Today I’ll be working on the page proofs for House of the Hanging Jade which, as you may know, is set on the Big Island of Hawaii. Re-reading the manuscript has got me thinking about Hawaii all over again, as if I need an excuse to do that.
But it’s also Thanksgiving week, and on Thursday (which, coincidentally, is exactly five months before the release of House of the Hanging Jade), we here in the United States will be enjoying one of the most traditional meals of the year. So is it any wonder that I have food on my mind? (Again, not that I need a reason to think about food, but it is a good excuse.)
Specifically, I’ve got Hawaiian food on my mind. That’s why today’s post is all about Hawaiian foods and the ones I love best.
1. Poke. For those of you who don’t know what poke (pronounced “poh-kay”) is, it’s cubes of fresh raw fish, often ahi, usually with a marinade or dressing. My personal favorite is spicy ahi poke, which is made with ahi, regular or Japanese mayonnaise, soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame oil, green onion, and masago (roe of the capelin fish). Before I tried poke the first time, I never could have guessed it would end up to be one of my favorite foods, but I fell in love with it.
2. Lilikoi, or passion fruit. There are two main varieties: red and yellow. Though most people recommend the red because it’s sweeter, I prefer the yellow. It’s tangy with a zing that no other fruit can replicate. When you open a lilikoi, there is a pulpy mass of seeds inside. That’s the delicious part (don’t eat the white layer inside the skin, which is bitter). My favorite way to eat lilikoi is straight out of the fruit, stirred into yogurt, or pureed and added to any drink.
3. Pineapple. The island of Maui is home to the Hali’imaile Pineapple Plantation, the only working pineapple plantation in the United States, where visitors can take a tour and see first-hand what goes into growing and harvesting the sweetest, most delicious pineapples you’ll ever taste. Click here to see a video of how to cut a pineapple. The juice just runs out of the pineapple and it’s got an amazing sweetness that has nothing in common with the pineapple you find in the grocery store.
4. Loco moco. This is a local specialty that you have to taste to believe. It’s a conglomeration of white rice topped with one or two hamburger patties, a fried egg, and brown gravy. The first time my eldest daughter ate one I told her it looked disgusting, that I wouldn’t try it if she paid me. Long story short, it’s now our traditional New Year’s Day meal, served with a side of macaroni salad.
5. Shave Ice. Some people compare shave ice with snow cones, the ubiquitous treat of state fairs all over the US, but the comparison is misguided. Shave ice has nothing to do with those scoops of tiny ice balls that are thinly coated with colored sugar water. Shave ice is more like a mound of loosely-packed light and fluffy snow, completely permeated with a delicious fruity syrup. The best shave ice is mixed with vanilla ice cream and includes real coconut. See the holes in the shave ice below? Those are from a straw, which is poked repeatedly through the shave ice to ensure the flavor reaches every part of the dessert.
Are you hungry yet?
Finally, since Thanksgiving is just a few days away, I wanted to tell you all that I’m thankful for YOU! I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving and safe travels if you’re going to be on the road this holiday weekend.
Until next week,
I hope everyone had a happy, safe, and relaxing Thanksgiving. My family had a great holiday and it was surprisingly relaxing, given the eighteen people who were there. The day after Thanksgiving was low-key since I try to do as little shopping as possible on the day that has come to be known as Black Friday.
But I did discover something new on Black Friday. At least it’s new to me. Want to know what it is? Wait for it…
I have a new top-ten Christmas movie to add to last week’s list, with thanks to my sister and her kids. It’s Eloise at Christmastime, an adorable movie starring Julie Andrews as Nanny and Sofia Vassilieva as Eloise. Eloise and Nanny live in the penthouse at the Plaza in New York City. Eloise’s mom travels often, so Nanny is Eloise’s second mom and the two of them make a perfect team. The story is based on the book of the same name by Kay Thompson. I would have enjoyed Eloise at Christmastime with or without my kids, but kids make it even more fun!
So on to this week’s topic, which is my review of The House Girl, a novel of historical fiction by Tara Conklin. The story alternates between two time periods: the mid-nineteenth century and the early twenty-first century. In a very basic nutshell, the novel tells the stories of Josephine, a house slave in Virginia, and Lina, a lawyer in a big New York firm. The lives of the two women intersect following a search to find the real artist behind a collection of works allegedly painted by Josephine’s “owner” and Lina’s search to find the perfect plaintiff for a slavery reparations lawsuit being handled by her firm.
I liked the author’s use of the alternating time periods to tell the stories of Josephine and Lina. There are some surprising parallels between the two women that are revealed as the novel progresses, but this is a no-spoiler zone. Believe me when I tell you that the reader is swept into the horror and seeming impossibility of Josephine’s situation and also feels deeply Lina’s pain and confusion over her own past. The history I learned in the book was eye-opening, too, especially one ingenious method possibly used by the Underground Railroad to help slaves escape to freedom. Several important truths are revealed in the book in the form of letters written in the past and preserved for the present and future. I loved the letters- they are written in a beautiful and authentic nineteenth-century style. The last letter, arguably the most important, is wonderfully written and holds tragic secrets. I only wish the writer of the letter had been revealed a bit earlier, since trying to figure out the author of the letter distracted me from its actual words.
In short, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a novel with a solid historical basis and an intriguing dovetail of past and present.
What are you reading?
Until next week,
Last year at this time I made a list of the things I give thanks for all year ’round. I was going to make another list for this year when I re-read that old post and realized that nothing has changed, with one addition:
I am thankful for all the people who have read and enjoyed my first book, Secrets of Hallstead House, and for all those who have said they are excited to read my next book, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor. You people make me so happy, so thank you!!
So now that my list is updated for 2014, I’m going to share a different list with you.
Anyone who lives in my house knows that Christmas carols and Christmas movies are strictly forbidden until the day after Thanksgiving. This year has been a little different, though, since my daughters and I are singing at various local tree lighting ceremonies with a community choir group and the first one is before Thanksgiving. We have to practice, so I’m allowing an exception to the normal rules. We are allowed to listen to the practice cd.
But that’s it. No other Christmas music, no Christmas movies, period. Not until this Friday.
Once Friday comes, look out. I don’t want anything but Christmas playing until January 1st on any radio, any cd player, any electronic device, any television, any anything at my house. Having said that, here is the list of movies I’ll be watching starting November 28th. I’d list my favorite Christmas songs, too, but I only have so much time to write this post and the list is way too long.
1. The Bishop’s Wife. Please note that, while I have nothing against Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, I will be watching the black-and-white version starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven. I was introduced to this movie many years ago by my aunt Jeanne and I watch it as often as I can during the holiday season.
2. White Christmas starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. The singing and dancing in this movie are enough to make any child want to grow up to perform in a lodge in Vermont.
3. Holiday Inn. Another Bing Crosby classic, he stars with Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds in the story about an inn that only opens on holidays. There’s music, comedy, love, and snow. What more could anyone want from a Christmas movie?
4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. With apologies to Jim Carrey, I just stick with the original animated version. I like it better than the feature film because I have all the lines memorized and I sing along with Thurl Ravenscroft.
5. A Christmas Carol. I will watch any version of this movie, but my favorite, for reasons I haven’t figured out yet, is the 1938 version starring Reginald Owen, Gene Lockhart, and Kathleen Lockhart. The acting can be a little over-the-top and corny, but I love it anyway.
6. It’s a Wonderful Life. There was a time when I refused to watch this movie because it was sooo depressing, but I’ve changed my mind and I watch it every year now. I’m glad my husband insisted on me watching it with him years ago, because it’s become an annual tradition.
7. Elf. Because it’s hilarious.
8-9. Home Alone and Home Alone II. You can never get enough Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. They make the two greatest bandits in the history of Christmas, with the exception of King Herod.
10. A Charlie Brown Christmas. I know there are a lot of people who don’t like the Charlie Brown movies, but I love the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas ones. My two favorite parts are when Linus recounts the Christmas story on stage and when the Peanuts gang is singing together at the end, mouths open and little noses pointed straight up to the sky.
I wish you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving and a beautiful start to the holiday season.
Until next week,