Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Food on Oahu

While I was in Oahu this summer, I swam and snorkeled and studied and hiked. I walked, wrote, did yoga. I read, visited art museums, watched foreign films.

But, I did not eat.

The trouble was that food was hard to get. I know; it sounds crazy, I mean, Waikiki has tons of restaurants. But Waikiki was also an hour away--by foot--and who wants to show up to PF Chang's all sweaty, then walk back with a stomach full of Kung Pao chicken?

We all had little fridges in our rooms. And down in the basement, with the mosquitoes, there was a microwave. But getting food was tricky. Mostly, we would walk along the foot of the Manoa mountains, past avocado and orange trees, by a little stream, and after 20 minutes, we'd end up at Safeway.

But then, there was the carrying back of the groceries. They had to fit in a backpack, and hopefully not spoil in the humidity on the way back to our rooms.

There was an empty chair one day in class, because the otherwise resourceful professor of a respected university was trying to find food.

One night, I craved all these things, all together: corn bread, papaya, butternut squash. When it was all piled up on my plate, I thought how funny that everything was orange -- and high in potassium. Potassium is key, because you're sweating all the time on Oahu, even when the afternoon monsoons are pouring down.

Another night, my friend shared her green meal with me: spinach pasta with pesto, and green beans on the side. I found that friend a mango.

I stole a ladle of soup off a stove, but it was for someone else, and that is another story.

Everything we craved on the island grew right there. We wanted starchy root (taro), and whether or not we liked them, we ate a banana a day. Papaya and avocado were also biological staples. Water, water, water, water. We drank gallons and gallons and gallons. The coffee was not yummy. And in 35 nights, I had beef only two times.

Twice, I was poisoned from Vietnamese food, but I recovered from each in a day.

And once, we got these little fried cinnamon dough things from a famous place called Leonard's, and those dough things were divine.

The best meal I had was with Dave, on the west side: incredible plate lunch from a little hole-in-the-wall. And there was a good breakfast on the beach at Duke's, during a big canoe tournament. My favorite snack was a Bird Bar--full of seeds and nuts and honey--from Down-to-Earth, a vegan market.

In all, though, I didn't eat much.

When I got off the plane, I was tired and sunburned, and my hair had grown long and blonde and stringy. But the first thing my daughter noticed was that I was holding my pants up.

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