Random bits about food, culture and an open mind

by Tania Ginoza on February 2, 2013 · 20 comments

Earlier this week cries of “suck em Danno” reverberated across the web. The bruhaha was over actor Scott Caan’s recent appearance on Chelsea Lately.

ScottCaan ScottCaan2

What’s poke, you ask? Keep reading.

 

Funny how two little words like “it sucks” could cause such a ruckus. Mr. Caan has since apologized and I forgive him. I will still continue to watch H5O as I love seeing shots of the city I used to call home and have a crush on McGarrett (no offense Danno). Why would someone expressing dislike of Hawaii cuisine resonate so strongly?

Food is culture. The Columbia Press synopsis of the book entitled the same by culinary historian Massimo Montanari said it best, “everything having to do with food—its capture, cultivation, preparation, and consumption—represents a cultural act”. I think back to the lessons learned from my Japanese grandma years ago. I was taught not to turn my nose up or refuse food that someone has offered, regardless if they had prepared the food themselves or were hosting a catered party. Do not fill your plate with your favorite dish the first time around to save some for others and leave room on your plate to try everything even if at first glance it doesn’t appeal to you. You don’t need to eat a large quantity but you need to try a taste. If someone opens up their table to you; you must reciprocate with an open mind.

In many ways, I feel that everything I need to know about food, I learned from grandma. It is because of her I’ve never been afraid of new food experiences, always show appreciation for any dish offered and feel a personal connection with my meals. Eating is a sensory experience but it also can be an emotional one. The food we stock in our kitchen reflects our beliefs, morals and cultural background. When we think of home and family, memories of food and drink are intertwined with all others.

The Today Show once ran a recurring feature on specialty foods from across the country. Bubbies, THE Honolulu place to go for homemade gourmet ice cream, had sent their elegant mochi ice cream. Ice cream that is covered in mochi, which is made out of mochiko (sweet rice flour) is a personal favorite. When presented with a piece, Katie Couric made a face and refused it because she could not fathom rice and ice cream in one sweet package. My Katie fan bubble (along with Bubbies’ no doubt) burst that day. To try a bite and then say it’s not for you is one thing, to refuse to try is quite another. It was an emotional response even though I had not personally prepared that ice cream myself because I felt a personal connection to Bubbies as a fellow Hawaii resident and because of my Japanese upbringing.

This personal connection with food is also why images of and content about food are so popular on social and traditional media. Food brings us together in real life and virtually as it is something we can share and relate to. Trying the local cuisine while traveling can also help us to understand and feel a connection to the people and places we’ve visited. Although I’m not a food blogger, the most common question I receive from visitors to Hawaii is “where should I eat?”.

Do you have any memories or life lessons to share regarding food, drink and your culture? If you had to recommend to visitors to your area “where the locals eat”, what would be your picks?

The photos shown above from my FB are from Honolulu Magazine’s biting commentary feature by Martha Cheng, Dear Scott Caan: Places where the food doesn’t suck. Biting commentary is one of my favorite Hawaii foodie features. You can sign up for email updates; their posts are always entertaining and mouth watering.

Poke (pronounced as two syllables, po kay) is a cubed raw fish like ahi (yellowfin tuna) marinated with shoyu, Hawaiian salt, sesame oil, seaweed and chili. There are variations which also add green onion, sweet onion, avocado a little mayo or other ingredients. While ahi is common, tako (octopus) poke is also popular. It can be eaten alone as an appetizer or on top of rice and furikake (poke bowl).

I wrote a past post on how my memories of food are intertwined with all others, My life in food, here.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen February 2, 2013

HAHA. I don’t know if I 100% forgive him. I mean, I was mostly offended by his food comment the most. I would never think we, the melting pot, would have terrible food. I wonder what food places he has been to. I think we have weird types of food, but not terrible tasting.

I was actually going to blog about him, but I figured it was best that I didn’t. I think he has some major sucking up to do with us local folks.

Mochi…I can see why Katie didn’t like it. I’ve heard from other mainlanders, it’s the “gummy” texture that throws them off. Oh wells, maybe compared to American food, we just have too much FABULOUSNESS for them to handle. LOL ;)

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Tania Ginoza February 2, 2013

I thought of you Jen as I wrote this and wondered about your take on it because you write about so many yummy Oahu spots and are also very open minded about traveling and new food experiences as well. As I watched you on IG/blog/twitter make your way through Europe, you never passed judgement on the food and were open to trying new dishes and ingredients.

I wouldn’t have been offended if Katie made a face after she tried it (well, I take that back it, a polite not for me without the face is ideal). What got me was the not even trying when that was the whole point of the series they were running. I felt bad for Bubbies, they probably were so excited to be featured and then she made an ewww face without even tasting it. But yes I agree, mochi can be an acquired taste.

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Marti February 2, 2013

Oh man…
Other than a very minor flicker of disappointment, I was so totally neither offended nor threatened by Scott Cann’s comments. Love him, love the character, love the show…

I’m just sorry that he hasn’t been exposed to why we are so happy here. To each his own.

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Marti February 2, 2013

added thought:
I do agree that the food comment was odd, considering that other than NYC pizza, we pretty much have all foods available here that they have on the mainland. My guess is, he was going for repartee, without really meaning it 100%.

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Tania Ginoza February 3, 2013

I wasn’t offended at all either. I didn’t see someone who hated Hawaii, I just saw someone who’d rather live somewhere else, probably a bit homesick and I can relate. If you watch Chelsea Lately a lot (I do), most of the banter in these interviews could be taken the wrong way and would look just awful in print. She is funny because she is irreverent but there is usually a wink in her voice.

If you’re aren’t into certain kind of foods, Hawaii’s cuisine may not appeal at all. I do agree, Oahu especially, has such a wide range of great food options.

The reactions in comments of posts and articles about the interview I found interesting and also understood at the same time because of our cultural link to our food. We’ve all experienced situations like Malia described in her comment below and I think that is part of the reason for the sensitivity. I also think in Hawaii we take pride in our culinary scene and variety of ethnic cuisine and that’s another part of it.

I agree to each his own. As long as I don’t have to host them at dinner and hear a bunch of complaining about how much better the food is where they come from (true story), it’s all good.

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Malia February 2, 2013

Well put Tania! When I was living on the mainland I faced the Katie Couric response all the time. At parties no one wanted to try my char sui chicken drummets (because they were pink) and people stared in wonder as I ate nori sushi I bought at a Japanese market (years ago, before it was mass-marketed everywhere). I got tired of defending/explaining my lunch and couldn’t believe how rude people could be! Seriously, it’s one of the reasons I moved back home. And so glad I did :)

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Tania Ginoza February 3, 2013

Those kinds of things have happened to me or in my presence too Malia but in Hawaii. I’m never surprised or offended at the polite no thank you, not everyone is into trying different types of foods and they shouldn’t feel bad about it. It is the look of disgust or rude comments about things like spam that are like “aiiii, didn’t your grandma teach you how to be graceful when offered food?” :-). I remember when nori pieces became popular and it started to show up in the health food stores with a fancier presentation and a fancier price.

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lisacng @ expandng.com February 4, 2013

I didn’t know about this food comment, nevertheless, you are right that food is very intertwined with culture and what your grandma taught you about manners is wonderful. We must at least try it especially if you are in a guest’s house. As for Katie, my bubble has burst now. For both the actor you mentioned and Katie, they are professionals on TV and should act like it. They should know better than to be offensive like that.

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Toby Neal February 5, 2013

One thing I know about Hawaii peeps-they don’t let insults go. I winced at Scott’s interview but thought he looked nervous and ill prepared, like he wanted to please the hostess and forgot which side his slippah was on–and I knew he was goin’ get one smack upside da head, which wen’ happen.
Bubbies. Spam musubi. I just had a meal of those two (yes I know, not very healthy) and was just relishing the flavors of our local “fast food.” True, it’s not french quisine…but it’s ours, and we love it.
Aloha
Toby Neal

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Tania Ginoza February 12, 2013

We may not have French but we do have Pacific Rim and a ton of Asian fusion :-) I think I’d be nervous across from Chelsea too.

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Joyce February 6, 2013

*pokes head out from under rock* Umm…we don’t have a TV anymore…but I know who Scott is and I’m aware of his comment from reading about it on the internet. Like many have said before me…to each/eat their own. I’m sorry to hear he wasn’t graceful about it. Unfortunately, not all of us can be adventurous eaters like Andrew Zimmern. But I think people should make an effort to try the native foods in the places they are visiting.

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Tania Ginoza February 12, 2013

I’m quite envious you don’t have a tv. I didn’t at one point in my life and am now hooked on Hulu and Netflix. I’m sure a lot less books get rid because of my two (gulp) tvs in my teeny space.

Yes, even if we are not always brave enough to try, grace is key because food is soooo personal and tied to our culture.

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Elinor Gawel (Eli) February 21, 2013

A beautifully written post about something so close to my heart – food. Growing up in New York I have many food desires I usually can’t find. Like bagels, Hammentaschen, corned beef and real Italian sausages. I’m sure when I move to the mainland again I will miss some of the special Hawaiian foods. Probably not musubi and loco moco though.

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Tania Ginoza February 24, 2013

Thank you for the kind words Eli. I love NYC food, especially Jewish food. I also miss certain dishes from Honolulu that you can’t get here. The demographic on Maui for residents and tourists is quite different so we don’t have certain things here.

I know my mom misses German food (she’s from Ohio).

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Courtney - Maui Jungalow February 25, 2013

Does your mom make spaetzle?

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Tania Ginoza March 6, 2013

No but I’m going to ask her if she ate that growing up.

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Courtney - Maui Jungalow February 25, 2013

Just heard Martha Stewart answer a question, “What would you do with spam?” and she said, “I love it. I would put some butter in a pan, slice the spam, and brown both sides, toast some country bread and spread dijon or some nice mustard on it, and then put the spam on top. Delicious!” It surprised and pleased me that she was not a food snob.

The saddest thing I saw about HI food was a FB picture from a Christian group against Obama, showing a picture of a good plate lunch: laulau, lomi lomi salmon, rice, and saying it was so gross… and that Michelle Obama was promoting this gross food for school lunches. Phobia of different foods I suspect reflects phobia of other cultures as well.

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Tania Ginoza March 6, 2013

Gotta love Martha, I never would’ve expected her to enjoy a spam sandwich.

The Obama story is terrible. I’m pretty sick of the hate spewing from groups trying to portray him as non-American because of his ethnicity.

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Erik Blair February 28, 2013

I’ve learned about, tasted, touched, experienced, smelled, embraced, loved, fondled and enjoyed so many new foods since I’ve been here in Hawaii, and almost 99% of it has been wonderful. That 1% that I perhaps didn’t fall in love with right away is merely a testimony to the diverse nature of food and indeed life. Can’t please everybody, and for some people there’s always SPAM (which I enjoy now and then).

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Tania Ginoza March 6, 2013

I’ve always seen you as open minded to new experiences Erik. Makes life more fun, right?

So I’m assuming you’ve had SPAM musubi then? If not, it’s one of the few things I rock at, just let me know and I’ll make you some.

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