Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pacific Rim Job

Captain James Cook once said he wanted to go “farther than any man has been before me, but as far as I think it is possible for a man to go,” a sentiment echoed by an adventurer inspired by him, Captain James T. Kirk, whose mission is: “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

In 1779, the former took this ambition a tad too literally and went, indeed, further than it was possible for him to go. Landing for the second time in Hawaii, where he and his crew had been welcomed as strange white gods, he found to his dismay that the season of worshipping great white gods had passed. Thence followed a classic example of what not to do when one finds oneself on hostile territory: when some of the natives stole a boat, he tried to take their king as hostage, and in doing so, made the fatal mistake of turning his back on the angry hoard. He was swiftly bonked on the head, stabbed, disemboweled, burned, and his bones cleaned for use as relics. 

This put an end to his distinguished career as England’s foremost explorer.

Cook initially named Hawaii the Sandwich Islands, after one of his benefactors, the Earl of Sandwich. Perhaps the Hawaiians were piqued to have their glorious island chain named after such a lowly dish. Perhaps they took him at his name. Hereforth some advice: do not name a place after the way you plan to be eaten by the people living there.

Two hundred years later, insult was added to injury when Homes and Gardens published this recipe for the “delectable” Chicken Aloha. It brings together a vicious combination of cubed chicken, celery, peppers, soy sauce, instant bouillon granules and a can of pineapple pie filling, garnished with parsley and kumquats, all served on a bed of crispy Chow Mein with coconut and slivered almonds on the side.

“Aloha” means love and peace, and is often used as a greeting in Hawaii. Cook met his end on Valentine’s Day. A coincidence?

Meals in Minutes, Better Homes and Gardens, 1973

Also from this book: Planned Overs, Ham Sandwich Deluxe

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