I think I may have gained a couple of inches around my waistline over the past week. Darn. I was doing so well this year. Being sick over the holidays, unable to indulge in my seasonal favorites like eggnog and leftover stuffing (no, not together . . . although I've tried food pairings even stranger than that), I actually lost a couple of pounds. When my appetite returned, I vowed to keep it in check. Throughout the month of January, I ate sensible portions and avoided junk food. I greeted the Year of the Dragon at fighting weight and feeling very proud of myself.
And then, in less than a week, all that hard work was undone, all my willpower wasted.
I blame Ron Youngblood. His "Maui Nei" column last Thursday paid tribute to several dozen old-time Maui eateries, nearly all of which I remembered with lip-smacking fondness. That list sent me waddling down Memory Lane and aroused certain cravings better left dormant.
I can't read about Iwaishi Store and Fountain without longing for their cheeseburgers. Fat and juicy, topped with a thick slab of Velveeta. Best served with a 12-cent chocolate Coke. My favorite aunt used to take me there, as well as to Toda Drugs for grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate milkshakes. Sometimes we'd have our cheeseburgers in Paia, at Wimpy's Corner (now Paia Fishmarket), before walking up Baldwin Avenue to Machida Store for a chocolate ice cream cone. See a pattern here?
Cheese and chocolate - my two favorite food groups. I try to limit my intake and exercise discretion; a small chunk of sharp cheddar with apple slices and a small square or two of extra dark chocolate. But every so often, my inner child shrieks for Cheetos and Hershey's Kisses.
Last week, spurred by Ron's recollections, I gave in to that little devil inside. I indulged myself in childhood comfort foods and treats discovered in my teen years. Like Dairy Queen french fries, with mustard only, and a hot fudge sundae. Yes, together, not one and then the other. It's Treats & Sweets now, not Dairy Queen, but they still serve the mustard-mayo mix and chubby crinkle-cut fries.
Thankfully, like Dairy Queen mustard, some of my favorite foods from the past have survived beyond their original providers. You can get Noda Market chow fun at Tiffany's and "fry soup" at Star Noodle. Better yet, a few of the old-timers are still around, serving up their specialties to please generations of Maui tummies with Tasaka Guri-Guri, Komoda creampuffs and Home Maid malassadas. Last week, I ate red hot dogs, fully loaded, from both Fukushima and Kaohu stores.
Naturally, once awakened on this sentimental journey, the beast didn't stop at Restaurant Row. I started thinking about my home-cooked favorites, like Mom's creamed tuna and Auntie Sachan's Spam and string bean stir-fry. Saloon Pilot crackers with butter and guava jelly. Royal Creem crackers with way too much peanut butter. Peanut butter straight from the jar, followed by a spoonful of honey.
I bought a loaf of bread and went wild with sandwiches I hadn't eaten in years. Butter and sugar, of course, but also kim chee and mayonnaise, Vienna sausage and mayonnaise, Little Smokies and mayonnaise . . . you get the picture. But no mayonnaise on my bologna and cheese sandwich, just mustard. I guess it's because that's how Mom made them. I love a good hero sandwich, and I put mayonnaise on practically everything, including dessert (canned pears with mayonnaise and shredded cheese - mmm!). But when I eat a bologna-and-cheese sandwich, it's gotta be mustard only, and not the fancy kind either. Just good old French's yellow mustard with American cheese and sweet midget pickles on the side.
I specify "on the side" because some sandwiches call for pickles inside, either chopped as in egg salad, or sliced on a spread of deviled ham.
I know I'll hear from other old-timers with their own small-kid sandwich recipes, just as I'm sure Ron has received dozens of messages telling him that he left out this place or that. Kawaharada Saimin. Kitada's. Yama's. We could fill an entire issue of The Maui News with our culinary memories, and it would still be just a tiny taste.
So, the Year of the Dragon has begun with me draggin' a few extra pounds. Not that I'm complaining. My taste buds and my inner child enjoyed a glorious week of indulgence and now I'm ready to resume a healthy diet. Ron, you're off the hook. I have no one to blame but myself. And Bob Jones, who gave Ron that darned list - and introduced me to several of those joints back when we both worked for Maui Pub. Thanks, Jonesy. Thanks a lot.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.