F is for Fall: le menu

     Autumn Scene, Jessie Wilcox Smith (1919)

Greetings, Ladies and Germs!

Yes, the cat in the hat is back! Well, sort of.

*yawns, strokes whiskers and assumes penetrating gaze*

So, how have you been? I must say you’re looking rather perky today. Must be the brisk fall weather — the winds of change blowing in, crisp leaves underfoot, apples for breakfast . . .


As for me, I enjoyed my longish lunch break. Went all the way to Hawai’i to dine in the sunshine, yes I did. Another sacrifice on your behalf, dear friends. *cough*

I swear there must be somebody secretly moving those islands a few hundred miles west every year, because Hawai’i seems further and farther away the older I get. The 12-hour flight is exhausting, jet lag, the pits. If I sound incoherent the next week or so, you’ll know why. (And if, in my sleep-deprived stupor, I offhandedly offer you cash, pay no attention.)

But despite all, it was of course wonderful to visit family and friends, drive through my ramshackle hometown, and grumble about the lack of central air conditioning in my relatives’ homes.

Every morning, my dad sliced and seeded a scrumptious papaya for us — the perfect way to start the day.

 Oyako donburi (chicken and egg omelet over rice), fave Japanese comfort food!

Oh, but the food! The last two weeks was one long feast of epic proportions, as I chewed, crunched, nibbled, snacked, and foraged my way through hot malasadas, Margaret’s cucumber kimchee and Korean kalbi, coconut turnovers, lemon shave ice, chicken putanesca, tofu salad, oyako donburi, an especially succulent teriyaki beef sandwich, shrimp and avocado salad, and a 7-course Chinese dinner (which merits its own post).

Piping hot Leonard’s Bakery malasadas (Portuguese donuts), sugary crunch and soft, chewy middle.

I was especially hungry for moon cakes after reading Grace Lin’s new book!

Not to mention the rice cakes, wedding cakes, sesame seed candy, 70% dark cacao macadamia nuts, and delicate afternoon tea pastries. And don’t let me forget the life-altering dumpling soup!

Somebody really should write a book about this!

Yes, I am living in elastic waist pants as a result. But you’re so worth it. ☺

Lest you think it was all play and no "work," let me clarify. There was a motive for every morsel I devoured sampled. I’ve had a difficult time writing stories about my childhood in Hawai’i from this distance. The islands are geographically and emotionally remote, the memories, hazy and generalized. I was starving for sensual details!

Chinese rice cakes (nom nom) ♥! Huge childhood favorite (love peeling the layers off one by one — cake on the left).

I needed to feel the warm tropical breezes, hear the slip-slap of rubber zoris on the sidewalk, smell barbecue and fresh fish on the grill, chow down on my Mom’s homecooking, and talk story with old friends in a favorite restaurant. Because it’s not just about the
food — it’s where you eat it, and whom you’re eating it with. Chit chat rendered in pidgin flavors those plate lunches and somen noodles just as much as shoyu and katsuo-bushi dashi.

(Everything is good at Liliha Bakery):

Thumbs up for the blueberry danish and haupia (coconut pudding) donut!

With each bite in a familiar setting, some of the good, buried feelings resurfaced. I’m older, some of the scenery has changed, but the taste of foods I grew up with — from the poi and kahlua pork, to the passion fruit guava juice (a staple in my parents’ fridge), was my friend in need, a reassuring constant and pleasant pathway to the past. 

           Poi is the only local food Len doesn’t like.

As autumn rolls in, I’m planning to serve up the letter, "F," in some of its many delectable manifestations — fun food, feasts, frolicking, foliage, friends, family, fiction, a little français, felines, Facebook (!), even flirtation. While I’m at it, why not a dash of fandago and finesse? Don your rustic costumes (or strategically placed maple leaves), and join me in a harvest of good times.

Oh, and there will be pie — surely the friendliest of foods. Hey, what’s your favorite F-word? (No, not that one, silly.)

       Cousin Chuck and Len with the day’s catch (uku and aku).

My mom prepared the uku (gray snapper), Chinese style — steamed and seasoned with soy sauce, ginger, green onions, hot oil, and garnished with cilantro.

*This post has been brought to you by Fish, reeled in by Len on my brother’s boat, and consumed with gustatory delight in all its mouthwatering deliciousness (so fresh it slapped each of us on all four cheeks).

P.S. Here’s $148.23. You can buy a few cookies with it — but remember, a smile or kind word costs you nothing.

Happy Autumn! Bring on the falderol!

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.