Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam Wonderful Spam!

I’ve long been a fan of British comedy. As a kid, I would stay up late and watch Fractured Flickers and a couple of other oddball comedy shows. But the king of late, late night was Benny Hill. Maybe it was just the scantily clad women, chasing or being chased by Hill, but I found the skits really funny.

Later I became a fan of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I still chuckle at the fuzzy little rabbit that turns out to be a fearsome beast that rips men apart (if you haven’t seen it, here is a link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnOdAT6H94s&t=3s).

Vikings enjoying a little Spam at breakfast

But one of the most lasting skits from the show involves Vikings, breakfast, and Spam (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gxtsa-OvQLA).

Now, in my younger years, I vaguely remember having Spam for breakfast once. I became more familiar with the processed meat product when I was stationed in Hawaii in the 1980’s, but I didn’t eat a lot of it.

Intrigued, I began to look into the origins of this “mystery meat.”

It’s really not much of a mystery. Introduced in July 1937, the Hormel company found a way to use pork shoulder, which was not a popular cut of meat. They blended it with some ham and a few other ingredients (salt, water, modified potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrate), sealed it in a can and cooked it for about three hours to kill off any bacteria that would make the meat spoil.

During World War II, the US Military became the major purchaser of the luncheon meat. Spam was shipped to the Pacific and to the front lines in Europe. With fresh meat being quite scarce, it filled a need for an Army on the move.

Soldier’s and Marines shared their Spam with local populations, many who faced near starvation, and Spam became a part of the local diet. It’s still somewhat popular in the UK, but the pink loaf has found a real home in the Pacific.

Hawaii, Guam, Okinawa and the Philippines, all consume large amounts of spam each year.

But South Korea has taken their love of spam to another level.

In the US Mainland, you’ll find the blue cans of meat in almost every grocery store. Neatly stacked on store shelves, most American’s just walk past.

In South Korea, Spam has achieved a status of a luxury gift during the Lunar New Year and annual harvest festivals. Packaged in fancy gift boxes, many Koreans plop down as much as $75 for a package containing as many as 16 cans and some expensive cooking oils.

Here in the US, Hawaii is the state that consumes more Spam than any other.

So, I wasn’t too surprised when stopping into a McDonalds on the North Shore, I found Spam and rice on the breakfast menu.

I grabbed a couple of breakfast sandwiches for the family, and a plate with eggs, Spam, sausage, and rice for myself.

I must admit, it was a great breakfast.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Loco Moco

During the four years I lived in Hawaii, I managed to learn to love many of the distinctly Hawaiian foods.

Over time, I developed a fondness for spam, chili over rice and a few other new flavors. My personal favorite, even to this day is the plate lunch.

There is one quintessential Hawaiian dish I couldn’t wrap my mind around as an 18-year-old. Loco Moco.

The Loco Moco at Pounders Restaurant at the Polynesian Cultural Center 

It’s generally agreed that Loco Moco traces its roots to one of two restaurants in Hilo Hawaii in about 1949.

According to legend, the dish was created for a group of teenagers who wanted something to eat, other than American type sandwiches, but that would still be inexpensive, easy, and quick to prepare.

The dish may have been named for one of the players on the Lincoln Wreckers football club, who’s nickname was “Crazy.” One of his teammates was taking Spanish in school and suggested they use the Spanish “Loco” instead of crazy. They picked Moco, mostly because it sounded good. Whether or not they were aware, moco in Spanish can mean booger, yep, that ooze from the nose. So, in essence they created the “Crazy Booger.” Yum.

Richard and Nancy Inouye, the owners of the Lincoln Grill, used some of the ingredients they had on hand to create the dish. They served up some common American favorites, like burgers, and had various Asian items on the menu.

In their published musings about the origins of Loco Moco, they name names, mention the local football club, and have many members of the club make public statements backing up that the dish was created in their restaurant (the other restaurant offers no proof that I have seen to back up the claim they came up with the dish).

In what may be the first real fusion dish, they served up a hamburger patty over a bed of white rice and topped it with brown gravy. Later they added a sunny side up egg.

As I mentioned, at 18 I wasn’t keen on the idea of Loco Moco. I think it was the sunny-side-up egg that put me off.

On our trip back to Hawaii after over 40 years, I made up my mind to give it a try.

We spent the first part of our Hawaiian vacation in Waikiki. Having lived on Oahu for four years, we opted to spend a little time in the “city” before moving to a hotel on the North Shore.

Turned out the North Shore hotel we picked was literally in the parking lot of the Polynesian Cultural Center. Which turned out to be a great choice.

We could just walk over to the Hukilau Marketplace at the PCC and eat at the restaurants or the food trucks there.

One night we made a reservation for the Pounders Restaurant at the Marketplace. My granddaughter opted for the make-your-own pizza. I went for the Loco Moco.

The kids Make-Your-Own Pizza

Pounders has taken the Loco Moco to the extreme. I’m not sure how much rice, but they serve three quarter pound burgers and three sunny side up eggs in their version of the local classic.

Its very good, but it’s a bit much for just one person.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Plate Lunch


When I was 18, I decided to venture out into the “real” world. I had told my mother when I was 12 years old, that I had planed on a career in the US Army. My first plan (the US Military Academy at West Point) hadn’t worked out, so I had switched to plan “B.”

Plan B, started with me becoming an enlisted Soldier and I was fortunate to find a position in an Army unit in Hawaii.

I was stationed on a small base west of Honolulu. For an 18-year-old it was the best life possible. I knew that I could eat at the Mess Hall, I had a guaranteed roof over my head and a steady paycheck.

The barracks that I lived in when I was first assigned to Hawaii

Which is why my friends and I spent every possible moment on the beach, mostly in Waikiki (and yes, in the bars there also).

At one point while growing up, we raised our own cattle, hogs, chickens, and turkeys. By the time I was 18, I knew that I was a big fan of steaks, Italian, Chinese and Mexican food. But that was the extent of my food experience.

Finding myself in the culinary wonderland of the Polynesian Islands, I began to try a variety of new, but pretty safe, dietary choices.

Though I wasn’t ready to dive headfirst into uncooked fish, octopus, poi, laulau, or spam musubi just yet. However, shave ice, saimin, and chili over rice (who knew it would rock) made me think about expanding my palate.

Which brings me to one of my fast-food favorites – plate lunch.

Growing up in SoCal, we had the advantage of growing up in the home of fast food. The original McDonald brother’s restaurant is only about 30 miles from where I grew up. The home of In-and-Out is maybe 60 miles away. My high school classmates and I split our Mexican food loyalty between the original Del Taco and its offshoot (and better) competitor, Naugles which were both local eateries.

One of the main attributes of fast-food, in my mind, was that it is “hand-held.” Like the original hot dog, it requires no silverware and no plate. It was purposefully designed to be consumed on-the-go.

Plate lunch was different. While still “fast-food” it was served on a paper plate and with plastic silverware.

I’m pretty sure that my introduction to plate lunch was at a roadside takeout window in Eva Beach.

I don’t remember who I was with, but I remember looking at the plate with a more than mild degree of skepticism. I thought, who would serve teriyaki beef with macaroni salad and rice. Turns out it was pure genius.

I wondered where the idea of the plate lunch came from. Who devised this rather strange combination of carbs, and why?

According to the website Eater.com;

“The origins of the dish date back to the 1880s, where it began as a popular midday meal option for hungry workers on Hawaii’s booming pineapple and sugar plantations. The plantation workers would bring their lunches to work with them in bento boxes, and leftover rice was used as an inexpensive way to bulk up whatever meats were leftover from last night’s dinner. By the 1930s, new mobile meal services called lunch wagons popped up to cater to laborers and drive-ins; instead of being served on bento boxes, they were served on compartmentalized paper plates, hence the name "plate lunch." By the 1950s, the plantation era had ended, but the plate lunch was a staple at drive-ins and free-standing restaurants across the islands.”

So, the origins of the plate lunch is not much different than the humble hot dog or burger, a cheep and filling way to feed hungry workers in the field.  

Forty some odd years after I left Hawaii, I finally returned to the Islands for a vacation. High on my list of foods I wanted to retry was the plate lunch.

Unfortunately, we first tried an order in a food court in Waikiki. They attempted to “upscale” the traditional plate lunch. The meat was tough, the sauce tasteless and the macaroni salad was replaced with a bad salad and a piece of pineapple. I was not pleased.

The "fancy" Waikiki plate lunch

I tried again at a food truck in the Hukilau Marketplace at the Polynesian Cultural Center when we were on the North Shore. I think I paid a little over half what I paid for the lunch in Waikiki, but the difference was worth twice as much.

Finally, on the North Shore, I found a real plate lunch from a food truck at the Polynesian Cultural Center

The beef had the sweet-salty blend that you expect from a good teriyaki sauce. The rice, was, well rice. The macaroni salad was very good. It took me right back to that little stand in Eva Beach. And it was just as good as I remembered.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Writing Again


0 words

That is what is displayed in the lower left corner of my computer screen.

16 words. A bit better but still too few words.

For some reason, writing has become very difficult for me.

It’s been over three months since I have posted to either of my blogs. It’s not like I haven’t been traveling. We had planned several trips before the current issues but had to cancel for obvious reasons.

We adjusted, rescheduled, and made new plans. We made changes, we adapted to follow the rules.

Finally, we just went where we could. When they wouldn’t let us fly, we drove to Zion National Park. We took a short trip to Palm Springs.

Zion National Park

As things started opening up, we went to Hawaii. We even went to Texas just for dinner and a show.

Waikiki at night

I flew to Wisconsin for work, then drove back to Southern California. We went to New England to visit family. And finally, we took the entire family to Walt Disney World for the 50th Anniversary celebration.

As I sit here tonight, I have three different versions of this post on two different computers. And I’m left to wonder why?

I guess it may be some form of mild depression, I want to write, but can’t find the motivation. If the media is to be believed, I’m putting myself and everything I love at risk every time I walk out the front door.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I do believe that Covid is real. I believe it is highly contagious. I’m just not sure that wrapping our heads in old napkins and locking ourselves in the basement was a good idea. We should have protected the most vulnerable, of that there is no doubt.

I haven’t locked myself in the house and hidden from the perceived dangers of the current situation. I made the decision to live. It’s my decision to make, and others are free to find their own way. I wish everyone the best.

As things stand, we have two new adventures in the next few months. I’m going to look over what we have done in the last year and attempt to share some of those memories, but I look forward to getting back to what I do best. Writing about the travel lifestyle.

Thanks for coming along.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Pizza Fried Rice?

We went to DB Grill for an early dinner while on a road trip on a vacation to Hawaii.

It was the first full day of a nine-day vacation, and so far, the day had sucked.

My wife and I met and got married in Hawaii 38 years ago when we lived on Oahu. This was our first trip back. Needless to say, a lot has changed. The area where DB Grill is now was nothing but sugarcane fields back then.

We thought about getting food at a fast-food place in the same shopping center but decided to take a walk around and see what else was there.

We tried to get a table at the Japanese BBQ place nearby, but they told us it would be a two hour wait (they didn’t seem that busy, but whatever).

The second place we went in seemed very welcoming, but they did not open for about 45 minutes, so we checked with the DB Grill.

Turned out to be a good deal.

We were seated right away. The menu wasn’t too large, just seven appetizers and seven entrees. I didn’t feel like plopping down $70 for the ribeye, I have no idea what crispy mandoo or Kona Kampachi are, so I went with the DB chicken. The menu described it as “Mr. Hong’s special recipe, whole Cornish hen, pickles.”

DB Chicken
I have no idea who Mr. Hong is, but he knows a thing or two about cooking Cornish Game Hen. The skin was beautifully brown and crispy, the bird hot and juicy.

We also had some wings with gochujang, honey and sesame. Very good, kind of messy and just a touch of heat.

DB serves up some good wings

One of the items on the menu that had us a bit confused was the Pizza Fried Rice. It was listed as “PIZZA FRIED RICE Ezzo pepperoni, spicy tomato, mozzarella.”

I wasn’t too sure what to make of this one but noticed a lady at another table had ordered it. It looked interesting, so I thought “why not.”

It's a little weird, but the pizza fried rice was pretty good.

It was a little strange, fried rice packed into a disk shape, with slices of pepperoni. I have to admit, it wasn’t bad. The spicy tomato was nice, not too hot and the pepperoni was very good.

Oh, and by the way, the DB Chicken was so good we ordered another to go.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Flying Again

After several false starts, we finally hit the road again. This time we are flying from LA to Honolulu. We filled out the state required paperwork, got tested 70 hours before out flight and headed into LA to spend the night before our early morning flight.

For dinner, we made reservations for Knotts Berry Farm’s Boysenberry Festival.

We love Knotts, and I am a big fan of Boysenberries. So big of a fan, I bought a plant several years ago at the festival and have managed to not kill it yet (it’s my third attempt, the first two didn’t end well for the plant).

We tried:

Mac and Cheese Bites over Tater Tots with a Boysenberry Siracha Ketchup

Beyond Meatballs with a Boysenberry a BBQ Sauce over Cauliflower Cilantro Rice with Pita Bread

Apple and Chicken Sausage with Boysenberry Mustard on a Boysenberry Bun

The Apple and Chicken Sausage with Boysenberry Mustard

(There are five tasting to each card, we used the other two for drinks).

The boysenberry siracha ketchup was good. Just the right amount of heat.

I liked the Beyond meatballs better than I thought I would, the almost seemed like actual meat, just a little dense, which made them hard to cut with a plastic fork (we didn’t see any knives at that station).

I could do without the Boysenberry bun, but the Boysenberry mustard is really good.

We’ve gone to several of the Knotts festivals, and I’m certain we will go again.

The next morning, we headed to LAX. It seems that most of the dining venues at the airport are closed still. So we ended up getting some snacks from the market place and made do.

Food and beverage service was almost non-existent on the flight. They passed out bags with a cookie, nuts and bottled water twice during the 6-hour flight.

Needless to say, we were quite hungry by the time we landed.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Glad This Year is Over

 I’m sitting here quietly waiting for the end of the disaster that is the year 2020 to be finally over.

My son has headed home, my daughter and her husband are off in their part of the house, the wife is sitting in the living room, asleep with Star Trek Next Generation on the TV.

There are less than 30 minutes of 2020 left. Looking back, it’s been a terrible year. We lost my mom, my dad and two brothers-in-laws (none to covid). My only remaining brother-in-law is fighting off some form of cancer (they haven’t really figured out what exactly is wrong, but he requires two hospital visits a week).

We had a big travel year planned. We were going to go to Vancouver for our anniversary, take a Panama Canal cruise in May, finally go back to Hawaii (after meeting and marrying there 36 years ago). 

19 year old me when we lived in Hawaii

When things started going wonky, we scheduled a trip to Europe. Obviously, none of that happened.

We did manage a short trip to Zion National Park, but that didn’t give us much to write about for the remainder of the year.

A photo from our trip to Zion National Park

Still, I sit here at the end of the worst year of my 60 years, and I do still have hope for the future.

I don’t know what is going to happen in the near term, but I have hope that we can start to travel again in 2021.

We had rescheduled our Hawaii trip for just after my birthday but have put it off again (has more to do with construction on the house than any medical concerns).

We do have a trip to Europe planned for the spring, we’re waiting to see how that works out.

A photo of Stonehenge taken during our 2019 trip to England

The big trip for 2021 is taking the family to Walt Disney World in the fall.

We have been planning this trip for five years. Let’s hope it works out.

Photo from our 2018 trip to Disneyworld during the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival 

Hopefully, we can get back to traveling, get back to experiencing the dining options in airports and distant locations and sharing that with you.

Until then, Happy New Year.