Now, 14 years, two kids, and many frequent flier miles later I feel like I too can claim kamaina (that’s Hawaiian for local). If you added up all of the time we have spent there, it is almost 6 beautiful months filled with sun, sand, sushi, and adventures. When I first met my husband and he told me he was from Hawaii, it didn’t really sink in. I thought he meant Hawaii, Ohio, or that he had been there a time or two. After he asked me to marry him and we climbed on the plane so I could meet his parents, I started to get it. When we changed planes in Atlanta and boarded our Honolulu flight, it occurred to me there is only one Hawaii…and it is not in Ohio.
I love to explore the foods of Hawaii. The bounty of their small islands is amazing. Although, tragically, the property value has risen so much that they don’t really farm pineapple on the island of Oahu now, there are still traces of this with the Dole plantation. Some of the fields once lined with spiky plants or sugar cane are being planted with cocoa and coffee. Even though commercial agriculture is declining as their island is more developed, the resourceful practice of sustainable agriculture in your own backyard has been encouraged for decades by Asian influence.
My husband’s parents have mango, lychee, dragon eye, strawberry guava, and pomelo trees growing in their yard, all planted by a previous owner. Farmer’s markets and produce vendors in Chinatown carry limitless assortments of other fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices that grow well in the tropical environment. In addition to the extensive produce available, there is also an incredible variety of flavor from the diverse cultural influences of the many nations of Asia, the South Pacific and other parts of the world. It is amazing to think that even Portugal has left its mark on this island with the popular soups and sausages they introduced, as well as their version of guitar. Though I enjoy some of almost all of the different flavors available here (other than spam), my favorite food destination on the island is Chinatown.
On my second visit to the island, my father-in-law was kind enough to take us to a very unique food court near the fish monger, butcher, and produce stands of Chinatown. In one large room, there were small stalls surrounding the perimeter, barely 6′ x 6′ each. Within each stall vendors prepared and sold authentic foods from all corners of Asia: Laos, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Korea, China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and others…with a Pizza stand for good measure. It took quite a while for me to decide what I would have for lunch that day, and the Thai dish was delicious.
My in-laws all had a piece of pizza.