In the continuing series of Finding France: wherever you live, I wanted to share my thoughts on ‘deep shopping’. I didn’t know what to call it, but it’s a light meditative state I enter when looking for food to eat, cook or write about. I rarely go with a complete recipe in mind, rather a craving, a gastronomic intuition, or just a gentle curiosity guides me; I fill in the blanks of my list with a few serendipitous treasures. While I am preparing to video the December French recipes from my temporary Hawaiian kitchen, I did a quick reconnaissance at the local markets for what is becoming my staple big meal while traveling- breakfast.
So pineapple, mangoes, papayas… fruit is everywhere, but buyer beware! Buying local in Hawaii means paying attention to the tropical seasons and the labels of where the farms actually are. While O’ahu is a smallish big island (just 135 miles in circumference—a half a day to drive around with stops for shave ice and swims will give you a quick overview. Honolulu side is wall-to-wall now—highrise condos, hotel buildings, shopping centers, and restaurants. But even a drive around the island for this returning native, left me wondering where the food was grown.
That’s 8% of 30% of zoned agricultural land. While development always looms large, agricultural land and farms must hold their own and work smarter, not harder.
While that sounds dire, ‘they’ say there is enough land to feed the population of the islands if applied. But man can not live on pineapple alone and diversity is as important as quantity. Taro and tree nuts, hogs and cattle, eggs and dairy are making solid progress. But people want temperate zone vegetables and fruit (like apples and kale?) as much as they want macadamia nuts and papaya. Me? I’d happily make the switch if it meant scaling the local economy up to more local farms rather than the big food importers. Small family farms here average 150 acres, not too different from the average 100 acres French farms I know. But I had some real trouble shopping locally at a big chain supermarket as imported foods (processed and fresh) make up the bulk of food consumed in Hawai’i by 85%.
Unfortunately, I missed the local farmers market this week, so I stopped into the Kailua Whole Foods for a few supplies until Sunday. Whole Foods might not be the norm, but I could compare like-to-like with my mainland shopping and see what the duck market looked like here (not bad for imported availability and priced at a reasonable $5.95 a pound ). But first, I headed to the fresh fish counter. Fishing, like farming, has shrunk in the islands and while you find fresh poke featured at every little food stand or truck, there was little fresh local fish to buy- in fact only 4 varieties of local fish were available: swordfish, two kinds of Ahi or tuna, and blue marlin. There were no whole fish compared to dozens of imported choices including Branzino from as far away as Greece. Want to eat Hawaiian fish in Hawai’i? Take a look at this lovely chart.
So back to shopping local- Hawaiian style:
I bought a lovely piece of Kajiki or blue marlin- I’ll cube it, pan saute it in grapeseed oil and dress it with a dash of shoyu, island lime, chili flakes, green onions, and sesame oil before eating. Sort of like cooked poke. (see the recipe below)
I buy green onions with wild abandon; I treat them like they are gold. I love the sweet fresh greens as a garnish and integral ingredient to many asian dishes; I have to grow them at home in France since they are as rare as hen’s teeth there!
Although there are over 200 varieties of local avocados grown in Hawai’ii, the three I bought came from Mexico. Go figure. I’ll have to wait for the farmers market on Sunday to get some backyard varieties.
Local Pineapple, of course, cubed, and ready to eat.
Coffee is grown mostly on the big Island of Hawai’i and I am stocking up on Kona coffee to take home. It is a robust yet mild coffee bean and worthy of the price.
“In order to be considered Hawaiian coffee or Kona coffee, blends need to have just 10% of its beans sourced from Hawaii or Kona. That means 90% of the beans can be from anywhere else in the world! So you need to be especially vigilant and look for products that say 100% Hawaiian coffee or 100% Kona coffee.”
Next I found Japanese cucumbers (my crispy favorite and I have successfully grown them at Camont) and cherry tomatoes by local Ho Farms in Kahuku. They belong to a Hawai’i state initiative to support and protect Hawai’i farms, and so do I.
EGGS! Local eggs, brown, cage free and fresh. That crazy hen is the logo for https://www.shakamoaeggs.com/history Now to uncover that local bacon source…
So the basics for my Hawaiian breakfast are ready- grilled fish, eggs, avocados, with a side of cucumber and tomato salad dressed with sesame oil and rice vinegar. Oh, and that cup of good strong Kona coffee. It’ll be hard to go back to a croissant and cafe au lait.
RECIPE: Breakfast like a fisherman
Ingredients: per person
1 piece of very fresh fish cut in large cubes (I used the Kajiki described above, but fresh ahi tuna, wild salmon, cod, trout, etc, all work)
1 tablespoon each of grapeseed oil, shoyu (soy sauce), sesame oil, lime juice
a couple green onions chopped up
some chili flakes if you like
Put the grape seed oil in a sauté pan, heat, and then add fish cubes. Toss the fish in the pan until barely done. Add the seasonings to the pan (shoyu, sesame oil lime juice) and toss together until well coated. Add the green onions and chili flakes, stir and serve with a half an avocado, some cucumber and tomatoes. sprinkle a little sea salt over the vegetables and eat with steamed rice—island style.
I’ll be making a video of some Finding France: Hawai’i influenced apéritifs or pupus to share with my friends this weekend. A Gascon Year Members will find these posted in their December videos. Not a member and you are interested in seeing one of my videos free, drop me a line here in comments, and I’ll send you a link.
And I will be making the big announcement about 2022 special online workshops Soon Soon Soon!
Aloha Nui Loa from my French Hawai’i…