BRYNN FOSTER OF VOYAGING FOODS PHOTOGRAPHED BY JYOTI MAU
In our test kitchen at edible Hawaiian Islands we appreciate unusual foods and different ingredients that showcase our island home. We were introduced to Brynn Foster of Voyaging Foods by a local chef and each time we use her taro flour we admire her creativity and the vision she has for Hawai’i. www.voyagingfoods.com
WRITTEN BY KAREN ANDERSON PHOTOGRAPHY BY MIEKO HORIKOSHI
From her open-air, Balinese-style home at Kealakekua Bay, artist Willa Marten spreads some golden-hued Big Island honey onto a slice of toast using a pewter honey “paddle” spoon that she cast herself. Engraved with elegant flourishes and ornamental motifs, her artfully crafted “flat” honey spoon incorporates a hooked design that balances perfectly on the lip of a jar or on the rim of a mug.
Excess honey oozes slowly off the surface of the spoon and down into the honey jar, as Willa observes the proceedings. An aficionado of spoons, Willa fashioned her design after a historic honey spoon she saw in a book about antique utensils. “It’s an old design,” she notes. “The honey paddle is a multi-purpose spoon. You hang it on the rim of a honey jar after you’re done scooping so that the honey drips back into the jar. It’s a serving utensil in the sense that it can be used communally by everybody at the table.”
Cast with carved or engraved bees on the ends of each stem, Willa’s honey paddles are just some of the many fascinating replicas of antique spoons she’s made out of pewter through the years. Her larger spoons, based on 17th- and 18th-century designs, feature the traditional “rat tail” back for reinforcement. Her trinity spoon has three small points at the top, a design derived from 1600’s Europe.
Showcased at stores and art galleries (Gallery of Great Things in Waimea, Blue Ginger Gallery in Kainaliu; and the Spoon Shop in Kailua-Kona) — as well as online at PewterSpoons.com and at the South Kona Green Market in Captain Cook — Willa’s spoons and assorted pewter creations have built a following among collectors.
Tracy Ackerman, owner of The Spoon Shop, displays the spoons in a place of honor at the front counter of her gourmet kitchen store in Kailua-Kona.
“Willa’s pewter spoons are so interesting and original,” says Ackerman. “The honey paddles in particular are really different. They are flattened and so unique. People love them. We took them to a meeting of the American Culinary Federation this April at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott, and we sold out of them almost immediately.”
Willa’s connection to spoons runs deeps. Her late husband Buz’s father, Donald Marten, created replicas of historic spoons for the Plimoth Plantation heritage site in Plymouth, Massachusetts in the 1960s. The living-history museum occupies the 17th-century original Plymouth Colony settlement, displaying a trove of artifacts unearthed at the site including some of the oldest European spoons dating from the 10th century brought over by America’s early settlers.
These historic spoon designs had been preserved for posterity in traditional “sand” molds cast by the museum’s director, Jim Deetz, according to Willa. A professor of archeology, Deetz kept in touch with Donald’s son, Buz, who had inherited the pewter equipment from his father.
“That’s how we got into this spoon thing to begin with,” said Willa. “Buz brought the equipment from Massachusetts to Northern California. When Jim Deetz later became the head of anthropology at UC Berkeley, he tracked us down and asked us to make forks and keys for the anthropology museum on campus. In the meantime, I decided I also wanted to design my own antique-style spoons.”
On the cutting edge of the arts scene in Northern California, Willa became involved with the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in the late 1970s. The event’s founder, Phyllis Patterson, heard about Willa’s spoons and forks from Deetz, who was an expert on the era. She asked Willa to make Elizabethan-themed pewter spoons with the Renaissance Faire logo, and soon therefore, Willa’s pewter designs began to take off.
“Everything had to be as authentic as possible,” said Willa. “I started to orient my entire line toward to that period in history, the Elizabethan period. I was with the fair for 30 years, at the various locations throughout California.”
After Buz passed away, Willa met famed netsuke carver, David Carlin. David helped take the spoons to the next level, carving everything from animal heads, insects and mermaids to sculpted ornamentations that become cast in pewter. Willa also did her own carving, engraving, mold making and reproductions. Her “seal top” spoon is an exact replica of a spoon that includes a royal family seal on the end of the stem for making impressions into sealing wax.
Pewter is a tin alloy. Because it’s a soft metal, pewter is cast at low temperatures, around 640 degrees. The process begins with creating a master original out of engraved metal, wood or an actual object. Willa finishes her pewter objects at her home in Hawaii after casting them at her pewterworks facility in California.
“I purchase a lead-free alloy, which is 92-percent tin, 7-percent antimony and one-percent copper,” she says. “I put the vulcanized rubber mold into a spin casting machine and pour the pewter through a funnel as the machine is spinning fast. There is a whole art to cutting the mold, as well as to determining the spin ratio.”
A consummate cook, Willa spends as much time in the kitchen as she does on her art. Open entirely to the elements, her Kealakekua Bay kitchen in South Kona is characterized by a massive lava-rock counter where she prepares everything from organic beet soup to jams, jellies and lilikoi butter. When serving appetizers to her guests, she brings out her tiny salt spoons made of pewter that rest in tiny pewter bowls shaped like seashells.
Willa derives great satisfaction from creating functional items that people can use. Unlike other types of metal work, pewter is non-toxic and relatively easy to work with, yet technique sensitive as an art form.
“I get all ages of people who appreciate the spoons,” she says. “Dolphins and whales are my two new spoon designs. I also have a new design with a coffee bean on the top for the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. It’s very interesting to be able to make utilitarian pieces out of pewter. It’s fun to experiment and see how things come out.”
WRITTEN BY ELIZA ESCANO VASQUEZ PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF MARK “GOOCH” NOGUCHI
Amidst the well-assembled sprawl of eco-friendly goods at Whole Foods Market, Maui, we caught a glimpse of the amusing banter between Amanda Corby and her two-year-old, Elee. Freshly arrived from Oahu, Corby and her family are en route to a cultural retreat in Hana to plan for a culinary festival slated for next year. The weekend has much in store for the family—hunting, fishing, and catching river prawns.
But at the moment, Elee is picking her fruits and weighing in on milk and snack options in her adorable two-year-old vernacular while busily munching through the grocery aisles. And Corby is thoughtfully engaged, navigating between our interview and shaping Elee’s budding preferences—encouraging her to pick the local strawberries over the imported ones, counting exactly how many clementines are needed for the weekend and leisurely sampling the cheeses by the deli (for Elee, goat cheese rules and the stinkier, the better!). In the end, both of them agree on what ends up in the cart.
“Family first is always our motto”
Corby is no ordinary individual. She is a communications guru, a community and local food advocate, and, more recently, a wife and mother of two beautiful girls. In 2009, she launched Under My Umbrella, a public relations, marketing and events firm. She is also a founding member of Hawaii Food Policy Council, an advocacy group committed to affecting positive changes in our local food system through education and legislation. The Pili Group, a catering company that highlights Hawaiian culinary traditions and responsible, place-based sourcing, is a fairly new endeavor with her husband and celebrated chef, Mark “Gooch” Noguchi. “That was Mark’s and my first baby,” said Corby. Since starting The Pili Group, they’ve also launched LunchBox, which provides locally sourced and healthful meals for Hawaiian Airlines employees, and opened the doors to their Mission Social Hall and Café at Hawaii Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives in Honolulu.
These milestones are not meant to be a measure of what “having it all” looks like, but it wonderfully captures how Corby thrives, how life organically evolved as her ohana, tribe and passion projects expanded. “Our life is going to be full of adventure and they might as well get used to being part of the adventure,” said Corby.
“Family fi rst is always our motto but making them be a part of our work is the best way for us to do that. We get to spend quality time with them. When it’s an event, and I can strap them on and run around with them, everything turns into a game. Whether it’s making food or setting up for a 700-person event, there is always something they can do to help.”
Motherhood awakened in her a sense of simplicity. “I was joking with another mother that (the time) in the hospital after I had my children felt like almost a vacation because it was the most quiet and calm that life had been,” said Corby. “We are used to being on the go and I found birth to be the most quieting ever. No one is expecting anything of you. You just gave birth and that is enough.”
Born and raised in Springfi eld, Missouri, she drafted her fi rst business plan for her parents on why it was more fi nancially feasible for her to move to Hawaii for college because she would support herself by working a restaurant versus staying home and asking for their help. Her parents were convinced and that’s exactly what happened, which sparked her passion for food and hospitality.
With much to juggle on the daily, she gives a world of credit to her business partner and best friend, The Pili Group’s Mariah Gergen, for being an honorary parent to her daughters. “First, I have an amazing husband,” said Corby. “But I also have a wife, Mariah, my best friend for 20 years. It’s the fi rst trip she hasn’t been with us because she is running a 300-person wedding. Our parenting is in thirds. I’m very much like, ‘I can do this’ and I’m very stubborn. And, again, after having a baby, I learned to put down my ego and say, ‘I need help in doing this.’ All of us learned together.”
Shortly after The Pili Group was founded, Corby was pregnant while they were launching TASTE in Kaka’ako, a pop-up restaurant model, which closed in 2013. “We spent a lot of time in the kitchen, whether it was talking about menu planning or marketing,” she said. “Once she was out of the womb, if she was fussy, we would bring her to the kitchen—anyone’s kitchen—and the humming, buzzing and clinking of pans would calm her down.”
Like daughter, like mother—working in the kitchen at home is also calming for Corby at the end of the day. “Being a new mom, loving cooking, and having our two businesses and a new baby, cooking is my stress reliever, my meditation,” she said.
As soon as Elee was able to sit on a Bumbo (a soft, contoured chair that provides support for babies), she would watch Corby make dinner. So at the tender age of two, the miniature chef has plenty of kitchen experience and even uses a pan scraper to help cut sweet potatoes, kalo, ‘ulu or bananas to make her sister’s food. At her preschool, Elee loves to help with snack time, lunch and gardening, like a true Corby-Noguchi.
“She loved watching me slice the vegetables and I would hand her things,” shared Corby. I continued doing that with her until she was old enough to stand. And now, she has this stool that she’ll stand on and say, ‘don’t help me.’ Her favorite thing that she makes is eggs.”
She adds, “I try to incorporate them into everything I do because then they’re engaged and entertained and not getting into trouble. I can’t imagine cooking and trying to watch them in the living room at the same time. It was just what I was doing by default to try to survive. And now, with the second baby, it’s such a lifesaver. And Elee loves to make food for her sister and she knows where food comes from.”
There is a joke at the preschool that Elee does this funny thing where, if she eats anything with meat, she makes the sound of the animal she is eating. “And I’m thinking, what’s funny about that?” said Corby. “She’s identifying. I don’t want to be the parent of the kid who is seven years old and realizes that bacon comes from a pig and turns into a vegetarian. I don’t care, I was a vegetarian for 20 years, but I want it to be a choice not because she’s freaked out by what it is.”
Her conscious practice to allow the little ones to experience much of their work life has proved to be emotionally fulfi lling. “It allows Mark and I to live the life we want,” said Corby. “We feel that we don’t have to sacrifi ce the way we live. Sure, we don’t get to go to three-hour dinners and drink bottles of wine, but we can still make dinner at home and it might be simpler and move a little faster so they can get to bed on time. But for the most part, we still do the same things, but just as a family.”
Pili means to connect or be intertwined. Just like words are woven together to create beautiful poetry, Corby’s family, work, and passion are all intertwined to create a beautiful mosaic of motherhood that is joyfully driven to nurture loved ones, uplift the community and share a thoughtful, elevated and delicious experience with friends along the way.
RECIPE BY LEE ANNE WONG PHOTOGRAPH BY MONICA SCHWARTZ
¼ C. garlic cloves, thinly sliced on the mandolin 1/16”
1 C. vegetable oil
1 lb. green, Romano, or yellow wax beans, ends trimmed
1 lb. broccoli florets and stems, trimmed to 2” pieces
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. cane sugar
Hawaiian sea salt, fine ground
Sesame Yogurt (recipe follows)
2 tsp. sesame seeds
1 C. lowfat Greek yogurt
Zest of ½ lime
Juice of ½ lime
Pinch Hawaiian Sea Salt, fine ground
1 tsp. local honey
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stir until blended. Keep refrigerated. For more kick, substitute sesame seeds with Szechuan peppercorns.
Heat oil in an 8” fry pan, add sliced garlic. Stir occasionally over medium heat. When the garlic chips begin to turn light golden brown, strain them out to paper towels, spreading them out (they will harden as they cool).
Season lightly with sea salt.
Allow the garlic oil to cool to room temperature and reserve.
Strain the garlic oil through a fine mesh sieve into a heatproof container, such as a mason jar. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil (It should taste like ocean water.). Blanch the green beans separately for two minutes, drain to paper towels.
Dry thoroughly and transfer to a large bowl, still hot.
Return water to a boil. Repeat the process, blanching the broccoli for 1 minute. Add to the beans. In a small bowl whisk together 2 Tbs. of garlic oil with the sesame oil, soy sauce, balsamic, and sugar. Toss the hot vegetables in the vinaigrette and season lightly with salt. Spread into a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet tray and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to caramelize. Serve warm with sesame yogurt and top with garlic chips.
WRITTEN BY MARTA LANE PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIKA COLE BEET SALAD COURTESY OF MUD HEN WATER, KAIMUKI OAHU
What is it about a bowl of food that’s so comforting?
Is it the contour of a warm dish cradled in the curve of your hand? Or is it the promise of wholesome nourishment inside?
Bowls allow for ease of eating — you can hold them in your hand and curl up on the couch. They are one-dish meals that clean up quickly. The comfort bowl food offers is comparable to being swaddled in a favorite hoodie.
As millennials settle into careers and families of their own, bowls represent clean food that is good for our bodies as well as the planet. Thanks to this generation’s recognition of the environmental impact and humane implications of thousands of animals being raised in confined feedlots, they prefer vegetables, grains and beans easily prepared and served in a bowl.
They have replaced their parents’ comfort foods like macaroni and cheese with bowls of quinoa with roasted sweet potatoes, spears of steamed broccoli and a yogurt dressing. Açaí bowls, made with pureed berries of the açaí palm tree, along with toppings ranging from sliced bananas, fresh blueberries and toasted coconut, take the place of Cheerios.
Comfort equals feeling loved. If we are sick, a bowl of chicken soup assures us we are on the mend. It’s not just the warmth of the broth and the savory aroma that is inviting. It reminds us of Mother, who tended to our fevered foreheads. When I was sick, my mother prepared a broth with whole chicken, carrots, celery and parsnip. She’d let it simmer for several hours, strain it and temper my serving with a fortifying egg yolk.
The simple act of holding a bowl in our hands that brings us comfort
Many comforting bowls of food take the path of ease and simplicity. Chili and stew need few ingredients. They require only a few hours on the back burner. Pintos over rice are economical, and when the beans cook low and slow, a heady aroma fills the home.
“Personally, a bowl not only acts as a container for objects, but also symbolizes a receptacle for the thoughts of myself or someone else,” reflects Joungmee Do on Powerhouse Museum’s website. Do, a Korean-Australian artist, uses the concept of the rice bowl to explore personal memories and meanings associated with food and tableware in the context of Korean culture and tradition.
Across Asia, the rice bowl is a daily utensil. Ceramic bowls in China date back as early as the Shang Dynasty (1600-1100 BC). As bowl shapes morphed with succeeding dynasties, ornate embellishments such as hand-painted cherry blossoms or dragons added to their beauty, and over time, specific uses became standard. Today, deep and wide bowls are used for soup while smaller bowls that are tapered at the bottom are used for rice. Ceramic tea bowls are mentioned in “The Classic of Tea” the first major text on tea compiled between 758-60 CE by Lu Yu of the Tang Dynasty.
Several Japanese longevity practices start with a bowl. These include sipping green tea, savoring soup, noodles or rice, and creating sound vibrations for chanting and meditation. Many designs are modest, such as a few green bamboo leaves painted up the sides of a white bowl, which evoke a type of dignified and elegant comfort.
In the Middle Ages, peasants ladled stew or porridge into trenchers, or hollowed-out bowls cut from loaves of stale bread. In Canada, bowls were often carved from a single block of wood and emblazoned with wildlife or mythological beings. Those who possessed a kihle were expected to bring it to a feast, eat from it, then fill it with food and take it home for relatives.
Ancient Romans of high prestige ate from silver and pewter platters that were decorated with elaborate designs. Citizens with less esteemed stature likely ate from wood or imported pottery. Saxons and Vikings ate exclusively from wood-turned bowls. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, communal serving bowls were used.
Hawaiians shaped gourds as they grew. Once harvested, the flesh was scraped out and the gourd was dried in the sun until it hardened into bowls.
Wood bowls were typically made of koa or milo, which are soft grained, and therefore, less prone to cracking from repeated wetting and drying. Pumice, shark or sting-ray skin were used to smooth the outside, before the surface was polished with green bamboo leaves and kukui nut oil.
Saimin, possibly Hawaii’s ultimate comfort food, is influenced by three cultures that immigrated during the plantation era. Saimin is a combination of Japanese ramen, Filipino pancit and Chinese mein. Sai is the Chinese word for “thin” and mein means noodle.
Saimin includes a broth, typically made with fresh ginger as well as dried ingredients, including kelp, shrimp and mushrooms. The noodles, which are unique in that they contain eggs, are slightly chewy when cooked. Saimin is garnished with an assortment of toppings such as a halved hard-boiled egg, sliced green onions and rounds of kamaboko (fish cake).
There’s a primal tug when food is served in a bowl. We wrap our hands around the bowl’s warmth and tuck our nose into the heady steam. In the summer, cool bowls of chilled soup refresh and invigorate. At the height of summer in Hawaii, a bowl of crisp salad with ripe mango is all the comfort I require.
In the end, maybe it’s the simple act of holding a bowl in our hands that brings us comfort; the hefty weight reassures us that there’s something substantial inside.
Remove gills and guts of fish. Leave skin and scales on (aweoweo or nabeta only, all other fish, please scale). Score skin and meat on both sides. Season generously with Hawaiian salt, garlic salt and coarse black pepper. I like to slightly bend the fish as I season so that salt and pepper goes into the cuts and flavors the meat. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a pan over medium high flame. If fish is too big for pan, chop in half. Place fish in hot oil. Cook until fish skin is crispy and golden brown. I also like to smash a clove of garlic and add it to hot oil for the last couple minutes of frying. Serve hot with chili pepper water.
Scale fish, remove gills and guts. Score skin and meat on both sides of fish. Steam fish. This can be done in a steamer with water, wrapped in foil on a BBQ, baked covered, covered in the microwave, etc; as long as it’s covered while cooking, it will steam. For this particular fish, I added an inch water to a big pot then put a plate in the pot. I cut the fish in half so that it would fit on the plate and covered and cooked on high. It only took a few minutes, but cooking time will always depend on the method of steaming and the size of the fish. Chopping the fish in half always makes it cool much faster.
In a separate pan I sauté greens (bok Choi/kale/ choi sum/etc) in olive oil and garlic. Plate cooked greens as a bed for kumu. Place kumu (putting both halves back together to form whole fish) on the bed of cooked greens. Pour shoyu over the fish letting it run through the fish meat and greens. Top with chopped green onions and cilantro. Heat small amount (around 1/4 cup for 2 lb kumu) of peanut oil until smoking. Carefully (stand back and better to do outside if possible) pour smoking oil over fish, allowing it to infuse the herbs into the fish meat and add a silky texture to the sauce. When eating, spoon this soy/herbal/peanut oil over your fish meat and greens.
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