Waimanalo Learning Center educator Ilima Ho-Lastimosa (TPSS) knows well how participating in traditional practices can heal communities and individuals. Now she is partnering with the UH Women’s Center to offer a series of workshops on la‘au lapa‘au, or Native Hawaiian healing herbs, open to all members of the UH community.
In the second class in the series, held this week, participants learned how food can be medicine. They made baba ghanoush, ‘ulu and kalo hummus, and pesto, as well as body soap, all from local ingredients and incorporating what Ilima refers to as “the warriors,” medicinally powerful plants such as nīoi (chili peppers), ‘olena (turmeric), and māmaki.
Purposeful group activity gave way to silent contemplation once the foods were made, as the group joined hands in a circle and listened to a participant give a pule, or prayer, in Hawaiian. Afterwards, each of the almost 30 participants shared what they had learned through the activity, insights ranging from “remember your roots” and “honor tradition” to “be mindful” and “bring good intentions to your cooking, for they will emerge in your food.”
Alexis Brissette, who had originally come as part of a class assignment to participate in a Hawaiian or Pacific Islander cultural activity, was surprised at how much the practice, and the principles behind it, resonated: “I liked the hands-on aspect; I was anticipating more of a lecture format,” she explained. “The values they talked about are important, like the need for self-care and working together as family.” Another student, Isis Harper, was most struck by the idea that “what you eat is what you are.”
The next workshop in the series will be given in late October; stay tuned for more information closer to the event!