LIHU’E — The group of people huddled around the small opening against the morning chill indicated something was going on.
The chilly winds quickly stole the aroma of frying malasadas (“malasadas” in Hawai’i, “malassadas” in Portugal), but the huddled people indicated that the malasada stand fronting the Kmart store was open and doing a thriving business Tuesday.
There was no time to talk. There were orders to fill as the people stopped to pick up malasadas for their co-workers and staff on their way to work.
“I came in all the way from Wailua for this,” said a lady waiting in line at the Kauai Bakery & Cinnamon store at Kukui Grove Center. “Today is Malasada Tuesday, and gotta have malasada.”
Lei Nakayama, who along with husband Dean Nakayama are the proprietors of the small bakery in Kukui Grove Center, was busy transferring cooked malasadas onto a large tray for her clerks to draw from to fill customers’ orders.
“It’s been like this since 4 a.m.,” Lei Nakayama said between handfuls of malasadas.
Employees at the bakery that The Garden Island readers voted as having the “Best Malasada” in the 2005 Best of Kaua’i survey, appeared to have the crowds controlled as the line surged and fell, customers having a sixth sense of when it was time to get in line for their orders.
Debi Matsumoto, an employee with the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation program, was one who made her way through the parking lot, wrapped snugly against the chilling morning winds.
But a smile broke through the chill as she chirped, “It’s Malasada Tuesday. I heard it on the radio, and gotta have some malasadas for the office.”
Peter Rayno, a staff member at nearby Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, was also in line waiting to get some of the morsels for “the office ladies.”
Malasada Tuesday is a Portuguese event that has its roots in Shrove Tuesday.
Shrove Tuesday is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
It’s a day of penitence, to cleanse the soul, and a day of celebration as the last chance to feast before Lent begins.
In the old days, there were many foods that observant Christians would not eat during Lent. These included foods such as meat and fish, fats, eggs, and milky foods.
To prevent the food from going to waste, families would have a feast on the shriving Tuesday, and eat up all the foods that would not last the 40 days of Lent.
The need to eat up the fats gave rise to the French name “Mardi Gras,” meaning “fat Tuesday.”
Pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday, as they were a dish that could use up all the eggs, fats, and milk in the house, with just the addition of flour.
Similarly, the malasada in Hawai’i uses similar ingredients, and has become a local tradition for people who simply want an excuse to enjoy the sugar-coated morsels.
Shrove Tuesday is sometimes called “Pancake Day,” after the fried-batter recipe traditionally eaten on this day.
But there’s more to Shrove Tuesday than pigging out on pancakes, or taking part in a public pancake race, because the pancakes themselves are part of an ancient custom with deeply religious roots.
Malasadas originated on the island of Sao Miguel, which was a Portuguese colony. Azorians on the other eight islands called them “filhos.”
Beginning in 1878 and continuing for a decade, Hawai’i leaders solicited immigrant workers from Portugal, who brought the desire (and the recipes) for malasadas with them.
Lent is the 40 days and 40 nights when, according to the Christian religion, Jesus fasted in the desert, tempted by the devil.
Lent ends on Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified. He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.
- Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or email@example.com