Friday, February 19, 2010

Sausages growing on trees? This IS paradise! (and other random discoveries)

It's true: I saw them at the Foster Botanical Garden. Okay, it's not actual sausage, but it sure looks like it, and that's really what the trees are called. The garden boasts quite a few actual culinary specimens, including taro, tamarind, black pepper, and guava.

We went to the garden with my mom and aunt, who were visiting for a few days. They also treated us to a luau. It was actually pretty fun, and the food was better than I expected. My favorite part was, after two hours in slow-moving traffic to get there,* being greeted by giant punch bowls of Mai Tais. One taste and I could tell there was hardly any booze in there, but they nonetheless had a Pavlovian effect and soothed my crankiness almost as well as a properly spiked one would.

The KCC Farmer's Market, now part of our Saturday routine has also proven to be a treasure trove of discoveries:
 
Not at the market, but on the way, is a tree full of tiny, bean-like baby mangoes. Just hanging out in someone's yard. Aren't they cute?

And though we have long been loyal to the Kukui Sausage Company's grilled kimchee sausage for our market breakfast, I think there's a new sheriff in town. It's called the KCC Culinary Arts Program. Why? Three words for you: kalua pork sliders. These people know what's up. Slow-roasted pig with citrus slaw on a taro bun. One is just $3, and it's the perfect size for me. Okay, it leaves a tiny bit of room...perhaps for...
Chicken skin chicharrones! I seriously don't know why it's taken me this long to encounter these. They're so deliciously awesome. An Okinawan family sells them, along with omelets and other made-to-order hot food using the chickens and ducks that they raise. But between an omelet and these chicharrones, I know which one I'd choose (hmm, unless they could be combined...)

Papayas, my favorite fruit. Lots of them. Delicious and cheap. And also, the flowers are insane. But you can't eat them, and I hate how you end up with dry petals and pollen all over the place, so I just enjoy them from afar.  
 * Full disclosure: it's not like I actually had to drive in that traffic. We took the luau company's shuttle, on which our escort "Cousin Bill" made us shout "Aloha" about a thousand times during his little spiel. So yes, it would have been worse to drive ourselves, but it was nonetheless a test of my patience (and blood sugar levels). Having said that, it was a fun experience overall and I certainly don't want to come off as ungrateful to my mom and aunt who were so generous to treat us. (Good lord, I think all their Southern hospitality and "I wouldn't dream of putting you out" attitude is wearing off on me)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A stranger in a strange kitchen

Well, here I am in paradise! Who knew I would call this place home?

To be honest, I feel more like a stranger in a strange land than I thought I would...by virtue of dialect, culture, and finding it impossible to remember street/place names correctly (is it Lili'uoKUlani Street, or Lili'uoKAlani? Kukui Market, or Kokua Market?). That aside, I have also discovered how cooking in someone else's kitchen can feel a bit like a foreign country as well.

You see, through a stroke of luck and good timing, Tyler and I are living in the apartment of two friends who moved to Mexico. Because of the nature of their move (and ours), they left much of their stuff in the apartment for us to use - everything from furniture to linens to office supplies.

It goes without saying that I'm thrilled to have not just a full kitchen (with four whole burners and an oven!) but a full array of utensils, cookware, and staple ingredients.  While I'm waiting for my crate to float in from San Francisco, I am quite happy to make use of Scott and Nina's water kettle, wooden spoons, silverware, and plates...their dried pasta, condiments, and even powdered green shake mix (integral to my special morning cocktail). And although I'm glad to have use of these things, it has also made me acutely aware of the fact that one person's "must have" items are not necessarily the same as someone else's. Some things in the cabinets I simply have no use for, such as...
  • Perforated plastic jar lids used for sprouting seeds
  • Lots and lots and lots of bagged tea
  • Oat flour, rice flour, nutritional yeast, and pancake mix
  • A half gallon of Grade B maple syrup (hmm, someone did the Master Cleanse!)
But more baffling are the things that, to me at least, are sorely missing:

How can you have a full array of specialty baking ingredients, and yet have no mixer of any sort? No electric mixer, no hand-cranked egg beater, not even a whisk! I wonder what kinds of things they did bake, and how they managed to pull it off without some of the most basic equiment.

And I took my OXO grater for granted until I struggled with the barebones version pictured here. Not only does the tiny grating surface double or triple the work, but it doesn't stand up on its own, and it's difficult to keep it in place while you're grating. So frustrating. I long to grate on my own securely anchored tool and enjoy the efficiency afforded by good design.      

Lastly, an ode to the cast iron skillet...Actually, I look forward to cooking on any non-nonstick surface. But mostly I miss the heft of the cast iron, its ability to hold heat, and the fact that I can use it in the oven. But the fact that it won't give me cancer is a nice bonus.

The good news? I just found out that the crate containing all my earthly belongings has finally landed on this little island. Next Tuesday I'll start unpacking my cooking goods, and that's when it will really start to feel like home.