August/September 2006 | Volume 57, Issue 4
The tiki civilization has a surprisingly broad literature. Much of it is still in print, but perhaps it’s best to start with the pioneering Trader Vic, whose Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink sold so well when it was published in 1946 that it is still available (from, among other places, Abebooks, whose anniversary we marked on page 10 of this issue). Trader Vic’s predecessor is handsomely represented by Hawai’i: Tropical Rum Drinks & Cuisine by Don the Beachcomber, which was actually written by his widow, Phoebe Beach, and Arnold Bitner and published in 2001; it contains dozens of the potions that made him famous. High among Don’s and Vic’s acolytes is Duke Carter, whose Tiki Quest: Collecting the Exotic Past is a lavish compendium of the ceramic skulls and grimacing gods in which the drinks were served. His fellow aficionado Sven A. Kirsten has produced an extremely handsome miscellany titled The Book of Tiki (Taschen Books), which also features the barroom hardware, as well as matchbooks and menus from scores of restaurants, among them the not very imaginatively named Trader Dick’s. Jeff Berry has made a thorough study of everything that crossed bar or table in a tiki restaurant and reveals the results in three books, the most recent being Beachbum Berry’s Taboo Table: Tiki Cuisine From Polynesian Restaurants of Yore . Here you will find the key to making “Chicken of the Gods” (you’ll need half a pound of water chestnut flour) and that sadly neglected delicacy rumaki (chicken livers or oysters wrapped in bacon, secured with a toothpick, and broiled or fried; it was invented by Don the Beachcomber). Finally, if you have read James Teitelbaum’s rundown of the greatest surviving tiki restaurants that accompanies this article, you will know that he is the best possible guide to these imperiled shrines. He’ll help you find the way to the one nearest you in his 2003 Tiki Road Trip: A Guide to Tiki Culture in North America .