ISLAND HISTORY: Historic vignettes of good food and good times on Kauai

Mercy Whitney, the wife of Kaua‘i missionary Samuel Whitney, wrote the oldest record of a formal dinner on Kaua‘i.

Her host was Prince George Kaumuali‘i, the son of Kaua‘i’s last king, who served the princely fare at Waimea on July 25, 1821.

The dinner consisted of fried fish, baked pork, salt beef and boiled chicken, onions, sweet potatoes and several varieties of fruit.

Another recipe that was recorded was for scotch cake, written in the late 1800s at Eliza Sinclair’s Makaweli House, high in the hills above Pakala.

Its ingredients were flour, butter and white sugar, mixed, kneaded and baked to a golden brown.

Sinclair’s grandson was Eric Knudsen, a rancher who hunted wild cattle in Koke‘e when few people went there.

After a hunt, Eric and his guests would meet at Halemanu, his summer home in Koke‘e, at the place where Hawaiian bird-catchers had camped long ago.

Lean beef ribs, laid on an iron grill over a bed of coals, served with red Hawaiian salt and poi, proved good eating after a day outdoors.

Hale Nani, the estate of another rancher, William Hyde Rice, was a grand place for visitors.

It was located in Lihu‘e adjacent to what is now Rice Street between Wa‘a Street and Kalena Street.

Its most famous guest, Queen Lili‘uokalani, stayed there in 1891, and was royally entertained by Rice and his wife, Mary.

On the day of the queen’s arrival, hundreds of children passed before her.

Later, scores of people brought gifts in her honor at a ho‘okupu (ceremonial gift-giving), followed by a performance of the Royal Hawaiian Band.

A farewell lu‘au in her honor was attended by 2,000 people at Kalapaki, Rice’s home on Nawiliwili Bay where the Royal Sonesta now stands.

Perhaps the greatest lu‘au ever held on Kaua‘i took place at the Keapana Valley mansion of sugar-planter Col. Z.S. Spalding in September 1912, on the day of his 75th birthday. Three thousand people came to celebrate, many of them arriving by plantation train. Sixty-two tables were laden with food and drink and a band played sweet melodies.

  1. Jeff H. January 9, 2022 9:38 pm Reply


    Nice photo of the Robinson’s other family home up in the hills. Not something a lot of people get to see from ground level. Its a very large single level home that considering where its perched is still amazing it was built at such a high elevation. Just hauling the building supplies up the hill is mind boggling. Aubrey, Alice and Francis were home schooled at 1800 feet.

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