Monday, May 9, 2011

Mixed Plate: Do What You Love / Love What You Do

Why do we spend hours of our precious free time writing open letters to the universe, in the bleak hope that kind strangers will give it a look-see? Why do we brave public ridicule and stink-eyed stares as we take pictures of every freaking thing that comes out on a plate, or make it a point to annoy waitstaff by asking for well-lit tables and if it's okay to go all klepto with the restaurant menus? I ask those questions of myself rather frequently, but then I'm reminded of the very simple answer: food is love, and it allows us to give that gift of good food to others. 

What Wasabi treasures most in this world (no, not bacon) - Photo by Wasabi Prime

This is why I blog. Well, one of the big reasons. Family is important, they keep you grounded and remind you where you come from so you can better see where you're headed. And every once in a while, if you're very lucky, schedules allow for a group of family to come and visit for a few days. See those three smiling ladies? It's the Wasabi Mom on the left and her two sisters, my aunties Sharon and Patsy. There's a Wasabi Uncle Clarence, but he could not make the trip out to visit, due to work, but we considered Photoshopping his head in there. Their eagerly-anticipated visit back in April was like planets coming into alignment, except that instead of a great sci-fi dimensional rift to tear the galaxy apart, I just had to shake my tailfeathers and get the Casa de Wasabi ready for three hard-workin' ladies who were overdue for a relaxing vacation. And lots of coffee.

Clean, cook, bake, annoy the dog - check, check and CHECK - Photos by Wasabi Prime

On your mark... get set... BAKE. Well, that was the mantra the week before everyone came over. My mom and her siblings were always bakers, making cakes, cookies and sweets of all sorts. Maybe it was out of necessity, as they grew up on a small farm in upcountry Makawao, on the island of Maui -- no big cities with a 7-11 down the street. It wasn't quaint to make your own bread or bake your own sweets when you were craving a treat -- that's just how it was, the same way you sewed your own clothes versus going to the department store to pick up a new dress. And it wasn't that times were particularly hard, it was just practical know-how being put to use every day -- ask your own relatives, I'm sure they'll say the same thing. We're in an era of information-smart, but basic skills-stupid people who have been too far-removed from where things come from, and I totally include myself in that smart/stupid category. So I thought, Smarten up, Wasabi, and make stuff from scratch. And off I went, in between cleaning the house, prepping the guest room, roasting an extra-extra-extra batch of coffee, and making favorite baked treats for Mom and the Aunties. And yes, that included annoying Indy with the constant running of Roomba -- I bow to the robo-nation of the 21st Century.

My version of heaven - food, family, fuzzy pup - Photos by Wasabi Prime

My family was less interested in playing tourist, as this wasn't their first trip here. They were more inclined to relax and let me cart out plates of food while we spent the days catching up. Consider it the spa resort equivalent for domestic career women. I wanted to test out recipes that I normally don't make, as it's too much for just Mr. Wasabi and I, and I love any excuse to make goodies like waffles, muffins, cinnamon rolls and brownies. I made it all, and it was as much of a treat for me to fuss over the food as it was for everyone to om-nom-nom it. I made a batch of fresh strawberry ice cream that made me rethink my original feelings towards the stuff -- I was never a strawberry ice cream fan. Apparently it's just the Hello Kitty pink fake stuff that's terrible, because when you make strawberry ice cream from scratch, KAPOW -- hear that? That's your mind getting blown away with deliciously real fruit flavor. I also cooked up some simple favorites like roasted portobello mushrooms topped with vegetables and a quickie chicken marsala. Nothing fancy, just easy things that I could prepare while we all kept chatting away. As a bonus, my Auntie Sharon gave us a potato steamer bag, which is just that -- a cloth bag you fill with washed potatoes, throw in the microwave, and let the rads do all the work, turning potatoes into soft, mashable goodness. I know I'm listing all this food and gadgetry, and I promise I'll have separate posts highlighting the different items, I just haven't gotten around to making the individual posts yet, so hang tight and consider it several IOU OMG a Recipe posts!

It's true, the sun does indeed show up sometimes here - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Weather was a big factor when they visited. We had some stinker days, when there was hail and slushy snow coming down, but at least there were a few not-so-sucky days of brief sun to remind the visitors that this state is not completely without its merits. I took the family around to the usual stops for Hawaii folks visiting the Mainland: a visit to Trader Joe's to stock up and a trip to the casino. Two great loves of Hawaii -- interesting snacks and gambling. Don't knock the unusual requests of island visitors -- these are both things that just aren't available (or legal) in the Aloha state; Trader Joe's always has munchies that make for easy omiyage or souvenirs, and you can't even buy a scratch ticket in Hawaii, so one afternoon at the casino feels like a little indulgence. While the notable lack of video poker machines made for a less than satisfying trip to Northwestern Sin City, my mom was able to make enough scrilla to treat us all to a buffet lunch and unholy heapings of weird food combinations. Viva!

Bittersweet farewells - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Sadly, all wonderful things must come to an end. Just like what my family does for me when I leave, I made a batch of Spam musubi and wrapped them up for the flights home, along with the last of the brownies. We parted ways after a week of family time and I'm always taken aback with how strongly it still affects me after all these years. I had gotten so used to the house being full of people, noise and activity, so when the house returned to normal, the silence was deafening. It was right around my birthday, so maybe that made the parting more poignant, but I continued to live in the food and flavors of the things we shared when the house was full like a happy stomach. My mom gave me a pendant from my favorite jewelry vendor at the Hilo Farmers Market, which is a lovely remembrance of the visit as a whole. I blog so that I can learn to do more in the kitchen and grow closer to the food I eat, and I blog so that I can prepare that food and grow closer to the family when I'm fortunate to have them in my home. Miss you, tons -- come back again soon.

Bookmark and Share

1 comment:

  1. Aww, Wasabi, what a lovely post! Sounds like a wonderful visit for all of is indeed a shame to live so far from those you love. Your mom & aunties are too cute. And Indy...I'm in love with her.


Commentary encouraged. Fresh baked cookies, super-encouraged. (hit the 'post comment' button twice, sometimes it's buggy)