Sunday, October 24, 2010

Being Local, Eating Local

094_edited-1Everyone 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. 016_edited-1 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. 108_edited-1When 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.

I have recently decided to do more to eat organic, free-range, and local.

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. packed food 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. 120_edited-1 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. 086_edited-1 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.073_edited-1 slices 

Sweet Potato Chips  made with locally grown Okinawan sweet potatoes. Sweet potato is a traditional side dish at a luau.076_edited-1 077_edited-1 

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.090_edited-1

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.097_edited-1 100_edited-1 

We ate our lunch at Ho’omaluhia, a botanical garden, and soaked up the local beauty. 064_edited-1 117_edited-1 122_edited-1 113_edited-1 Amaya “fished” in the lake with her stick, just like all kids have done since the beginning of who knows when. 124_edited-1 We ate and Amaya explored and we even picked some fruit along the path.

061_edited-1 Even though I’m not local, getting in with the locals sure has its benefits.



Kegan Masayuki Spendlove said...

Honestly, that looks like the best lunch ever. While it might be more expensive to eat local, I'm not sure local food gets much better than the farmer's markets out there. Good luck this week.

Ben said...

When Erin and I visited the big island, we thought we were being sneaky by staying at places with kitchens, so we could save a bit of money by cooking and eating guavas all day. Like you said, not really cheaper. :) But we did visit some really great farmers' markets, especially one on the Kona side, where a Swedish farmer carried the widest variety of mangoes I had ever seen. I loved your post, Mariko. Wouldn't change a thing.

Maria said...

What a wonderful post. I love eating local, kind of makes the food more "real" to me :) And also I envy you for living in Hawaii, especially when it gets rainy and so very cold over here. Have a great start into the new week.

cathy said...

I am positively drooling reading about your lunch! Mochi wrapped chocolate dipped strawberries? Sounds divine! As does everything else on the menu.

I live in a little corner of northern Wyoming. I've heard our area described as a "food dessert." The soil is too rocky, the altitude too high, and the growing season too short to sustain a lot of agriculture. But...we have a growing and thriving farmer's market during the summer. Local might be as far away as Washington, but people are making an effort to eat more locally.

Honestly, my motivation for eating locally is flavor. Stuff that ships and stores well (and isn't local) usually has had the flavor bred out of it. I buy local as much to get tender, flavorful food that I just can't get in the grocery store. The ecological benefit is a bonus!

Indie.tea said...

Your picnic looks wonderful. And your daughter is adorable....
I shall vote for you :)

sippitysup said...

In case my last comment got lost.(my computer hiccuped), let me add that "local" takes on so many meaning in Hawaii! GREG

cassie said...

i've never wanted to go to hawaii, but after reading about the food (read: fruit) you can get, and seeing pictures of your picnic site...i'm dying!

burp_excuzme said...

Mariko, I am green with envy! You live in such a beautiful state!! I have yet to visit Hawaii...I have no idea when I'll be financially stable enough to visit! And I think my favorite item here was the sweet potato chips...God I love Okinawan sweet potatoes! I can't eat "normal" orange ones anymore!

Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama said...

Great job with trying not eat more local, organic foods. Wow-$7 for a dozen eggs?? I thought the $4.50 I usually pay was a lot! I agree that even though these foods are more expensive, they are worth it for my family. I will make sacrifices in other areas in order to be able to buy food that isn't laden with pesticides/herbicides, or treated with hormones and steroids!

Lisa~Koreanamericanmommy said...

I have yet to visit Hawaii and I know how food among other things can be very expensive. I too am a Spam lover, hehe. I don't eat it often but man in Kimchi chigae its sooo good! I know its very common in Hawaii. Anywho, love your lunch and I especially LOVE the mochi! Voted!

thelittlefoodie said...

SPAM has many versatile qualities, despite how it's made. :) Thanks for your vote!

thelittlefoodie said...

I know. My parents gasp when I tell them regular store eggs are $3. I guess it's all relative. Glad to hear you are trying to do well by your family!

thelittlefoodie said...

Promise you won't be disappointed by Hawaii if you come!

thelittlefoodie said...

Yes, it does. And it's not always the prettiest side of Hawaii, either (unfortunately). Sorry your comment got lost! I hate when that happens.

thelittlefoodie said...

Thank you!

thelittlefoodie said...

Thanks Keg. Glad that you see how superior we are to Utah. :)

thelittlefoodie said...

You are very kind, since your post was awesome. I haven't been to the Kona market-- only Hilo. I'd love to see some mango variety.

thelittlefoodie said...

I was wishing for just a little rain after reading all the posts.

thelittlefoodie said...

You should try Molokai sweet potatoes too. Purple through and through! I couldn't find any that day, unfortunately. I decided that the orange ones are too wet for me.
Although it's expensive, you can always camp on the beach! It's the beach, so it's totally worth it, right?

Indie.tea said...

Re: Your question about the dessert book - it is in both English and Japanese. The English translation isn't the best though.
The problem with it is that it is not available in the U.S., I had to order it from the Japanese Amazon. Or if you have a friend in Japan, you might want to ask them to send it over, as shipping rate is sort of high.

Hockeygal4ever said...

I love the simplicity of this whole thing! Very nicely done. Nothing extravagant, great food & let you enjoy the time with your family instead of in the kitchen all day preparing!

thelittlefoodie said...

Thanks Hockey Gal! I was able to prepare everything the night before while
the kids were in bed, so it was less stressful.

zoe said...

love all your care free... Happy to vote for you for this entry. Good luck :D

Allie (Live Laugh Eat) said...

You are still going strong--wahoo! Those sweet potato chips are beautiful. You packed that cooler to the brim. Wish I could have been there.

angi c said...

Mariko, I loved your picnic especially that sandwich! This is my favorite line in the post: "The meal is not center stage. It’s just part of the picture." I heart this sentiment so much. Good food is great but it's nice to remember that it's not always just about the food! I tend to forget that a lot of times, especially in full blogging mode. :) In full disclosure, I'm also jealous that you live in Hawaii, which I've never been to aside from the Honolulu airport.

Winnie said...

Um, how did I not realize you live in Hawaii until now?! Lovely post...I love everything esp. the mochi wrapped strawberries! I'm happily voting for you :)

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Fun and sweet time with family! Love it! You have a vote from me!

For my entry, I wanted to create a road trip and picnic for my boyfriend, who had recently given me a "do over" of one of my childhood memories. I decided to give him his own "do over" -- a special birthday picnic with a heart-themed meal. Come see if you'd like :)

Sonya said...

ok! great post. it's so difficult and pricey to make a meal of local family and i tried the KanuHawaii challenge for a week and only had abour a 65% success rate.

i NEED those Mochi covered strawberries! how do you dream up something so heavenly!!

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