The official theme of this blog is ” homesteading, food, travel, and philosophy from the side of a volcano in rural Hawai`i.” So far, I’ve done mostly the first three, but very little of the fourth – philosophy. I could elaborate philosophically on many topics, and over the next few months, bear with me as do more of that.
The official title of this blog is “Lava to Lilikoi,” and that is a great deal like saying “how to make lemonade out of lemons.” In other words, when given an acre of lava, how do you produce lilikoi (our name for passion fruit) in abundance?
The drought has discouraged me from doing a lot of gardening, although I did plant 45 garlic cloves this week! They don’t like a lot of water, so this area should be perfect for them. I bought a pound of California softneck garlic from an heirloom seed company, since most stores sell garlic that is treated to prevent it from sprouting. (I understand that health food stores might have organic non-treated garlic, however.)
The opening photo shows some of these garlic bulbs, plus a few miniature pumpkins from the grocery store, and a couple of even tinier acorn squash that never did grow big enough to eat!
One of the many lessons of gardening I have learned has been not to plant anything that requires plenty of water, plenty of rich soil, or a different climate.
For example, my geraniums have taken over various spots of my acre, and they add a great deal of color to an otherwise gray landscape. Herbs in pots are growing nicely. I have been able to get some delicious beets and arugula occasionally. My donkey tails seem to do well. Palms that don’t require a lot of water are doing okay. Various flowering shrubs have done fine (when the Mouflon sheep don’t eat them). Other veggies did quite well when we had regular rains, or when the birds didn’t eat them.
Please don’t mistake this for complaining! I’m just stating facts about my own particular situation. Everyone in my garden club seems to be suffering from the drought, too.
So on this weekend after Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks for the beautiful ancient ohia trees scattered around my acre, for the hens that give me delicious fresh eggs, for the splashes of magenta, purple, orange, blue, red, pink , white and yellow that adorn my lava “lawn,” for a year-round temperature that allows me to be free from snow and ice. Living and gardening on lava makes me thankful for every single sprout!
I’m also grateful for my friends, whether here or on the mainland, who keep in touch; for my students who challenge me, and who keep my mind active and alert; for good health that permits me to continue gardening and teaching; and for my family members who make me proud to be their mama, grandma, and great-grandma, sister, cousin and aunt!
Finally, I’m grateful for my little Katrina, a sweet and photogenic joy in my life! Doesn’t she look pretty in blue?
Even though Thanksgiving passed a couple weeks ago, and we are looking toward Christmas now, I could hardly wait to post this. I am part of the Social Science faculty at the University Center at West Hawaii in Kealakekua. Our Student Activity Council provides a major feast for students the day before Thanksgiving. All the cooking is done by our superb culinary students. The festive feeling and memory of gourmet food gets us through exam week and into the holidays.
This is a top notch culinary school. I love their insignia!
Jim and Marvin sweep up leaves so people can eat under the trees. Jim Lightner heads up the Hospitality section of our school. Marvin Medeiros is the main “go to” man when we need something done.
Chef Betty Saiki is the instructor for the first year culinary students, the ones responsible for the Thanksgiving feast. She’s busy in the kitchen, keeping everything on schedule.
They gave me special permission to enter the kitchen as they were finishing up the preparations. Lots of bustling activity going on! Some of the students were busy cutting up the ham.
Others concentrated on cutting up the fish.
Still other students were carefully cutting up melons.
Pots were bubbling away on the stove.
“Hamming” it up and helping out was Chef Paul Heerlein, instructor for the second year students.
Everything seemed to be going according to their working list of who was responsible for which dish or process, just like the cooking shows on TV.
The beautiful wooden serving containers were ready and waiting for the food to be brought out.
There were lots of my starving students anxiously waiting for the food to come out of the kitchen.
When I lived in Tucson, I had a friend who was dating a Mexican girl. He went to her family’s home for Thanksgiving dinner where they had a turkey and all the trimmings that we’ve come to expect in the USA. In the middle of the table, however, was an enormous bowl of refried beans upstaging the turkey. As American as they thought they were, they still had to have their refried beans.
So instead of writing about a more traditional Thanksgiving meal, I thought it would be fun to I talk about one of my favorite places to eat at any time, including Thanksgiving.
If you are a visitor driving around the island, please stop at Evie’s El Pachuco for some wonderful Mexican food. You’ll find it on the corner of Tiki Lane and Highway 11. Watch for it on your left as you drive through Ocean View going from the Kona side to Hilo. They are open from 11 in the morning to 6 in the evening, Wednesday through Sunday. Tamales are available on the weekends only.
Here is a copy of her menu so you’ll know what to expect. There are also weekly specials that are not on the menu. She promised to make a mole soon.
Evie was just delivering two plates of chicken enchiladas with rice and beans to two customers when I walked in. I restrained myself from grabbing one of the plates.
Back in the kitchen, her husband, Jimi, let me take pictures of the food in the hot serving pans – chicken, pork, rice, beans. He was making an extra batch of beans because they were about to run out. He’s the strong arm around the place.
A little background on Evie and Jimi Gonzales: Jimi was originally a welder shipfitter/pipefitter building commercial fishing boats. Evie was a bookkeeper. In the 70s, Jimi bought an acre in Hawai`i Ocean View Estates (HOVE) with $50 down. They continued to work in California while they paid it off. Then during vacations, he began to build.
Like many HOVE residents, Evie and Jimi eventually moved to Hawai`i to get away from the air pollution in California and to provide a better environment in which to raise their young son (now a DJ on Oahu).
At first their new home was a simple shell with no walls, but it did have an outdoor shower and outdoor toilet. Using the talents of his trade, Jimi built an outdoor cooking area similar to a barbecue pit where Evie made their meals over a fire – including even baking cakes!
About 7 years ago, Evie brought her mother back from Arizona to live with them. She also brought back a thirty-pound block of masa, planning to use it a little bit at a time. When she got it to Hawai`i, it was frozen solid. She had to do something with all that masa, so she made a big bunch of tamales, sat on the side of the road on the back of her van to sell them. Within a couple hours, she had sold them all, and decided that might be a good way to make a little money.
The kind of masa Evie needed wasn’t available here so she started buying small bags of maseca to keep the tamales rolling. She found a distributor and now buys maseca for tamales made of white corn in fifty-pound bags.
I first met Evie when she catered for a Leadership Conference I attended a few years ago. It was some of the best food I’d tasted since I left Tucson – and I knew Ocean View had a gem. But I didn’t know where to get more of her food.
Then I discovered her again one day on my way to our Ace Hardware here in what many residents call “The View.” She was parked alongside the road, selling tamales and more out of her van. For several years, I would buy Evie’s tamales on my way to pick up those items a homeowner can’t live without.
Then she moved down to the parking area of Ka’u Outpost on the highway, just down the road from my house. Almost every day when I drove home from teaching, I saw her sitting patiently on the back of her van. If I had stopped to pick up something every time she was there, I wouldn’t have been able to get in the front door of my house! But I did stop as often as I dared.
They have now found an indoor home in one section of the Ka’u Outpost, with little tables where you can eat or wait for take-out. If you’re lucky, she may have some freshly baked brownies or other baked treats to tempt you, as well.
I started this post to help spread the word about this special little Mexican restaurant, but didn’t realize I’d get drawn into such an intriguing history lesson. When I asked “What does Pachuco mean?” I was taken to an entirely new adventure. Evie said “It’s the description of a certain kind of person,” and began to tell this story.
In the 30s and 40s, young Mexican-Americans formed their own subculture and were called “Pachucos,” or “Chukes.” I had no idea they were the original zoot suiters. For great pictures and an interesting commentary on this era, check out this article. Also, I recommend that you turn up your speakers and go to this site to get a flavor of the zoot suiter. I’m old enough to remember guys wearing the zoot suit! There was no zoot suit for Jimi today!
Jimi came from Chavez Ravine, which is now the site of the Dodgers Stadium. Originally, this area of Los Angeles was the home of Mexican-American families tending their small farms. In the early 50s, L.A. declared eminent domain over the land and the home owners were offered a paltry sum of money for their properties.
The next ten years were violent ones as the owners resisted being ousted to make way for the Stadium. The unfortunate and sad story can be found here. There is a reunion of the Pachucos from Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles every July.
The story of Chavez Ravine and the Pachucos come together because Jimi’s father and Evie’s father were both Pachucos. The logo for El Pachuco, our very own authentic Mexican restaurant, shows a “Day of the Dead” (“Día de los Muertos”) character in a Pachuco stance, wearing an aloha shirt and khaki shorts. I love it!
To read a recent account of the situation at Chavez Ravine, read this article.
A side story: Jimi was cooking in the kitchen as I sat at one of the little tables talking with Evie. I had placed my purse on the floor near a door in the kitchen, but Jimi came running in to say I should get my purse up off the floor immediately! He said that if you set your purse on the floor, all the money will run out of it and you’ll always be broke. This site gives a more complete answer to that saying. It’s a sign of respect for your hard-earned money not to put your purse on a dirty floor. I don’t think my purse would ever get dirty on the floor of Evie’s and Jimi’s kitchen!