Friday, September 18, 2015

Eat, eat, read

Maui is pretty.
I’ve been having fun. Last week I went to Upcountry Maui on a magazine assignment and ran around looking for cool things to do and eat and found them in abundance. Meanwhile, I was also reading and reviewing two new self-helpy books by Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic) and Cheryl Strayed (Brave Enough), so all these inspirational lines about being generous and bold and receptive to inspiration and grateful and tackling life like a motherfucker* were floating through my head as I toured pineapple vodka distilleries and ate Spam musubi on the lush slopes of a tropical volcano. It was basically the ultimate high. I felt so energetic I started wondering if I was bipolar and having a manic episode.

Then I came home. It wasn’t a manic episode. I was just happy. Now that the homemaking/parenting years are drawing to a close, I wonder whether by embracing domesticity with such ardor I was simply making a virtue of necessity. I think I love my cozy nest of a home with the high-maintenance farm animals and 1000+ cookbooks, but I feel so much more alive when I’m racing around with my notebook trying to find the best bento box in Upcountry Maui and sleeping in a room I do not have to clean.
This was my only glimpse of beach. I was supposed to stick to inland Maui and dutifully did so. 
There are two categories of Hawaiian food and they could not be more different.  First, there is the slab of $42 macadamia-crusted ahi that you get at tourist restaurants. It is fresh, local, and good, though I always find myself struggling to finish fish like this because after few bites it becomes monotonous. The crust is delicious, but the inside of the fish is fish, bland fish. I finish, though, because it is so expensive I can't bear to waste it. Also, an ahi or an opah or a mahi mahi gave its precious life for me and I'm going to leave it on the plate? 

Then, there is the food that local people eat. For the most part, it isn't very fresh or local, not by Alice Waters standards. The plate lunch, the shave ice, the manapua, the warm $2.19 Spam musubi that you find under a heat lamp at Foodland. I was revolted by the idea of Spam musubi until last week when I finally tried it. I sat there in the supermarket parking lot eating Spam musubi and wondering what I was going to do when I got back to the Mainland and had to live without Spam musubi. Are you familiar with Spam musubi? Imagine a piece of nigiri sushi the size of a Twinkie, but warm, and instead of fish, it's topped with a slice of salty, delectably fatty, sausage-like meat. It is the best thing I ate in Upcountry Maui and I ate a lot of great stuff.

The second best thing I ate was the loco moco at a divey restaurant located in a trailer. Loco moco is a hamburger topped with fried egg and smothered in gravy, served over sticky white rice. The huge serving of loco moco I got at this dive also came with some macaroni salad and when you mixed that creamy macaroni salad with the rice and the salty brown gravy? I know how déclassé and gross that sounds, particularly when you consider that the gravy likely came from a can, but it was heaven. I had to physically push the plate away and ask for the check in order to stop myself from finishing every last bite. I needed to be able to wear my clothes home.




The red thing is a Surinam cherry from the Kula farmers' market. It was the fourth or fifth best thing I ate on Maui. It's got a super thin skin, sweet-tart juicy flesh, and a pit like a standard cherry. I couldn't figure out how to photograph it to best advantage, as you can see. If you ever have the chance to eat a Surinam cherry, do, but be sure it is really soft and ripe. 
Anyway, if you go to Hawaii, be sure you get out of the tourist restaurants and give that local food a chance. It may not be your thing, but I personally would always choose the $12 loco moco over the $42 macadamia-crusted ahi.

About those two books I reviewed. Strayed’s Brave Enough (it comes out later this fall) is a short collection of quotations from her previous work that apply to all kinds of profound life quandaries, like losing your mother or ending a romantic relationship. I’m not currently facing a profound life quandary but I still find myself flashing on her counsel ten or twenty times a day to solve the most trivial problems. Two I like especially:

"You know what I do when I feel jealous? I tell myself not to feel jealous. I shut down the Why not me? voice and replace it with one that says Don't be silly instead. It really is that easy. You actually do stop being an awful jealous person by stopping being an awful jealous person."

Don't do what you know on a gut level to be the wrong thing to do . . . It's hard to know what to do when you have a conflicting set of emotions and desires, but it's not as hard as we pretend it is. Saying it's hard is ultimately a justification to do whatever seems like the easiest thing to do -- have the affair, stay at that horrible job, end a friendship over a slight, keep tolerating someone who treats you terribly. There isn't a single dumbass thing I've done in my adult life that I didn't know was a dumbass thing to do while I was doing it."
The incredibly sweet pineapple in Hawaii might have been the third best thing I ate. 
As to Big Magic, it's imperfect, but warm and inspiring. I love Elizabeth Gilbert. You may feel differently; we can still be friends. I think she’s open-hearted, smart, and a force for good in the world. She helps me shut down the mean drill sergeant in my head who constantly yells at me for not keeping my boots spit-polished. 

I liked both the books a lot and my review is here

Speaking of drill sergeants, I’m going to cook from Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune for the next week or so. I was just flipping through the book trying to figure out what to make for Sunday dinner, resenting yet again the lack of an index. Gabrielle Hamilton is such a jerk. I wish her recipes weren't quite so good.

*Update: Cheryl Strayed word. Allusion. My father emailed me about it within 2 hours. 

38 comments:

  1. Musubi indoctrination complete.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Have you ever seen Eat Your Books? This site has indexed a gazillion cookbooks and functions like a giant search engine for your books (and blogs and mags and more). They don't usually include page numbers (because of the many and various editions that may exist for any given title), but (bless their hearts!!) they did include page numbers for Prune. Very helpful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I used to have a membership, but I think it expired. Very helpful. I should revisit.

      Delete
  3. Zora has one!
    http://rovinggastronome.com/mainblog/2015/01/26/how-to-read-the-prune-cookbook-with-downloadable-index/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. Not only is that a helpful index (now sitting in my printer chute), but what an excellent review of the book. I've come to agree with a lot of those points. There's a reason for almost everything GH does. She's ornery, contrary, and impossible, but in being so she makes you think about what you're doing. It's a fascinating cookbook. In a way even the lack of index forces you to engage in a way you don't usually engage.

      Delete
    2. No problem! If you scroll down that page to comments, someone has posted a link to an alphabetized index.

      Delete
  4. I lived in Hawaii for a little over two years, and I learned to love Spam....in fact you can buy t-shirts that say Spam in giant letters, thus identifying yourself as a spam animal. It is cheap and can be fixed in a million ways, all of them rather tasty. The way you learn to eat a lot of fish is to marinate it in a wild variety of things, not the traditional types of marinade but crazy things like beef broth or steak marinades, then grill. I never got into the macaroni salad, and it is served with everything, because I always heard a little voice in my head saying "food poisoning ", and yeah I did get it once and I thought I was going to die, lost 5 lbs over the weekend. A very bad way to lose weight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I went to one restaurant, took a bite of the macaroni salad, and spit it out. That was the downside of the funky restaurants I tried. Nothing bad happened, but it actually tasted of mold. I've tasted anything more disturbing in a restaurant. A friend was telling me last night that in Hawaii she ate green beans sauteed with Spam and that it was very good.

      Delete
    2. I grew with my mother pan frying slabs of spam with peaches. The peaches get a salty spammy crust and they are so delicious!

      Delete
  5. It's so easy to make spam musubi! You can pick up a spam musubi mold at the drugs store, or just use the can the spam came out of. Slice and pan fry your spam; I add a little teriyaki sauce at the end to make it sweet/salty; top your rice and wrap with some nori.This is especially popular at picnics and school potlucks here.
    Even though I don't personally eat spam, I'm so proud of how Hawaii can turn people into spam-eaters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm scared that if I actually handle a can of Spam I will be turned off. I worry it will make me think of dog food.

      Delete
    2. You know how you get over that thought? You think about paying 12.00 a pound for ground beef, the not so good kind, and suddenly spam looks really good. Also, I used to rinse it off, something about the jello looking juices on it right out of the can

      Delete
  6. Loco moco sounds heavenly to me. The voting isn't over yet but it's very likely that the Chowhound folks are going to be cooking from Prune in October, so your comments will be even more appreciated than usual.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, wow! So exciting. It's the most interesting cookbook I've had in my life for ages.

      Delete
  7. yeah ...prune...I pine for prune sine returning to the library...next time I see it...it will prob be at a checkout line. I especially liked the "garbage" section and still trying to collect enough zucchini stubs from baby zucchini.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thing I most want to taste is the mastic fondant in ice water. Within the fortnight I will happen.

      Delete
  8. So much to love about this post, as usual. You even make loco moco sound good and it's made up of foods I don't eat. Will you tell us when the magazine piece comes out?

    But really, my favorite part is this: "I think I love my cozy nest of a home with the high-maintenance farm animals and 1000+ cookbooks, but I feel so much more alive when I’m racing around with my notebook trying to find the best bento box in Upcountry Maui and sleeping in a room I do not have to clean."

    Thank you for that. My children are younger than yours and I don't have anything close to 1,000 cookbooks but I do find myself thinking ahead to when they're in college and I can take spontaneous road trips to things like the Palm Springs Modernism festival.

    I also appreciated your remark about the monotony of fish -- YES. And, in fact, most meat.

    ReplyDelete
  9. As usual, a perceptive and thoughtful post. I think it is so healthy to embrace your present situation, whatever it is. Cheryl Strayed would be pleased with your attitude! I hope you continue to see the benefits of your domestic situation as it evolves.
    Spam. Well, I ate quite a bit of it growing up. There is a can in my pantry that I bought because my husband wanted to try it again. It's been in there for a while. I am not turned off by canned meat, and I think of spam as canned sausage. That jelly part is the same stuff that gives you that silky sauce when you cook marrow bones, so just remember that if and when you open a can, maybe it will help. Thanks for such an informative and eclectic post!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have eaten and liked spam. Fish usually bores me. It has such a yielding texture. I occasionally cook salmon filets (skin on!) for Harman and myself (too expensive for the whole brood), but I buy it at Trader Joe's and the selection there is (forgive me T.J.'s, for the blasphemy I am about to commit) poor. Either it is farmed salmon and deliciously fatty and luscious but terrible for the environment and maybe dyed pink (?!), or it is Coho or Sockeye that is frozen and very lean and even sometimes has bones (waah! First world problems, I know, but fish bones are a deal-breaker.) I can't bring myself to go to Whole Foods and pay $30 a pound for sustainably raised wild-caught king salmon from Alaska.

    I hypothesize that you will learn to enjoy the empty nest. I had the same experience you had--I dived deep into housewifery because it seemed natural and right. I embraced it. I cooked and cleaned and became resident (informal) teacher. Now I'm looking forward to not having to do so much of that in the future. I think I beat myself up over the details. Once I learned to bake the perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies, I couldn't bring myself to buy inferior cookies, for example, so in the end we didn't have cookies, because ultimately I didn't have time to bake them. I should have listened to my mother, who said, "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing half-assed."

    ReplyDelete
  11. Jennifer, how in the world do you manage to make things I would never normally allow past my picky little lips {Spam, white rice, canned gravy, macaroni salad, hamburger, anything at all that's been sitting around under a heat lamp} sound so darned delicious???

    ReplyDelete
  12. We fell in love with Spam musubi in Kauai, and have been making it at home ever since. It must be eaten sparingly though, or you do feel sick and/or guilty.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is totally not about spam, but I wanted to comment on the quote from Cheryl Strayed. I have that same discussion with myself. I am not generally a jealous person but anytime I find myself thinking along those lines, I remind myself that I probably could have "that" if I wanted and I am happy with my life and I am not comparing my life to anyone else's.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Check out this blog with a down-loadable index to Prune:
    http://rovinggastronome.com/mainblog/2015/01/26/how-to-read-the-prune-cookbook-with-downloadable-index/

    ReplyDelete
  15. We are lucky to have a Hawaiian restaurant in the Des Moines area and I love, love musubi (chicken and Spam) and the loco moco. Thanks for reminding me.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Kannur University Result 2016 for all course
    Kannur University Admit Card 2016
    Kannur University Hall Ticket 2017
    Kannur University Result 2017
    Kannur University Admit Card 2016
    Kannur University Entrance Date 2016
    Kannur University Degree Allotment
    Kannur University Trial Allotment 2016
    Kannur University Admission 2016
    Kannur University Onlie Admission
    Kannur University Distance Education Result 2016
    Kannur University Hall Ticket 2016
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University BA Result 2016-2017
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Hall Ticket 2016
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Result 2016 for all course
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Admit Card 2016
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Hall Ticket 2017
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Result 2017
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Admit Card 2016
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Entrance Date 2016
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Degree Allotment
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Trial Allotment 2016
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Admission 2016
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Onlie Admission
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Distance Education Result 2016
    Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University Hall Ticket 2016
    Karnatak State Open University BA Result 2016-2017
    Karnatak State Open University Hall Ticket 2016
    Karnatak State Open University Result 2016 for all course
    Karnatak State Open University Admit Card 2016
    Karnatak State Open University Hall Ticket 2017
    Karnatak State Open University Result 2017
    Karnatak State Open University Admit Card 2016
    Karnatak State Open University Entrance Date 2016
    Karnatak State Open University Degree Allotment

    ReplyDelete
  17. Karnatak State Open University Trial Allotment 2016
    Karnatak State Open University Admission 2016
    Karnatak State Open University Onlie Admission
    Karnatak State Open University Distance Education Result 2016
    Karnatak State Open University Hall Ticket 2016
    Andhara University BA Result 2016-2017
    Andhara University Hall Ticket 2016
    Andhara University Result 2016 for all course
    Andhara University Admit Card 2016
    Andhara University Hall Ticket 2017
    Andhara University Result 2017
    Andhara University Admit Card 2016
    Andhara University Entrance Date 2016
    Andhara University Degree Allotment
    Andhara University Trial Allotment 2016
    Andhara University Admission 2016
    Andhara University Onlie Admission
    Andhara University Distance Education Result 2016
    Andhara University Hall Ticket 2016
    Symbiosis University BA Result 2016-2017
    Symbiosis University Hall Ticket 2016
    Symbiosis University Result 2016 for all course
    Symbiosis University Admit Card 2016
    Symbiosis University Hall Ticket 2017
    Symbiosis University Result 2017
    Symbiosis University Admit Card 2016
    Symbiosis University Entrance Date 2016
    Symbiosis University Degree Allotment
    Symbiosis University Trial Allotment 2016
    Symbiosis University Admission 2016
    Symbiosis University Onlie Admission
    Symbiosis University Distance Education Result 2016
    Symbiosis University Hall Ticket 2016
    IBS Hydrabad BA Result 2016-2017
    IBS Hydrabad Hall Ticket 2016
    IBS Hydrabad Result 2016 for all course
    IBS Hydrabad Admit Card 2016
    IBS Hydrabad Hall Ticket 2017
    IBS Hydrabad Result 2017

    ReplyDelete