I grew up with five brothers and a sister in Pa`auilo (on the Hāmākua coast of the Big Island ) on the plantation so we didn’t have much money. My mother had a garden where she grew bittermelon, lima beans and other things that climbed on vines. We used to ask her for candy but of course my parents couldn’t afford anything like that and I remember she used to cook lima beans in sugar and salt to satisfy our sweet tooth. She also raised peanuts which she dried. Then she took leftover mochi and rice, roasted them, made a syrup with sugar, combined it with the roasted peanuts and made candy for us. She also made konnyaku which I loved so much that when she was making it, I wouldn’t even go out to play. I just hung around the kitchen, waiting for it to be done.
After she died, my sister and I would reminisce about all the things our mother used to make, and asked ourselves how come we didn’t know how? We could kick ourselves for being so stupid that we didn’t learn how to make them. Still, I have wonderful memories of all these simple dishes that my mother made, which is what I wish I could eat now.
I’m thankful I wasn’t the daughter of a rich person, because how else would I know about these simple things? I only wish I had learned to make all that delicious food.
(Editor’s note: Mrs. Nakashima is one of my mother’s neighbors in Hilo . She grows pohā [Cape gooseberry] in her garden and always has a jar of pohā jam for me to bring back to Seattle . While she may not know how to make konnyaku or peanut candy, she always makes other fabulous desserts and shares them with us and others. Below is one of her `ono dessert recipes:)
Combine 1/2c. butter with 2T sugar. Add 1c. flour and mix just until dough will form. Place ¼ - 1/3c.of mixture in a small pan for crumbs to sprinkle on top of pie. With floured fingers, press remaining mixture evenly over bottom and side of a 9” pie pan. Bake at 370º until light golden brown, crumbs 10-12 minutes, crust 12-15 minutes and cool.
In a large brown, combine 1c. (10 oz) frozen strawberry, partially thawed, 1/2c. sugar, 1 unbeaten egg white, 2t lemon juice (if desired.) Beat at high speed 5 to 8 minutes until soft mounds form when beaters are raised.
In another bowl, beat ½ c. whipping cream until thick. Fold into strawberry mixture and spoon into baked pie shell. Sprinkle with crumbs and freeze until firm, 4 to 6 hours.
Mrs. Nakashima also gave me a recipe for nimame, similar to what her mother used to make:
3 cups dried beans ( lima , kidney etc.)
Wash beans and soak in water overnight or minimum of 5 hours. Bring to a boil, add 1 cup cold water and remove scum. Cook about an hour or more over low heat until beans are tender (test by pressing cooked beans between your fingers) Do not add sugar or any seasoning until beans are tender. When tender, add sugar in 3 stages and cook for about an hour more. Add salt and cook for a while more. Turn off heat and let stand.
Remove beans from liquid and cook sauce until thick and syrupy. Pour sauce back into cooked beans and let stand until cool.
Please send us your recipes. They don’t have to be Hawaiian food (although that would be delicious) but need to have some connection to Hawai`i , which you can tell about in the introduction.
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