On a recent trip to Hawaii’s Big Island, I was introduced to the traditional bowl of raw ahi stirred up with soy sauce and sesame seeds, called poke. Although it looked like an exposed brain, I fell instantly in love with its decadent healthiness. Bonus: Having just finished Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, I also enjoyed quoting from it: “Can I have a little poke?”
I know. Po-KAY. [ sigh ]
We also prepared raw ono marinated in lime, coconut milk and pineapple—basically a fish daiquiri. And kalua pig. (Also not a cocktail).We cooked all this at home. By home I mean the sterile AirBnB house which had clearly never been anyone’s actual home, and by cooked I mean we put it in a bowl and stirred it.
Our home kitchen was very spartan, which is fine in Hawaii because:
- cooking heats up the house,
- few houses have air conditioning, and,
- why cook when you can eat daquiris at the beach?
Hawaii offers lots of fresh fish because:
- it’s far better than frozen fish,
- it’s right there, and
- Hawaii is 2,500 miles from the nearest Costco.
- there were now over 35,000 cows,
- they were killing people and tromping hundreds of plants into extinction, and,
- cows taste good.
Lest you miss your Costco cuisine, most every restaurant offers stadium cheese, which is the Hawaiian term for that plasticky orange food-like product we sometimes refer to as nacho cheese, that globs out of a pump at the movie theater. Besides the dreamy fresh fish, bananas and pineapple, Hawaii offers pretty much any canned food that can survive on a literal slow boat from China.
Back in Omaha I was offered a culinary class in which one names a pig, butchers it, then takes its pieces home to store in the freezer. It’s all well and good to know where your food comes from, and I suppose naming your pig is the least you can do when you’re going to eat off of it for a year. That’s longer than many of my other so-called serious relationships. Hawaiians don’t give their fish names because really it’s just a one meal fling and then it’s over.
It is a 1,500-mile journey from my home in Nebraska to the Pacific Coast, then 2,500 miles more to Hawaii. That’s how far my wife traveled to enjoy her first taste of Spam, a Hawaiian favorite food, after she snapped up a can prominently displayed in a Kona grocery store. That’s also how far the can of Spam traveled. It was made in Nebraska.