Monday, February 28, 2011

What Would Peter Do?

Miso. What the heck is miso, anyway? My blogging friend, Peter of Cookblog, uses it quite a lot in his cooking, which I have always admired, so I decided to find out and perhaps start using it myself. One of the best things about blogging is the new ideas I get from fellow bloggers.

I have had miso soup in the past - who hasn't? - but never really knew what it was. That seems a shame, since I lived in Japan for nearly a year and enjoyed many a bowl of miso soup, then and since.

It's a seasoning but, even more, it's a protein-rich natural ingredient to many dishes. Peter mentioned having used it to slather on his salmon, along with some maple syrup before broiling and I thought that sounded pretty good. After a lengthy search in my market, I discovered where they keep the miso and brought a little tub home in triumph with a nice piece of wild coho salmon. I always have maple syrup since I got spoiled by the real thing many years ago and have never looked back.

Slather and pour. Flip. Slather and pour again. Grill on the Jennair, grill pan or broiler until just short of done in the center. Plate next to some red winter chard that has been garlic butter-steamed. The miso added a mildly salty flavor while the syrup brought the dish to the sweet side, a tasty teaming with the slightly bitter-but-savory/buttery chard. The colors were great together, too, although the photo doesn't do justice to the rich orange of the salmon.

Now that I have my little tub of miso, I am set for serious explorations. If you have suggestions for what to try next, I'm all ears. What would Peter do?

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Almost Tuscan

We ate the best chicken last night!

Maybe I'm waxing hyperbolic because I enjoyed so much the change from good old roast chicken, but it really was exceptional, if I do say so myself.

As I often do, I browsed the interwebs for a way to use a can of Navy beans that I had on hand, a can of Southwest style tomatoes with chiles that our Cora-sitter left behind, and some leftover Massa rice. It was cold and rainy (again! still!) and I really wanted to do something with my chicken that would incorporate the warmth and color of those tomatoes.

I almost had the ingredients for Tuscan Chicken, but no fennel/anise in the house - and Tuscan cuisine doesn't usually include chilis - but that's the fun of cooking, isn't it? The freedom to dump in whatever you have on hand and see if you like it.

We loved it! We loved it so much that we ate sparingly, hoping there would be enough left to share with our house guest, who is supposed to arrive today, weather and her health allowing.

So, it was almost Tuscan, but not quite. The beans and rice were there and I used tarragon, hoping for a hint of licorice, but the smoked paprika and chiles definitely veered the dish into a spicier direction and the sausages were not Italian. The tomatoes were warming to the soul and the eye. The gentle spiciness warmed our rain-soaked hearts. No wonder we were extravagant in our praise.

Anyway, try it yourself and see what you think.

Almost Tuscan Chicken

2 Tablespoons bacon fat
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 chicken, cut into serving-size pieces (I left out the back and used that to make stock)
1 large onion, cut in half and sliced into lengthwise wedges
3 large shallots, peeled and chunked
15 ounce can of Navy beans, drained
10 ounce can of Southwest style diced tomatoes with green chiles
Generous sprinklings of pepper, dried tarragon and smoked paprika
1 cup leftover brown rice
3 chicken apple sausages, cut into 1" chunks
Chicken broth as needed

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In the mixture of oils in a wide frying pan, brown the chicken pieces until richly golden-brown. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the rice, beans, tomatoes together. Set aside. In the same frying pan used to brown the chicken, toss the sausages to brown lightly, then add the onions and shallots and toss over medium high heat to coat with the pan juices and to cook just a little. Season with paprika, tarragon and pepper. Add the beans/rice/tomato mixture and mix, scraping up any chickeny bits from the bottom. Pour into a large baking pan and place the browned chicken pieces on top. If there is little moisture in the bottom of the pan, add a splash of chicken broth.

Bake in the 375 degree oven until the chicken is done, perhaps 30-40 minutes (depends on how browned you got the chicken). Serve the chicken on a bed of the bean mixture with some good bread to mop up the incredible goozle.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Food For Thought

You'd think I'd never been to college. I missed most of the stuff other people experience in college. When you struggle through a two-year college, bored and uninterested, then take a break for about 15 years before finishing your Bachelors and Masters degrees, you miss a lot. Like pot parties, frat parties, panty raids and long, esoteric discussions over coffee with other equally callow young minds.

I wouldn't change a thing. I got a lot more out of my education in my thirties than I ever did in my twenties and I loved every minute of it. But, I did miss a bunch of things that most college students try - like Top Ramen.

Yes, here's another convenience food that I had never experienced. But, after a long walk with my dog, an hour's hard swim with my sadistic Masters coach and two errands, I was so hungry that when I saw the Top Ramen package in the store and read that it becomes edible within three minutes, I grabbed it.

The package lies; it takes more than three minutes to boil two cups of water on my stove, then comes the three minutes of noodle cooking and another 10 seconds of mixing in the contents of the flavor packet - but who's counting?

It was exactly what I needed. It was hot and sustaining and salty and lightly chickeny. After a bowl of that, I was almost ready to pull an all-nighter.


Friday, February 25, 2011


It's not often that I feel restless. I'm usually a very peaceful person, happy to go with the flow, as they say.

Maybe it's that spring is coming. Perhaps it's because winter has lasted a bit too long. Maybe it's because my new volunteer job doesn't start until next week and I have time on my hands. Whatever the reason, I was looking for something new.

Something new to do with my pork roast. I had scored a beautiful, local, organic one from El Cerrito Natural, a really nice little organic grocery store not far from my house, and I wanted to jazz it up, to make it into something deliciously different.

So, I went to the interwebs and did some homework, but nothing seemed really appealing. There are at least twelve pages of recipes on having to do with pork roasts (and about ten recipes per page) but none of them really got my juices flowing. If you can browse through 120 recipes and never find a single one that appeals, you know you are just being silly. So, I decided to invent my own.

That's my pork roast that you can see peeking out here and there, marinated in a mixture of garlic, balsamic vinegar, citrus juices, fresh ginger and thyme, and buried under a boatload of purple cabbage, onion and cauliflorets. All stuff I had in the fridge or outside in the herb pot. A lively mishmash of flavors and colors.

It brought My Beloved to his knees. He kept shaking his head bite after bite and murmuring about how good it was. The roast was juicy and still lightly pink inside, with a tangy outer layer in which the ginger and garlic asserted themselves over the citrus juices, with an aftertaste of thyme bringing up the rear of the parade. Witnessing his pleasure dispelled my restlessness, at least until next week, when I have a job to do and places to go.

Citrus and Ginger Pork Roast with Winter Vegetables

1 pork loin roast, about two pounds
zest and juice of one large orange
zest and juice of one Meyer lemon
1/2" knob of fresh ginger, peeled and pressed in a garlic press, or grated
2 large cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs fresh thyme leaves

Combine all ingredients except the roast in a blender and whirl for about 30 seconds. Pour marinade over the pork roast and marinate for an hour at room temperature or covered in the fridge for four hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

1/2 head purple cabbage, cored and sliced
1 large onion, sliced
About 1 cup of cauliflower pieces, bite-sized

Mix the veggies together and sprinkle them around the roast in a large roasting pan. Pour the rest of the marinade over the veggies and toss them lightly to distribute*. Slide into the oven and cook until the roast reaches temperature (there is controversy about how cooked is cooked enough with pork - My Beloved and I like it to still be pale pink on the interior, not completely white, so we usually cook it to about 160-170 degrees), about 35-45 minutes, depending on the size and the initial temperature of the meat.

Remove the meat and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving on top of the veggies.

*If I had an improvement to suggest, it would be to use a roasting pan large enough to allow room for the roast and a shallower layer of veggies. Because I had so many veggies in the pan, the roast didn't brown. A little additional marinade wouldn't hurt, either.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Embracing Winter

When we first returned from vacation in a wonderfully warm place, I resisted the return to winter. Because I had become acclimated to Hawaii's balmy climate, I had trouble getting warm and even adding layers, jacking up the thermostat or getting under the covers to read didn't seem to help as the cold seeped into my bones. The constant rain was a downer, too.

But, at heart, I'm a lover, not a fighter. What's the point of resisting the weather, for heaven's sake? It just wears you out and it doesn't change the weather one iota. So, I decided on the one sunny day since we returned, to embrace the winter and the possibilities for heavy sweaters, wooly socks and hearty dinners that it affords.

Swiss chard steamed in garlic butter, so deep a green that it reminded me of the mountains in Hawaii. A nice, thick lamb chop as a reminder that spring is just around the corner. Kabocha squash (the other half of the soup and curry one), whipped with a generous thumb of butter, as warming on the plate as a summer sun.

After this dinner, my toes were finally warm and my outlook was finally bright. Let's hear it for winter!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Copycat Curry

You've seen this before, and rather recently, too. My copycat curry that I stole from Peter. Lovely stuff, especially when it's cold and nasty out. You can clicky the link if you want the recipe.

But, it's not the curry I wanted to tell you about today, it's the curry powder.

Now, I know that one can make one's own from various spices and that, if one is a truly dedicated foodie, one does. I don't. No matter what that says about me, I am fine with the ones I can buy in the store. I've used Spice Islands for years - I love that heavy, musky, rich flavor.

But I have a new love now. Having run out of my usual brand, I rushed down to the local market and discovered that they carry an organic brand of spices with the cutesy moniker of Spicely. They come in small containers, so it's easier to use them up before they lose potency and the curry flavor is even better than my previous love. No salt is added, either, which is good for our blood pressures. The flavor is strong and rich but not too spicy, rather like my previous brand.

I guess I could have taken a picture of the little plastic container but doesn't the copycat curry look more appetizing?


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Awakening In Middle Age

Going through the freezer after our vacation, I found that our Cora-sitter had left us a present - Tater Tots™!

Now, to get the full impact of this gift, you have to know that both My Beloved and I had mothers who didn't believe in "convenience foods." Oh, they sometimes resorted to frozen veggies - they were, after all, housewives in the 'fifties - but mostly they made things from scratch and limited our intake of potatoes since both of us have been roundish since childhood. So, Tater Tots™ were definitely not on the menu. We were Tater Tot™ virgins.

Last night, we lost our cherries. We baked a bunch of those identical little dabs of industrial potato and ate them with our all-American menu of bacon burgers and peas.

And, they were good. Not great, not killer, not addictive, but we could certainly see why little kids relish them and why bigger kids come back for more. Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, the overall flavor (despite the seasonings and onion touted on the package) is of salted, fried potatoes. They were easy and they were a fun little treat that we will enjoy until the package is empty.

We have sinned. We have bitten the apple. And we aren't even sorry. Sex and Tater Tots™ are like that.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Sun Soup

Because the sun had not once made an appearance in the five days since we returned from Hawaii - ahem! - I decided to make soup. There is no better cure for a gray day than a bowl of hot soup. When I investigated the fridge and found that our house sitter didn't use the kabocha squash I left for her, I did a little happy dance for easy, beautiful soup.

Whacked said squash in half with my largest knife and didn't even scrape out the seeds and strings, just laid it cut sides down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and slid it into a 350 degree oven for the time it took to walk the dog in the rain, about 40-50 minutes.

Dried off the dog and myself, then pulled out the now-soft squash and set it aside to cool.

While it was cooling, I chopped an onion and four shallots, softening them in a driz of EVOO until the house smelled heavenly. Added two big pinches of Herbes de Provence and let that cook until fragrant, then added 3 peeled and cored Pink Lady apples, half of the squash flesh (the strings and seeds can be easily nudged out with a wooden spoon and discarded once the squash is roasted) and a pint (2 cups) of chicken stock. Simmer, simmer, simmer, then let it cool and purée in a blender. Return it to the pot and warm it. If the soup is too thick for your taste, you can thin with a little water or chicken stock, but I like thick, hearty soups.

Easier than pie by quite a long shot, it brought that sunny yellow and a serious carotene lift to our benighted souls. Sipping soup and staring out at the raindrops coursing down the windows, I felt lucky to be indoors and well fed with Sun Soup.


Hot News!

Remember this delicious-looking chocolate cake? I posted about it a few days ago.

Cousin Jan sent me the recipe, and I have added it to the post about the cake.

Clicky here if you want to try it for your Valentine, or just because.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Hate Rutabaga!

Ugh! Rutabaga! Ewww!

A sample of our thoughts growing up when our mother would serve rutabaga every winter.


Even slathered in butter, we hated rutabaga. My mother loved it, both for its bitterish flavor and for its extremely low cost. She'd get a nice, big, round one, peel it, cut it into cubes and steam it.


Inevitably, it would bring on one of those dinner table power struggles where Mom was determined that we would clean our plates and we were equally sure we'd barf if we ate one more bite. These crazy irresistible force/immovable object clashes could go on for hours. Sometimes, she would appear to give up and let us leave the table, but then would serve it to us for breakfast the next morning. To this day, I don't understand what the motivation was.

Anyway, recently I've been revisiting the foods of my childhood that I really detested and trying them again. On second taste, kale turned out to be not so bad. Brussels sprouts have actually become a favorite veggie. So, maybe rutabaga is edible after all?

Rather than steaming an enormous swede that would feed a family of six, I decided to roast three little ones, hoping that the smaller ones would have a milder flavor and that I wouldn't be wasting so much food if they didn't and I decided to ditch the rest. I peeled them, cut them into one inch wedges and roasted them in the same pan with my weekly chicken, tumbled in with some whole shallots and fingerling potatoes.

It was a big chicken and took an hour and a half to roast, so all the veggies got deeply, sweetly caramelized in the chicken juices. There was a tiny bitter tang to the rutabaga wedges but it was not at all the nasty thing I recalled from my childhood. In fact, I'd actually clean my plate without protest this time.

Ack! I'm running out of vegetables to hate!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Traveler's Tree

One last flower post. Traveler's Tree. They look like white birds of paradise, but very tall with symmetrical leaves growing sideways, like the ribs of a spreading fan. In the groove formed where each leave clasps the stem is a pocket of drinkable water, hence the name.

Back from our travels, we are happy to be home but part of my heart always seems to stay in Hawaii.

My Beloved, on the other hand, is relieved to be back in the coolth of the bay area. Because he runs about ten degrees warmer than the average person (which makes him a delightful heat source on a cold winter's night), he suffers in the moist warmth of Hawaii. I love being dressed in little besides shorts or a wispy dress and flip flops. He's happiest when a tad more clothing is required.

Perhaps a compromise can be worked out - half the year in Hawaii and half the year here in the bay area? Sounds perfect to me. Now, all I need is to win the lottery.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Asian Inspiration

The only meal I prepared in Hawaii that I thought was worth talking about was an Asian-inspired wonton soup. We had all been to the Punahou carnival and eaten all kinds of less-than-healthy options there, so I thought that a leaner meal at home was in order.

But, since we were chaperoning my brother's two teenage progeny while he and his lovely wife of 20 years were sampling the peaceful luxuries of a marvelously upscale retreat on the island of Lanai, it had to be tasty, too. Teenagers, no matter how well raised, won't hesitate to tell you if they don't like the food.

I had never made wontons in my life, so this was a bit of a challenge for me. Luckily, all the ingredients were easily available in the local grocery store and wonton instructions abound on the interwebs. I bought the wonton wrappers, the ground turkey, green onions, fresh ginger, Maui onion, organic vegetable broth and shiitake mushrooms all in a single stop.

I started by finely chopping the onion and mushrooms, then sautéing them in a wide pan. Once they were ready, I added the ground turkey, salt, pepper and a grating of fresh ginger, cooking them together for just a few minutes. The wonton wrappers are square, so I brushed two adjoining edges of the wrappers with a little beaten egg, put a teaspoon or so of filling in the center, folded the wontons over and sealed them with the egg to make a triangle around the filling, then dipped one of the tips in the egg and pulled the two tips together to stick them into a sort of dumpling shape.

With all the wontons set aside, I heated the veggie broth and, when it was briskly boiling, added the wontons to it, cooking them until they floated to the top - really, just a very few minutes. Ladled it into bowls over the green onion slices, just to briefly cook them but leave them bright green. The photo I took in their gently lit dining room doesn't do justice to the soup. It was very clean tasting and pure, with just a hint of ginger spice when one of the wontons gave way to the bite. Another time, I think I'd use my own clear chicken broth but this broth-in-a-box was tasty and very quick.

The whole meal took less than half an hour to make, start to finish, including chopping and all. The Youth slurped it down and complimented the cook - no ughs, no faces, just apparent enjoyment all around. If they lied, they both are destined for a career on the stage.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Happy Homecoming

We flew home on Valentine's Day, savoring a lovely 17-day stay in Hawaii, and landed at 9:30pm, jet lagged, suffering from Fanny Fatigue and minus our suitcases. It seems the airline forgot to put ours aboard, despite our very early arrival at the airport. They discovered their mistake while we were in the air and were already paging us to make apologies as we walked into baggage claim. Since we don't wear any of our Hawaii clothes in chilly northern California, the only disappointment was that our prezzies for our friends and neighbors would be delayed with the bags.

So, we headed home without luggage - which, by the way, is a really good way to travel! Unencumbered is nice - and came through the door to find an ecstatic Cora to greet us and this from Cousin Jan.

It's a birthday cake for me, a single slender layer of dark chocolate cake sprinkled with nuts inside and covered with the richest, most decadent dark chocolate frosting it has ever been my sinful pleasure to wallow in. It's not too sweet but, honey, is it ever rich!

I thought the presentation was inspired, too, don't you? Along with Cora's madly wagging tail, it made for a very happy homecoming.


4 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate chopped into little pieces (the better the chocolate, the better the cake)

2/3 cup Sugar

1Grated rind of one orange

2 TBSP Grand Marnier or other orange liquor

3 – extra large Eggs

6 oz Ground walnuts (or almonds? - just an idea)

4 oz. Butter

Melt the butter and sugar in a sauce pan at a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the chocolate to the melted butter and sugar stirring until the chocolate is melted. Add the orange rind, the liquor and the eggs one at a time. Stir until well combined then mix in the nuts.

Butter, flour and place a parchment paper on the bottom of a cake pan, pouring the batter into the pan. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. This cake should be a little fudgey in the middle

Frost with the chocolate glaze.


This recipe makes enough to cover a 10-12 inch torte.

1/2 cup sugar

6 oz. heavy whipping cream

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chopped into little pieces (Scharffenberger chocolate)

2 oz butter chopped into little pieces (use real butter of high quality)

2 TBSP Light corn syrup

Heat cream and sugar whisking to dissolve sugar. Then heat until very warm but not hot. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate whisking until chocolate is melted. Then add butter and corn syrup whisking until smooth.

Place your cake (chocolate imperial) upside down on a cardboard circle, making sure the circle is smaller than the cake. Place this onto a rack on a sheet pan then slowly pour the glaze over the entire cake, letting it run off the sides of the cake. It should have a wonderful shine to it. Make sure the entire cake has the glaze on it, and sometimes you will have to use a spoon to scoop up some of the glaze that has come off into sheet pan to put on the sides of the cake.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Power Flower

Now that we are back home after a marvelous vacation, I keep remembering the flowers. Mind you, here in NOCA we are pretty blessed with flowers - we have no grounds for complaints in a place that has roses in January!

But Hawaii's flowers are different. Brighter. Bigger. More fragrant. More flagrant. They are sexy and they are absolutely everywhere - decorating the tops of the tallest trees with flame-orange, in the medians at shopping centers, casually tucked behind ears.

Some, like this hibiscus, bloom for a single day, then fade. Others last for several days, perfuming the air as I drive by. When I remember this vacation, my memories will be filled with flowers.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sweet Treats

After wandering the Punahou carnival on the second night, we were a little foot weary and ready for a treat. There happened to be an ice cream booth nearby - the outcome, if you know us, was predictable.

Here is My Beloved's gigundous almond-covered, chocolate-dipped ice cream bar on a stick. Makes my lychee sorbet look downright dainty, doesn't it?

He could barely finish it before it melted; you can see the ice cream oozing out before he even took a bite. Warm night. But he managed. He's a trouper.


Monday, February 14, 2011


My mother had a dear friend in Hawaii, a Kauai-born girl with whom Mom traded recipes, jewelry and art work. I would come for a visit and find a new painting on the walls and Mom would say, "Oh, yes, I traded that one with Karin for the ___." Same with jewelry each admired on the other, or good meals they shared.

When my mother died, Karin was wonderfully consoling to me and every time I visited the Islands I made a point of seeing her once or twice, just to tap into her serenity and spirituality. She was an amazing and lovely person. I will never forget her.

When I worked at Hastings College of the Law, her grandson enrolled as a student and stopped in to my office to say hello. Ever since, I have loved this kid. He has his grandmother's artistic bent - he won the Hastings pumpkin decorating contest every year at Hallowe'en - and his own cheerfully outrageous outlook, unusual in a law student. They tend to be earnest while he is joyous.

Imagine my delight when I spotted him staffing the alumni booth at the Punahou Carnival. He gave me a big hug, as delighted as I was to make connections, and we "talked story" for a few minutes between sales. Because he designed the flying avocado on the logo tshirt they were selling to raise money, of course I had to buy one. A fun memento of an encounter that made the carnival even more delightful for me.

*Hoaloha = beloved friend


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Daily Rainbow

I could probably post a daily picture of a Hawaiian rainbow, and each would be prettier than the last. It rains here nearly every day, thanks to the steep mountains that wring fresh water out of the wispy clouds that wreath the highlands while the rest of the island is in sunshine.

When I got married in Hawaii, I was told that it's a good omen if it rains on on your wedding day and, as it's very likely that it will, most brides can be confident of a blessing. The rain here is warm and the water is all that sustains the lush life that flourishes here; situated thousands of miles out in the ocean, these islands would be deserts instead of lush gardens but for the rain.

Because rainbows are a daily feature of life here, one can quickly become a connoisseur of these evanescent arcs of color. Double rainbows are also fairly common, like this one, even though it didn't photograph well.

Rainbows are joyous things, aren't they? But, what about these Islands isn't, come to think of it?


Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Joke Is On Me

The funny part about the Portuguese Bean Soup was that there were absolutely no beans in it. Tasty broth, celery and onions, cabbage, crumbled sausage, yes. Beans, no. I researched it on the internet and it's supposed to have beans in it.

Did they just not stir the pot before they scooped out my ladleful?

Or is the joke on the malihini*?



Friday, February 11, 2011

Food Porn

Portuguese Bean Soup is another Punahou carnival standard - ya just gotta try it. Waiting in line for our turn, we noted the amusing signs advertising it that were taped to the outside of the booth.

There were signs featuring lovely ladies, too, but for some reason, this one appealed to me.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011


The local story is that Leonard's Bakery on Kapahulu Avenue in Honolulu makes the best malasadas on the island and that may be true - we plan to check theirs out later in our stay - but these, made from the recipe of a Punahou alumna of Portuguese heritage, were available at the Punahou Carnival, so we just had to try them.

My friend Meredith, who is a kamaaina (a person born and raised in Hawaii) and a Punahou alumna who has seen many of these carnivals, sent me the inside scoop via email, since she has recently moved to the Mainland. She told me which line would move fastest, so we got our malasadas within minutes.

Hot out of the frying oil and liberally sprinkled with sugar, they are similar to doughnuts, if doughnuts were made in Heaven. They are yeasty, a little greasy and very sweet. Dunked into a cup of coffee, it's hard to imagine anything better. The bitter coffee tempers the sugar and the sugar tempers the bitter coffee. Our second night at the Punahou carnival, we ate dessert first, sitting on metal bleachers, happily dunking and watching the parade of cheerful carnival goers.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Da Punahou Carnival

In all the years I lived in Hawaii, nearly ten, I never attended the Punahou Carnival. This time, I got to go twice. Our young niece was eager to meet her friends there, so we took the opportunity to try something new to us.

Punahou (pronounced poona-ho) is perhaps the preeminent private school in Hawaii - many of its movers and shakers have Punahou in their background, including President Obama. The carnival is always run by the junior class (and their willing parents) but volunteers come back even after their kids graduate - it's just a lot of fun and a good way to make connections in Hawaii. The proceeds from this annual event go to support scholarships for the school. Likely young Barack Obama benefited from one of those scholarships.

The carnival has rides and junk food, like any Mainland carnival, but some of the attractions and eats have a uniquely Hawaiian feel. Where else would you find a booth selling haku leis? What other carnival has a huge book sale? There were long lines at the malasada booths and the chicken "plate lunch" was the most popular meal, beating out even the pizza, teriyaki burger and funnel cake stands. Not to mention the Portuguese bean soup, a staple.

Both times that we sat down to enjoy some food and people watching, the other people at the table engaged us in conversation. Both were Chinese American families, very proud of the children they had sent to Punahou, then on to Mainland colleges. They were interested in us and our lives, as well as open about their own. The whole fair has this cheerful, laid back Hawaiian style. Although it was incredibly crowded and I don't usually do well in big crowds, the tenor of the evening was so relaxed and friendly that I never felt uncomfortable.

A small example occurred when My Beloved and I were walking past a family where the Dad was taking a picture of his wife and their two very small children. We offered to photograph them all together and there was an instant smile and, "Yes, please!" and not even a moment's hesitation at handing over their expensive smart phone to take the photo. Now, these folks were dressed, even the little baby who had only two teeth on the bottom of his big grin, like thugs complete with lots of black, threatening logos, yards of chains and, for the parents, some serious tattooing - all that was missing was the pitbull. But they all clearly had the aloha spirit of relaxed, easy, friendly attitude. They couldn't have been nicer. I won't soon forget the wide smiles and the cheerful "Mahalo" they all gave us, including that adorable snaggle-toothed baby as he waved bye-bye.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Hawaii Calls

Because I spent eight years of my youth in Hawaii, both as a child and as a young adult, this place still feels like home to me. I haven't lived here in nearly 40 years but, like Mark Twain, I can never forget it.

He wrote: "For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud-rack; I can feel the spirit of its woody solitudes, I hear the plashing of the brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago." - Mark Twain, a Biography.

He never returned. I count myself fortunate that I do, as often as I possibly can.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Beach Walking

Whenever we come to Kailua, our first stop is the amazing beach. Just 20 minutes or so from the congested beaches of Waikiki, it is nearly five miles of fine, white sand, warm water of at least 21 shades of blue and green, peopled with perhaps 50 folks sprinkled along its length at any time of the day. Dogs frolic off-leash, people stroll hand in hand or cast fishing lines into the water, joggers show off their stuff, readers spread a towel in the shade and luxuriate in the beauty.

We have had Kona winds today, winds from the south that are humid and languorous. It's hot for us Mainlanders, so walking on the beach with the warm surf lapping over our ankles is the perfect exercise here.

We spied a bottle bobbing in the waves and spun some stories for ourselves about what might be written on a message within. It was too far out to capture it, but it captured our fantasies - almost more fun not to know.

Kailua no ka oi.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Aloha Kitty

When I lived in western New York state, I adopted a wonderful little cat that I named Heartley Boy. He looked a lot like this one. One of the spots on the side of his head was perfectly heart-shaped, hence the name. He was my companion for many years and he moved with me to California.

Because this was his coloring, whenever I see a white cat with black splotches like this, I think of my boy. I think he was part Siamese, as he was mouthy as all get out - in fact, I think that's why no one adopted him before I did. He talked more or less constantly in a loud, hoarse voice. But for loving, purring sweetness, there has never been a nicer cat.

This girl more or less owns the Kalapawai Market in Kailua, on the windward side of Oahu. Her name is Dot. We stopped at the Kalapawai Market for a cup of coffee to carry down to the beach and, napping in the back room was Dot, all decked out in her silk flower lei. She graciously accepts pats from strangers, then drops back to sleep. They have pictures of all their staff under glass on the counter, including Dot in several poses - yoga stretching, held in fondling arms, sitting pretty next to the supply of styrofoam coolers.

Hawaii no ka oi. Hawaii is the best.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Polynesian Paralysis

I have been struggling for almost a week now with a mighty case of Polynesian paralysis, that condition that strikes malihinis (newcomers) here in Hawaii. The urge to get things accomplished today wanes, the warm weather and languid breezes sap one's energy and whole days seem to float by with little in the way of progress.

I'm giving in.

Instead of the usual "what we are eating today" posts, I'm going to fall back on pretty pictures or pictures that typify Island life to me. Pictures that show the Aloha spirit, or maybe pictures that just amuse me. Like this one.

We were driving out to the beach (10 minutes from where we are staying) when we spied this on the back window of a minivan. We followed the people to their grocery store destination and parked close to them so we could sneak a picture of their humor. Several cars and trucks around here have similar signs on them, but they are truly in memory of a lost loved one - rather sobering. But this one just made us smile on our way to wade in the warm water.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chinatown Sign

Everyone here is preparing for Chinese New Year, even if they aren't Chinese. The Year of the Rabbit seems to be an excuse to have fun, no matter your ethnicity in Hawaii. Good luck curly bamboos are sold even in pharmacies and everyone is enjoying Chinese delicacies. I love this about Hawaii - borrowing each other's customs and celebrations.

Found this sign on a side street in Chinatown. The fruit was stacked out of sight of the shop owner, so the honor system was in play. Another reason to love this place.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hamneggs, Hawaiian style

The same day we arrived in Hawaii, Chinese New Year was scheduled to begin, with fireworks, drumming and lion dancing in Chinatown on Hotel Street in Honolulu, so we drove back over the Pali to gather some good luck for 2011.

Hotel Street is notorious for strip clubs, houses of ill repute and bars, as well as being the center of Honolulu's Chinatown. When I was a young woman, I was waiting on the curb on Hotel Street for my date to park the car when I was approached by a young sailor from Pearl Harbor hoping to purchase my company for an evening. He was really pretty nice, very young and sweet, so I turned him down gently and thanked him for giving me a singular life experience.

I wish you could have been with us to explore the shops, enjoy the double arching rainbow, listen to the indefatigable drummers, risk deafness from the smoky, exciting fireworks, watch with amazement the antics of the various lion dancers, feed a little reward money into the lions' mouths for good luck this year, and sample the foods during our stroll around the area. It was colorful, noisy fun of a kind I associate strongly with Hawaii.

We sampled several treats along the way - butter mochi (a little too sweet for my taste) and this, pork hash, a little ball of protein goodness. The "pork hash" is like eggs and ham, but Chinese style. The filling is more like ham hash, a little salty and greasy, but in a good way, then wrapped in a paper-thin layer of scrambled egg. They cost less than a dollar and one is plenty to fill me up for more exploration along Hotel Street, enjoying today and memories of my past.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011


"Ono" in Hawaiian means "tasty" or "delicious," but locally it is also used to mean, "the best." It is a lovely fish - white, mild and firm-fleshed - from the deep ocean waters off Hawaii and other tropical places worldwide, where it is known as "wahoo."

It is an exciting sport fish as well as a delicious meal. If there is a down side to ono, it is that it dries out dramatically if overcooked. Because of this, I hesitated before ordering this at the Kaneohe Yacht Club, a delightfully casual club that my Hawaii brother belongs to. The members of KYC don't ever want it to become stuffy and upscale, so they purposefully put rules in place that keep it from becoming silly.

After dithering happily between ono and ahi on my luncheon salad, I decided to take a chance on the ono. Turns out I made exactly the right choice. The young chef at KYC knew just how long to cook it so that it was still moist and perfect. Add to that a view of the Koolau mountain range on the windward side of Oahu over the tops of the masts docked in the tiny KYC marina, and you have a lunch fit for a Hawaiian queen. Maybe I'm the reincarnation of Ka'ahumanu, she who broke the taboos and first ate foods forbidden to women and, not content with that level of badass, also ate in the company of men.


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