Hawaii's Loco Moco and the First Plate Lunch President, Explained Video: Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes

What the plate lunch says about the history of Hawaii, President Obama, and America, according to This American Life regular Sarah Vowell.


Sarah Vowell's latest book, Unfamiliar Fishes , will be out at the end of this month, although the book trailer is out now. (I know, of all the things you could be watching, a book trailer might rank low. But trust me!) In it, Vowell lends her distinctive voice to one of Hawaii's distinctive regional foods: the plate lunch.

It's a novel use of a book trailer and certainly made me curious about how loco moco, a hamburger dish topped with gravy and a fried egg that originated in 1949 (apparently as a snack for teenagers who were tired of American sandwiches but didn't want to bother with time-consuming Asian foods) relates to a new book examining the impact New England missionaries had on the island in the 19th century.

Vowell deftly unpacks a small portion of the history of Hawaii through a series of slides depicting the messy, symbolic hodgepodge of plate lunches and along the way reminds us that President Barack Obama is our first "plate lunch president." I know I'll be adding this to the list of books I want to read.

Video: Riverhead Books /Penguin