|Hilo-style Saimin - my reason for living! - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
When I tell people I'm going to visit family in Hawaii, their responses immediately go towards the idea that I'll be sitting on a beach with a fruity, umbrella-staked drink in hand, waiting for the next luau. While picture-postcard perfect, this is not the heart of this place. The state relies heavily on the industry of tourism, and this will most likely never change, but a vivid heartbeat of integrated cultures exists. It's not something that necessarily fits the outside expectation of what a tropical paradise should be, yet it is no less engaging. I'm writing a couple of articles that focus on the strong survivor spirit behind the city of Hilo, and Hawaii's prevalent food culture, as shown through visits of local restaurant. Aside from the obvious desire to have something published, to achieve this milestone would have deeper personal meaning, as it all comes from well-loved childhood memories and a desire to preserve the things that I fear will someday be lost.
So why the heck should we care about your perspective on the Aloha State, Wasabi? What do you have to offer that's so freakin' awesome? No grass skirts. No drinks made in coconuts. My vivid sense memories of Hawaii are the sound of wind whistling through the tall grass in the fields of my mother's upcountry Maui, racing the passing rain showers that come down from the volcano, driving the loamy smell of the iron-oxidized red dirt into the air. There were misty mornings where neighbors' roosters crow at dawn to signal the day's start, and fresh sugar-dusted malasadas picked up from the local bakery waiting at the table in a pink string-tied box. My hands still recall the feeling of shucking sugary-sweet white corn for the night's dinner, and hoping there's no fat green caterpillar below the silken husks. I close my eyes and can still smell the wood burning mid afternoon, to stoke the fire that will heat the heavy wooden furo soaking tub my grandfather built with his carpenter-skilled hands. Age and use had seasoned the wood to an almost velveteen softness, and the fire-heated water drew away the day's worries and concerns.
|The Palace Theater in downtown Hilo, opened in the 1930s and still running movies today - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
From my father, I recall vintage, time-worn memories of his hometown Hilo, a working class city built up by the hands of plantation workers, passed down through many generations, with buildings still captured in a turn of the century bubble. Passing the afternoon time looking through dog-eared magazines and comics, I would sit on the back steps of the Sakaki Barbershop, with the sound of aunties chatting and cutting customers' hair. With my paternal grandfather, Ayato, there were daily visits to all the shops in the city to talk-story and trade gossip, and he indulged my every whim when we'd pass by a place for ice cream or candy, and then a stop at Cafe 100 for saimin. The evenings were lazy in the enclosed patio, snacking on boiled peanuts, watching my electrician grandpa's collection of old bar signs and colorful strings of lights come on with his obsessive use of timers. Everyone talking, eating and drinking late into the night, we watched samurai movies and listened to the intervals of nightly Hilo rain that would pound down on the metal roof.
Most of this exists only in memory, as many of the people are no longer with us and the houses have new lives and people within. But these recollections still feel incredibly vivid, and the measured pace of daily life that created those memories continues in cities like Hilo, where that life sustains itself amid threats of tsunamis and economic hard times. I went back to see family and being immersed in a memory-laden place really drove a strong need to preserve and reconcile the past -- the past of a city or an individual in emotional turmoil? Who the heck knows, most likely a bit of both. But it beats a writeup about a luau and a bunch of grass skirts, right?
So please forgive my vanity of wanting to get published. I can only hope you'll support and spread the word that Wasabi's in the market for anyone who will help get the stories of island life and edibles in a small town out into the world. If you have any suggestions, tips or email addresses of editors that I may stalk mercilessly, please feel free to send them over with much Wasabi Thanks in advance. I'm still planning on posting many a homecooked dish that my mom cooked, so don't despair about the thought of a Wasabi world without Spam.
And if you're still dying for some tropical Aloha, you can see some Hilo Farmer's Market finds on my other non-foodie blog, the Jaunty Magpie:
Jewelry designer Keanalu Art Glass
Getting Clean with the Filthy Farmgirl
|A few peeks at the sights of life in Hilo - Photos by Wasabi Prime|