It’s my last morning in Kauai. I’m hungover from too many cocktails (actually, I might still be a little drunk). The rumor is that I consumed approximately two Mai Tais and five or six vodka ginger ales last night. What?! I was mourning the end of my trip.
Leaving is bittersweet. Of course, I can’t wait to see my kids and sleep in my own bed. I’m even eager to get back to work and begin implementing some of the culinary lessons I learned during my stay. It’s not a bad racket when eating is research, and I’m always learning.
If there’s anything I’d like to bring back from Hawaii, along with my tan skin, culinary inspiration, and the few extra pounds now jiggling on my ass, it’s the Aloha spirit. I know that probably sounds cheesy. Before visiting, I would have thought so, too. But, people are just nice here. They’re simultaneously calm, accommodating, and jovial. And the things they do, they do well.
Take, for example, the food. Everywhere we went, restaurants had Kauai-raised, grass fed beef for decent prices. The fish is extremely fresh, caught daily. The ahi, bright coral-red, tender, and slightly sweet. For twelve bucks, the Hanalei Dolphin Fish Market had large sushi rolls that were girthy, and nine or ten inches long. That size stimulates giddiness in girls like me. Wink, wink.
In Kauai, offering quality, local food doesn’t feel like some corporate strategy to bleed money from the pockets of elitist foodies. It just feels right. To not serve fresh papaya grown a mile away would be a disservice to guests, and just kind of stupid. Why would they import avocados when the ones grown in Kauai easily fill a b-cup with their creamy flesh? It just wouldn’t make sense.
As I think about returning to Chico, my mind is on the shifting seasons, the fact that I’m about to turn 29, and the ensuing holiday season. I love this time of year. I love the autumn colors, crisp air, and seasonal food. I can’t wait for butternut squash soup, braised meats, and eggnog. As I get older, I’m increasingly grateful for my food knowledge. It has led me to eat entirely differently than the way I was raised. One of my mom’s culinary specialties was taco salad with Fritos, ground beef, and Kraft Catalina dressing. I snacked on Top Ramen. My dad specialized in Shake ‘N Bake Pork Chops and Rice-A-Roni. That shit’s not a treat in San Francisco or anywhere else. By learning to cook, however, I’ve learned to care for my body, connect to my environment, and enjoy the seduction of color, texture, and flavor. Life isn’t meant to be neatly packaged; it’s best enjoyed hands-on, hearts open, and bellies full.
Now, please excuse me, I have Kauai-raised, grass fed New York steak and eggs waiting at the table for me, a perfect remedy for the onset of my morning hangover.