Everyone in my family was born here, in Hawaii, except me. That means that they are all “local”, as we say in the islands. My daughter, Amaya, has tons of local attitude. She has a shoe-optional wardrobe. Her hair is wild and sun-bleached. Her favorite food is SPAM musubi. She practically lives outside (with lots and lots of sunscreen on) and she loves to eat outside. Amaya talks about picnics non-stop. Usually our picnics are out in the yard. Every day she starts trying to pack her bento boxes with food she can grab out of the cupboard and fridge and announces that we’re going on a picnic. Sometimes she will get ready for it even before we’re awake. The second I’m up she’s asking me about a picnic. Sometimes when I wake up I find her outside on the porch in her pajamas, eating her picnic already. I was happy to be able to accommodate her love of picnics for this Project Foodbuzz challenge. She knows food tastes better outside. Everyone’s more relaxed and focused on enjoying the meal instead of rushing off to finish the next thing on our to-do list. When I think of food as being local, it is Hawaii born and bred. Just like local people, local produce and goods thrive in tropical weather and represent diverse Polynesian, Asian, and American flavors.
Food is expensive here, since we live on an island in the middle of the ocean. We tend to turn to cheap name brands because growing and producing here can be tougher. But we’re trying. The farmers markets are growing rapidly. I’ve seen more markets pop up close to my home, and the one I frequent has grown in size. They’ve become crowded and there are loyalties that run deep. Local eggs that go for $7 a dozen have plenty of buyers. This tells me so much about how people have the power to change the way business is run.
Of course, like I said, these things aren’t always cheap, and a bit more time consuming and inconvenient. There’s reality. Sometimes you have to rely on the world market when you want to pick up some Gruyere cheese. Sometimes your daughter wants to eat at Taco Bell even if you kind of hate yourself later. You do what you can and you make it work for your situation.
I made a picnic lunch that features local produce and goods, while trying to reflect local tastes and recipes. I’ve highlighted the local ingredients I used in my menu. All the food I brought could be eaten cold or at room temperature and was a spin on the traditional sandwich type picnic lunch. I packed everything in glass boxes with lids (which stack very nicely and securely), and the soft stuff I put on top. I brought a small cutting board with small paring knife so we could assemble our sandwiches, and we used the lids to eat on to eliminate waste. When you’ve got kids to carry and blankets and a little way to walk, bringing the china is too much to ask. I also think this minimizes the mess. Packing up dirty plates afterwards is trickier. Planning a menu to eat with your hands is much more simple and your shared experience is greater when you all have to drink your juice out of the glass jar that you brought. I like elaborate meals, but a simple picnic should be just that. Good food without a lot of clutter. Too many dishes and stuff to set out ruin the experience you’re having with the outdoors. The meal is not center stage. It’s just part of the picture.
Local Lunch (click on the links to print)
Kalua Pork Sandwiches with organic pork, local sea salt, local cabbage/carrot slaw, and homemade barbecue sauce made with local lilikoi (passion fruit). Also topped with local avocado and tomato slices. The Kalua pork I made here mimics the flavor created in a traditional Hawaiian imu—underground oven.
Sweet Potato Chips made with locally grown Okinawan sweet potatoes. Sweet potato is a traditional side dish at a luau.
POG or Passion Orange Guava Juice made with Ka’u Gold local oranges and foraged lilikoi and guava juices. POG is a style of juice popular in Hawaii and elsewhere. The stuff you buy at the store is practically viscous.
Mochi wrapped Chocolate dipped Strawberries featuring local Waialua milk chocolate and Maui grown strawberries. Mochi is a popular dessert among locals, since food in Hawaii has strong Japanese influence.
We ate our lunch at Ho’omaluhia, a botanical garden, and soaked up the local beauty. Amaya “fished” in the lake with her stick, just like all kids have done since the beginning of who knows when. We ate and Amaya explored and we even picked some fruit along the path.