dryland taro.jpgKalo (taro) is the Big Brother of Man

Legend has it that the kalo (taro) plant was a deformed child of Wakea and his daughter. It was planted in a corner of the hale (house), and grew to be the kalo plant. That first child, the kalo plant, was named Haloa. That's why kalo is considered by Hawaiians to be the older sibling. The next child was man.

When Hawaiians sit over a bowl of poi, we never talk about unpleasantness because it would be disrespectful of the taro, the poi, our older sibling. [Poi is made from the taro root. The image shown is a dryland variety.] 

Worse yet, any unpleasantness or negativity will go into the poi and exacerbate the unpleasantness.

In my [Danny's] family, if anything unpleasant comes up over poi, our kids give each other “the eye,” and it ceases. We've done that all the while they were growing up. Sometimes they'll forget and get to grumbling, then they think, “oops, we got poi tonight,” and they stop. That's one of the things we try to ingrain in our kids about the old culture. That's why the old folks tell us, “Don't complain in front of the poi. Show respect for Haloa -- whatever comes out of your mouth goes into the poi and gets passed on.” In fact, unpleasantness shouldn't come up at the table, period.


Hear pronunciation:
kalo: Taro
hale: house, building, institution, lodge, station, hall; to have a house
poi: Poi, the Hawaiian staff of life, made from cooked taro corms, or occasionally breadfruit, pounded and thinned with water

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