorite for their selection of barbeque meats. On the neighbor islands, KTA Super Stores are also widely looked to for last-minute procurement of barbeque essentials. Vegetarians would be ill-advised to expect to be accommodated, and should bring something even meat eaters will enjoy. Like beer.
Poke. Even if the thought of raw fish makes your stomach turn, bringing a fresh tub of ahi (tuna), tako (octopus), or aku will immediately ingratiate into the hearts of your host and their other guests. We love poke here in Hawaii, and visitors who recognize this make fast friends. Besides, just because you brought it doesn’t mean you have to eat it. There is always something else at a Hawaiian style barbeque. Like beer.
Beer. Of course, this goes without saying for pretty much all but the most tee-totaling barbeques in the United States. And don’t bother with some obscure, boutique microbrew, either. We have simple tastes here in Hawaii, and locals tend to stick with brands like Bud Light, Coors Light, and Heineken. This may be because they can be purchased in a 30-pack. Unless you’ve been specifically instructed to not bring alcohol, bringing beer is always an acceptable contribution to the proceedings of a Hawaiian style barbeque.
Ice. It’s not particularly imaginative, and you won’t “wow” anyone by bringing a 10-20 pound bag of ice to a barbeque. But you can never have too much ice. It’s utilitarian. It’s good for washing up in a hurry, for watering any dogs that may be along, and for keeping barbeque essentials cold. Like beer.