Birondo couple hosts original Hawaiian luau
Bob and Oleta Dunavin Birondo hosted an authentic Hawaiian luau Saturday, May 28, at their home in Monette, complete with the baking of a 130 pound whole pig in an earthen fire pit and food for more than 125 relatives and friends.
A party of this proportion took more than a year to plan.
"We have Birondo and Dunavin family reunions yearly but have never had one together," Bob Birondo said. "Oleta and I wanted to combine our two families for a big celebration merging Hawaiian and southern traditions, calling it a back yard luau. Our nephew had tee shirts made that say 'Aloha Y'All.'"
While planning a menu for the gathering the Birondos decided to bake a whole Kalua pig in an earthen pit, just like it is done in Hawaii. In advance they ordered 500 pounds of lava rocks from Los Angeles and a crate of banana leaves from Florida. They gathered large stacks of wood for the fire. Family members dug a 6x3 foot pit, three feet deep on Friday before the luau.
"We used bricks to line the bottom of the pit to help absorb moisture from the rains we had had all week," Birondo said. "Next we stacked the wood in a pyramid shape with a center starter post wrapped in kerosene-soaked burlap for a starter. We placed lava rocks on top of this.
At 1 a.m. on Saturday the starter post was lit and they watched the wood burn for three hours. The lava rocks heated up on top of the fire. We had salted and wrapped a whole 130 pound pig in aluminum foil and placed lava rocks in the inside cavity, so the pig could cook from the inside and outside at the same time. The pig was wrapped in chicken wire, with the legs of the pig pointed up, so it could bake evenly and be contained while cooking. The wire made it easier to lift in and out of the pit. Then pig was placed on the fire. Three more wire bundles were assembled containing sweet potatoes and corn, a large turkey and a beef roast. All the contents of the pit were covered with banana leaves, the banana tree stump, and then burlap. A large tarpaulin covered the pit and was anchored on top of the ground with lava rocks. The pig cooked from 4 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.
Bob Birondo was the trusted family member who estimates the necessary cooking time for the pig and helped orchestrate the excavation of the finished product when the allotted time grew near.
Four Birondo family members lifted the tarps, banana leaves and burlap off the pig and lifted it out and onto a nearby table for processing. They carefully undid the wire and foil and removed the lava locks. They used gloves to handle the hot baked pork and prepared it for serving to the guests.
"We wanted our guests to be comfortable, so we rented a 60x40 foot tent for the back yard, with comfortable tables and chairs placed underneath," Oleta Birondo said. "We used large food tables and had soft drinks and water iced down in a big tub. All the family members helped with the food which contained a big variety of salads, vegetables and desserts. We counted 47 Dunavin family relatives and 30 Birondo."
Beautiful floral leis were placed on guests necks as they entered the back yard luau and made their way to the big food tent inside the large back yard at the Birondo home at 605 Hogan Avenue. Floral coverings was placed on all the tables with fresh flowers used as centerpieces. A large floral and fruit centerpiece was placed in the middle of the tent area, and Hawaiian artifacts and potted floral arrangements were all around the yard. Hawaiian music played over the speakers. A bouncy house was provided for the children and comfortable lawn chairs under the large shade trees for visiting.
"We were so pleased to have our daughter Jenice here with us," Oleta Birondo said. "She came from Las Vegas and is not in good health. She wore her grandmother Helen's red and white floral dress to the luau. It brought tears to my eyes when I saw her in that dress."
"There is a word that is bigger than aloha in Hawaii, and it is ahana, which means family," Bob Birondo said. "That is what our party meant to us, a gathering of family and friends. We shall never forget this happy time with each and every one of them."