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.

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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.

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