with Jamie Winpenny
I have to admit that when The Hawaii Independent staff met last month to discuss June’s food focus, my eyes glazed over with the embarrassing realization that I was completely out of my depth, which runs about as deep as a wet sidewalk when it comes to matters gastronomical. My favorite food is crack-seed.
I’m someone who embodies the maxim “eat to live, don’t live to eat.” I take a lot of heat from family and friends over the fact that I don’t eat a lot, that I eat small portions, and ask for a doggie bag every time I eat out (except when it’s sushi). I eat only when I’m hungry, and only until I’m full. It marvels my wife, who eats three squares a day, with strategic snacks in between. She is a proud member of the Clean Plate Club. I’ve never understood the quotidian nature of most peoples’ eating habits. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are hallmarks of historical socio-cultural regimentation, in my estimation.
During the meeting, I suggested that I might be able to look into agriculture in Hawaii, although the only agricultural experience I have is when I was living with my old band in California many years ago. I’ll say only that we didn’t grow food.
I do, however, harbor a secret desire to live the life of a gentleman farmer (of food, relax). Despite that yearning for the life pastoral, I haven’t been on a farm since I was six years old, when I shot the pig for my sister Shannon’s first birthday luau.
I will say that I can cook, although it’s the kind of rudimentary fare associated with lonely bachelors with little more to work with than meat products, onions, and shoyu. I graduated from sugar-and-butter sandwiches to sautéed mushrooms before I was ten, and failed to further my culinary education. I have a fairly urbane signature dish, but it’s an olive tapenade that I lifted from my far more gifted bass player years ago, and it doesn’t actually involve cooking anything. I do make a fine breakfast, though, having learned the art of frying perfect bacon (flip frequently) from my father. He was similarly challenged in the kitchen.
Shannon inherited my mother Mary’s prowess in the kitchen, and she can throw together a banquet for fifty in an hour-and-a-half. My sister Karen, oddly, is more hopeless in the kitchen than even I. Her recipe for tuna casserole, which is marvelous, was surely obtained from the side of a box of egg noodles.
I’m happy to say that The HI’s June food focus has opened my eyes to the wide world of food, and to the fact that Hawaii is unique in all the world for its bounteous offering of climate and soil conditions, which provides the opportunity for growers to grow a staggering array of diverse foods. It has given me a new and deep appreciation for the fact that my wife grows peppers, basil, rosemary, and chili peppers on our modest lanai, all of which find their way onto my plate regularly, and that she makes her own pickles using locally grown cucumbers (no, you can’t have any).
I also have a new and deep appreciation for the Hawaii farmers that provide the option for residents and visitors alike to choose locally-sourced products to nourish themselves and their families. I more fully understand the challenges they face, the hard work they undertake, and their reliance on people being committed to the ethos of “Buy Hawaii.” And it makes me a little less ashamed that I spend more money at the C-Mui Center crack-seed store on Bethel Street than I do at Safeway.