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"Mixed-plate dining" is a term often used in Hawaii, and the meaning is interesting and has a history. Going back to the 1800’s, sugar was the top crop on the island of Maui. Whaling days were gone and immigrant workers arrived to work the plantation fields. Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Filipinos cooked their native foods and shared them during lunch time in the fields. The mixed plate was the workers steady diet and lunch was a highlight during their backbreaking labor.
Korean ribs, teriyaki chicken, vegetables, rice and noodles blended well on the plate with Hawaiian macaroni salad and Kalua pork. The meal stuck to their ribs and gave them energy to finish a long work day. Tradition continues with the mixed plate still served throughout Hawaii.
I recently stopped for lunch at Aloha Mixed Plate (1285 Front St.) in Lahaina, Maui and the ocean view from the outside dining patio was spectacular. Over a meal of Shoyu chicken, fresh fish and teriyaki beef, Kelly Freeland, a longtime employee at the restaurant, explained the history of the mixed plate during plantation times. Not only was I eating a meal reminiscent of a typical farmers lunch, she had more history to share about old Lahaina. As farm workers settled in communities, Kelly’s great grandfather, George Freeland, supplied them with entertainment and a place buy goods.
Mr. Freeland built the Pioneer Inn (658 Wharf St.), a planation-style hotel on the water’s edge of the Lahaina harbor, in 1901. He branched out, selling liquor, food and clothes, but the main attraction was a theater with traveling stage shows and silent movies. Farm workers spent the weekend around the Pioneer Inn being entertained and buying their provisions. A walk through the hotel (now a Best Western) speaks of the old days with a wooden sign stating the rules for lodging, including “women is not allowed in you room”. The hotel is listed in the US National Register of Historical Places.
Yes, through the years, Maui has history and food to tell a story.