Classic Waikiki-November 27 2020
I have been wandering the streets of downtown Honolulu for nearly a week now, venturing just once into Waikiki after a daily swim at Ala Moana Beach Park. That’s the mile long beach park where local families and old folks go to swim. There are big Banyan trees for shade, benches to sit on, and a sturdy reef that keeps the surf, and surfers, out a distance creating a sort of giant natural saltwater swimming pool. I have been staying in a spacious home exchange with a lovely host couple (who included me in their traditional Thanksgiving dinner where I provided the Ono Ono pie); the neighborhood is old school Hawaii and tropical birds and roosters sound the dawn chorus as the morning gives a shower while the sun shines—classic Hawai’i.
I was born here seventy years ago, tomorrow. While much has changed over the many decades that I came and went—Pearl Harbor grade school to University of Hawai’i days, newly married Vietnam-era Army Wife to young theatre professional—I still feel at home. Something about the air, the trade winds, and the sound of an airplane far overhead, that sparks a rainbow littered dream of memories. Above all, food memories are strongest.
While some long standing haunts have disappeared--Patti’s Chinese Kitchen, waffle dogs at the KC Drive-in, Like Like Drive saimin—all were standards of my University days—my young Uber drivers are filling in the blanks about where to find the best food trucks, Korean bbq, and plate lunch. The everyday rhythm of aloha and warm water hasn’t changed. I feel at home instantly.
I decided not to have much of an agenda while here; a few must do’s like a drive around the North Shore for a view of crashing surf and crashing surfers, a Mai Tai in the old school Moana Hotel Veranda Bar, a daily swim, a paper bowl of saimin, a rainbow colored shave ice, and a sack of crack seed. It’s no surprise that more than half of these are mouth sensory memories calling to me. We carry our memories deep in our muscles and I am sure that taste buds are strong little muscles, too.
Crack Seed Hawaii- closing day Nov 27 2020
I spotted the ‘Wes Anderson Style’ building across the street. A symmetrical ode to cement and corrugated metal roofing housing three small businesses: the Dew Drop Inn, Rose K.’s Hairstyling for Men&Women, and Crack Seed Hawaii. I’m a sucker for hand drawn signs and doors plastered with notices, a sort of visual magnet that pulls me across the busy street. In France, it would have been a brocante or village cafe.
Crack Seed Hawaii moving sale- Nov. 27 2020
The smell of sugar and salt assaulted me as surely as if the 5-0 team was lying in wait. I walked into the Crack Seed Hawaii shop where three tiny Aunties played cards, gossiped, and waited for me. “30% off everything- last day!” They were closing, too. Oh, NO! All my childhood seemed to be evaporating before my eyes. Glass jars of crack seed, that particular-peculiar sweet and salty, sour and strong dried plums to suck on and roll around your mouth foreveh would disappear, too!
“Relax dear,” Alpha Aunty assured me; they were just moving to Kaneohe, on the other side of the island and much closer to where my next stay would be. In a nostalgic panic to buy as much as I could carry to bring back to France to share with my Christmas friends, I was too laden to try a shave ice- three flavors to choose from the thirteen offered, toppings like lemon peel (candied), mochi, and li hing powder beckoned. This is my childhood in a paper cone. Next week, I’ll go to their new location and celebrate not another closing but a re-establishing of traditions and tasting memories.
Shave Ice: Thirteen Flavors
While most tourists in Hawai’i are on the hunt for the largest Mai Tai, a free Hula Show, and a Glass Bottom Boat, you can find me in a neighborhood grocery store, a corner drive-in, or a bakery café tasting my childhood under rainbow flavored skies.
More nostalgia and Food memories await next week… oh, and the Ono Ono Pie? I’ll post it on my website here: https://kitchen-at-camont.com/blog