The Royal Hawaiian: A Colonizer’s Paradise

How Pineapple forever changed the tropical landscape


In the 1860s, a man by the name Claus Spreckels established a sugar refinery in San Francisco. Because of its proximity to the tropics of Hawaii, he began to use the islands to export massive amounts of raw sugar. This was the first major step down the path of Westernization of Hawaii. Since the 1860s, many of the major political and social problems facing the island have been the cause of Western powers, specifically America. The islands have few native animals and many of the dishes the islands are known for, like roasted pig, were actually imported to the islands by foreign settlers. The food culture of the islands is almost entirely artificially imported by western powers and this is clearly seen in the Royal Hawaiian’s 1939 dinner menu. The only native Hawaiian dish on the menu is ‘Wainku Lehua Poi.’ The rest of the menu consists almost entirely of western dishes, going so far as to import items like Sanka coffee, despite coffee being grown locally on the island. Even the wide variety of fruits listed on the menu, like the pineapple which is very closely associated with the islands, are actually imports from earlier settlers on the Island. This paper is going to review the western influences, many of which were corporate, which transformed the islands of Hawaii from an isolated monarchy into a relaxation destination for western elites, which is reflected in the menu of the Royal Hawaiian’s dinner menu.   

A colonizer’s paradise

The history of Hawaii has been heavily shaped by the influence of settlers and colonizers. The islands were initially uninhabited and first settled between 500 and 700AD. The Polynesians who initially inhabited Hawaii brought with them pigs, ginger, bananas, coconuts, yams, a variety of spice, and most importantly sugar. Most of the foods we associate with Hawaii were imports that grew abundantly in the tropical climate (Hollyer, 2013). In 1778, the first Europeans, led by Captain James Cook, made contact with the Hawaiian Islands. The discovery of plentiful native growing sandalwood groves on the island had by the 1790s led to the islands first exploitable commodity in the agricultural export economy that has shaped the islands ever since. 

In 1813 a Spanish advisor to the Hawaiian Monarch, Don Fransisco de Paula y Marin, introduced coffee and pineapple to the islands. The introduction of this staple agricultural production to Hawaii marked the beginning of the end of the original Hawaiian tradition. By the 1830s, Hawaiian had begun exporting coffee as a commercial crop and by the 1840s private land ownership replaced the feudal system of the Hawaiian monarchy. In the early 1850s the California Gold Rush caused an agriculture boom in Hawaii. Because of its proximity to California and tropical climate, it made sense to grow food in Hawaii and export it to California. This gave Westerners a taste of Hawaii’s agricultural potential for growing cash crops year round for the American markets.

Because of their desire to grow cash crops and their technological advancement over the natives, the Europeans were able to strong arm the locals into adopting more western ways of life, specifically with respect to land ownership and diet (Historical Background: Westernization of Hawaiian Islands, 2020). As with other isolated Pacific cultures, European diseases decimated the population. In the 1860s, a massive drought and infestations caused labor and production problems on the Island, closing down nearly all of the coffee plantations. In the absence of coffee plantations, a man by the name Claus Spreckles began to open sugar plantations which would send raw sugar to California for refinement and selling in the United States. Because of the close connection of the US and Hawaii, the US government and businessmen began to get involved with local Hawaiian politics. The first large instance of this is the 1876 reciprocity treaty between the US and Hawaii which allowed for duty free sugar to be imported and caused a massive boom in the Hawaiian sugar industry.  With little original food, little ownership of the lands, sugar plantations spanning the islands, and a decimated population the Hawaiians quickly lost their original way of life to the European settlers. 

In 1877, the king of Hawaii died and his sister, known by her royal name as Liliuokalani, took up the throne and began her rule over the islands. After seeing so much turmoil in her country and a rapidly developing western presence in her country, Liliuokalani sought to bring her country back to its traditional roots. She opposed many of the political effects of western presence on her island, like the 1876 reciprocity treaty, which allowed the sugar and pineapple industries to exist at all, and the loss of Pearl Harbor to the US. She tried to reduce the impact that the westerners had on her island and they were not happy about this. Since she posed such a treat to the massive economic empires the sugar and pineapple companies possessed, they sought to dethrone her entirely. The Dole company actually led a deposition of the queen and instituted their own provisional government, with the President of the Dole company, Sanford Dole, as the president of the republic. This was the official end of the traditional way of life on the Hawaiian Islands. The Queen tried to appeal to President Cleveland, who heeded her request and told Dole to stand down. But Dole refused the orders, claiming the US president didn’t have the power to control this situation and kept the republic in power. After this, Hawaii was annexed by the US government and eventually became a state (Liliuokalani | Biography, Overthrow, & Significance, 2020). As the production of sugar continued to grow, so did the exportation of the pineapple. Pineapple plantations began to flourish through the 1910s. By 1905 the Dole company was packing and selling 25,000 cases of pineapple a year and agricultural colleges began appearing on the island, to help educate people in the production of these incredibly lucrative cash crops. Railroads were constructed on the island of Oahu around the same time, which allowed for low labor costs and an increase in pineapple production speed (History of Dole Food Company, Inc. – FundingUniverse, 2020).  In 1911, the invention of the Ginaca, a machine which could peel and core a pineapple, struck the final blow for the traditional way of life in Hawaii. The Ginaca could process 100 pineapples a minute and greatly increase the production capabilities of the island, meaning the pineapple market could spread further across the US. The Dole company continued to expand its land and increased its marketing in the US, growing the company’s revenue. By 1922 the company produced a million cases a year and eventually bought the island of Lanai solely for the purpose of pineapple production (History of Dole Food Company, Inc. – FundingUniverse, 2020).

The Rise of the Royal Hawaiian

This long history of Western influence, coups, and exportation shows one very key piece of information about how the Western world views Hawaii, simply as a means to a luxurious end. The US government and plantation owners cared very little for Hawaiian traditions and this is quite evident in the 1934 Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s dinner Menu (What’s on the Menu, 2020). The Land was originally the relaxation spot of the King of Hawaii, but was transformed after a 4 million dollar investment by Matson Navigation Company, a company founded by the head of Caste and Cooke, a rival to Dole, and Matson Navigation, a shipping company dealing specifically in the Pacific. The hotel was built to be a destination for the passengers of the Matson company’s ships and to help spread the propaganda of both Hawaii as the ideal relaxation resort of wealthy Americans and the value and popularity of the pineapple (History of Royal Hawaiian Hotel – Waikiki History | Royal Hawaiian Resort, 2020). This Hotel is the epitome of western influence on Hawaii and its incredibly western menu clearly reflects this fact. 

Looking over this menu only one dish is of purely Hawaiian origin, Wainaku Lehua Poi. Though some argue that even Luhaus, originally a deeply spiritual experience, were turned into a tourist trap and made purely commercial to spread the influence of Westernized Hawaiian culture, all to sell more fruit to the US main land (Haunani-Kay, 2020). The rest of the dishes include ingredients which are known to have been entirely imported to the islands. Some of these dishes have become cultural mainstays for traditional Hawaiian culture, as the importation of items such as pig dates back to around 600AD. The hotel even goes so far as to sell Sanka coffee, a European born decaf coffee which later became rather popular in the United States. While most of the items on the menu are grown locally in Hawaii, they were brought by colonizers purely for export and their use in local hotel’s food is out of convenience and to further the popularity after leaving the island. This is quite a brilliant marketing move, as the same flavors and foods you enjoyed on your luxurious vacation will be easily available at almost all super markets, and all of that experience was paid for by the shipping company which brought you to the islands and the food to you as well as the canning company which is providing you with those foods. But as shown, the development of the canning company and shipping company meant the demolition of the Hawaiian islands, the purchase of entire islands, the deposition of a Monarchy, and the destruction of the traditional Hawaiian way of life. This was almost an unintentional side effect of the production of sugar, pineapples, and coffee, as the only way to produce them in such volume was to take land, force the locals into cheap labor, dispose the monarchy which stood against its growth, and ruin the islands economically and with viruses. After withstanding so much brutality against truly innocent peoples, it’s surprising anything of the original culture remains at all.


Broiled Pork Chops and Apple Glaze


  • 4 pork loin steaks about 100g (3½oz) each
  • 2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 15 g butter
  • 2 eating apple cored and thickly sliced
  • 2 tsp light muscovado sugar
  • generous pinch grated nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice.


The first step is to set the oven to broil. Then, salt and pepper the chops and lightly cook them on the stove top.

While the chops were cooking, begin the apple glaze. The glaze consists of cooking apples, nutmeg, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and brown sugar in a pan until the apples began to caramelize. (though they are a bit over cooked in the image).

After a few minutes of cooking the chops, they are pulled off and coated in a mixture of mustard, honey, and lemon juice.  Then the apple glaze and slices are placed on top of the pork chop and put into the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake


  • 1 stick of softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of white sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • Sliced pineapple
  • Cherries


Set the over to ~300°F. In a bowl, add the stick of butter to the sugar. Then add 2 egg yolks. After this 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 cup of milk are added alternatively. Then 1 teaspoon of vanilla is added. Then the egg whites are beaten and folded into the batter. 

After this, pineapple slices with cherries in the center are layered in the bottom of the pie tin. After this batter is added again and more pineapples and cherries are added. Then the rest of the batter is added. The cake is then cooked at 300 degrees for an hour. The cakes is then let to cool and enjoyed.


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