RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Barbishes' relatives are among the many Hawaii residents visiting New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Standing in the back row are Larry Barbish, left; Lila Barbish, a former Hawaii resident; Lila's mother, Alice Noda of Kailua; and Lila's aunt and uncle Gerri and Willie Davis of Pearl City. In front are Carlyn Aldenderfer, 10, and Carlyn's friend Margaret Foster, 9.
Family and food fuel New Orleans fun
A Hawaii transplant and her husband revel in the inviting Southern lifestyle
NEW ORLEANS » Whether it is back home in Hawaii or 4,000-plus miles east in Louisiana, the combination of good food and good people always makes things right.
After a morning of sightseeing in the Riverwalk Marketplace along the Mississippi River, Larry and Lila Barbish were ready to take some special visitors here for the Sugar Bowl -- Lila's mother, Alice Noda of Kailua, and aunt and uncle Gerri and Willie Davis of Pearl City -- to lunch at the renowned uptown "home of the original B-B-Q shrimp," Pascal's Manale Restaurant.
Usually every Christmas, Alice Noda comes out to visit her daughter, who is a freight purchaser for Cooper/Consolidated, and son-in-law, the vice president of marketing in dry cargo services for Canal Barge Co.
Although originally from Pittsburgh, Larry's drawl and easy demeanor are more representative of his being a resident of "Nawlins" for 25 years.
The Barbishes met at a crawfish boil, the start of a lifetime of sharing each other's cultural cuisine.
After several visits to Hawaii, Larry states, "I could live on poke. You guys have stuff there that we can't get. Plus, there's getting bentos and going to the beach to eat them. And can you imagine me and my two white kids (from a previous marriage, ages 21 and 17) loving sushi? Plus, when we go to Cinnamon's in Kailua, I love the fried rice omelet and loco moco."
And as long as it is paired with something like lomilomi salmon, he can even eat a bit of "pasty" poi.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Barbishes, residents of New Orleans, took relatives sightseeing while the family is in the city for the Sugar Bowl. From right, Lila Barbish and husband Larry enjoyed lunch yesterday with Lila's aunt and uncle Gerri and Willie Davis at Pascal's Manale Restaurant.
While Lila found out she was allergic to oysters, a seafood staple in the Big Easy, she does love fresh lobster and shrimp, of which she was happily feasting on the latter, done up in a savory barbecue sauce.
The Hawaii transplant found the transition to New Orleans life pretty easy. "I was originally going to stay with my job here for two years. Now it's been 10 years since, and it's been a great life. I love it here. At first, I admit I was deadly scared here because of the whole racial issue, plus being an Asian woman, but my being different was accepted."
Larry, as well, was planning to spend only about three years in New Orleans for his job, but he too ended up falling in love with the Southern lifestyle.
"Louisiana people are generally so nice, with an open and inviting feeling that's very much like the ohana spirit back in Hawaii," Lila added. "The two cultures are almost the same to me, since both have a family orientation. So, overall, there wasn't much cultural shock to me. My daughter and I have ended up fitting in quite well here."
When the Davises decided to head to New Orleans to follow their favorite football team, it was their niece who obtained choice seats for the game for them.
Both are retirees. Willie Davis left Verizon four years ago, and Gerri recently retired from Kamehameha Schools' information technology division.
Willie is a staunch supporter of UH football and was once a 40-plus-year season ticket holder, "but I gave it up two, three years ago because of changes in premium ticket prices."
The couple are thoroughly enjoying their first visit here, and have warmed to the friendliness of Louisiana residents. At the end of the meal, a man who overheard the conversation from a nearby table came over to the group to congratulate Hawaii for its Bowl Championship Series game appearance. He was visiting from Ruston, home of fellow Western Athletic Conference member Louisiana Tech University, and he was glad Hawaii was representing his team's conference in the Sugar Bowl.
"It's exciting to have y'all here," he said.
Game’s origins and participant both have connection with sugar
NEW ORLEANS » History provides a touch of sweet irony for the 2008 Sugar Bowl, when the undefeated University of Hawaii takes the field to play Georgia: When the idea for the annual classic was first floated in the 1920s, Louisiana was the nation's sugar-growing king -- but only because Hawaii was a territory whose harvests were not being counted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Still, history and geography are the real reasons New Orleans' premier college football game is called the Sugar Bowl. The game's original stadium was built on land where Etienne de Bore became the first person in La Louisiane to crystallize sugar into granules.
It was 1795. The indigo crop, until then a major moneymaker, had collapsed after two years of drought followed by two of a plague of insects that stripped the stalks naked. Plantation owners were near bankruptcy.
De Bore gambled on sugar. Friends and in-laws counseled against it. Although sugar was produced in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, nobody in Louisiana had been able to make anything more portable than molasses from the cane's sweet juice.
De Bore looked up sugar makers who had fled Saint-Domingue when their slaves rebelled in 1791 (the start of the revolution that created Haiti). They had the skill and technology he needed. De Bore became rich, and sugar quickly became a major crop.
In a quirk of history, the sugar industry in Louisiana nearly collapsed in 1926, the year before the New Orleans Item's publisher and sports editor first floated the idea of an annual football classic called the Sugar Bowl in Tulane Stadium.
AGUSTIN TABARES / PHOTO@STARBULLETIN.COM
University of Hawaii cheerleaders Lauren Santos, left, Janelle Sanqui, Sabrina Ponsiano, Meg Southcott, Kristi Rakta, Janna Yoshimura, Maya Iida, Nikky Kitaguchi, bottom left, and Chontille Wong prepared to check in at Honolulu Airport yesterday, heading for New Orleans and Hawaii's big game at the Sugar Bowl.
University of Hawaii football players ran a drill yesterday during football practice in Metairie, La. Hawaii will play the University of Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day.
Sugar cane diseases had cut sugar cane production by two-thirds. But no other state was even producing sugar at the time. Florida's production began in 1928, and Texas is not shown as harvesting a crop from 1924 to 1971. Neither produced more than a tiny fraction of Louisiana's harvest. But Hawaii was producing seven tons or more during the entire period, according to the Hawaii state Agriculture Department's Web site.
Imports of Javanese varieties added disease resistance that helped bring back Louisiana's sugar industry. Production, which had fallen from 3.3 million tons of cane in 1925 to 1.1 million tons in 1926, was up to 2.1 million by 1928 and 3.1 million a year later.
Publisher James M. Thomson and sports editor Fred Digby were having less success with their proposal for a Sugar Bowl. Mayor A.J. O'Keefe asked the Southern Conference in 1929 to back such a game but was spurned.
It was not until 1934 that New Orleans business, civic, professional and athletic organizations created the Mid-Winter Sports Association to develop the Sugar Bowl on its own.
The association's efforts paid off in 1935 when Tulane beat Temple in a battle of undefeateds. The trophy was a replica of a silver wine cooler that was crafted in 1830 and donated by a French Quarter antiques dealer.
These days, Louisiana is the nation's No. 2 sugar producer, behind Florida, with Hawaii well behind them. But sugar is Louisiana's No. 1 row crop, once processing is counted in.
"There are other crops, like corn and soybeans, that may consume more acreage, but sugar is worth considerably more," said Jim Simon, general manager of the American Sugar Cane League.
Sugar costs more to produce but also brings in more money, he said.
This year's crop is still being harvested, but last year's was worth $538 million, compared with $357 million for cotton, according to the LSU AgCenter.
The 2007 Sugar Bowl game between LSU and Notre Dame brought in $68.7 million, with an estimated economic impact of $126.7 million. With unexpectedly high numbers of Hawaii fans buying tickets, and Georgia a team that always brings an enthusiastic crowd, the New Year's Day match is likely to be bigger.