The Goddess Speaks
Local-style sharing good to last bite
I WAS NOT born in Hawaii. I'm from the mainland -- Southern California, to be exact. But after teaching at Waianae High School for more than 15 years, I've learned a thing or two about being local.
I know that driving with aloha means to let the other person go first, even if it's not the regular rules of the road. I also know that if we're going to lunch at the drive-in, I will have to get out of my car to order. And I might not need to pay until stepping back up to the window to collect my meal.
As I enjoy many rituals that make up what we call "local style," there is one idiosyncrasy that drives me crazy: Nobody will ever take the last cookie, the last piece of candy or even the last french fry.
I work with teenagers. They eat a lot. It's one of the things that they do best. It's a great way to motivate and reward them for hard work in school. So there's always tons of food around, and we all share. That's local style, too.
If somebody brings in potato chips or pops microwave popcorn, we all feel comfortable grabbing some until the bag is pretty much empty. But nobody will finish it and throw it away. When just a few kernels or broken ridges are left down at the bottom, it's hands off.
It's not laziness. It's kind of gracious in its own way. Nobody wants to be greedy. They leave it for the next guy or the next or the next.
But what ends up happening is that the bag or box just sits there for days until even the last bite isn't worth eating.
YOU CAN see it all over the building. The candy jar on my colleague's desk is never empty. Sometimes it's full. But when it gets to the last few pieces, they sit there forever --or at least until she refills it. Our little pantry houses many big plastic jars of mochi crunch that people give during the holidays. We have all enjoyed them, until it comes to the bottom of the barrel, with pieces stuck to the side.
I've shared meals with my students and other teachers. Nobody will take the last piece of lasagna. Somebody will take half, and then somebody will take half of that and then share it with somebody else. At the end of the meal, a small piece will still be there. It's like some sort of symbol that there will always be food for whoever comes along.
That's all good and nice, but I get tired of looking at the leftovers. At one point last year I designated myself the last-piece eater. I am always polite and cordially ask if somebody wants it. It seems a shame to let it sit on the table all lonely and forgotten.
I figure that since I didn't really grow up here and that I truly do respect local style, in this small way I can deviate and be the one who really knows that it is good to the last bite.
Lorraine Gershun is publications adviser for Searider Productions at Waianae High School.
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