Two weeks into Eat Local month, I was in the midst of my own First World, middle-class pity party: “eating local is really hard when ur favorite food in the whole world is spaghetti,” I tweeted to no one in particular.
Immediately the responses started coming in:
@FunHIguy revealed his own spaghetti addiction.
@ryannamba chimed in about his weakness for ramen.
@MikeSumida said his last meal on earth would be a steaming bowl of pho.
My pity party was in full swing. Then,
@mcontrol contributed a link to a Big Island-made pasta made with mac nuts and imported semolina, and said I could probably grind mac nuts into flour and make my own spaghetti.
@makikigirl, @macrohawaii and I contemplated growing wheat on Haleakala and wondered why we don’t grow rice in Hawaii any more.
And @trulyjoannies tweeted, “My goal is 50% local for homemade meals.”
Salvation! “thnx joannie,” I tweeted. “50% local for homemade meals is a goal i can achieve.”
I was very happy, especially since I’d signed up for a ramen tweetup two days later. But my next hunger-driven foray into the kitchen threw that out the window. I buy almost all my produce at farmers’ markets, going into a store only for garlic. But I don’t plan every meal, and it’s not every day I can make a locally sourced soup or guacamole or grab enough fresh fruit, veg or poke to sustain me. In my kitchen, hunger very often drives cooking that involves spaghetti, bread or rice — and with them, a lot of non-local, often canned or frozen ingredients to make a quick, balanced meal.
It takes planning to eat local at home. That’s one reason I love this week’s Yelp Eats Local! push, which spotlights locally sourced dishes at 11 restaurants around Honolulu. The other reason is that by eating local — in some cases 100 percent local — $5 to $10 of every $15 to $30 spent per person goes to Kanu Hawaii, a three-year-old non-profit working to make our communities more environmentally sustainable, compassionate and economically resilient, including driving down our incredible 85 percent dependence on imported food.
What’s not to love? You have until this Sunday (sorry, my post is late) to eat local and help Kanu: Go to one of the restaurants, tell the server or reservations clerk you’re doing the Yelp Eats Local! thing, and when you leave, drop your receipt in the Yelp box at the counter. (If you check in with your Yelp mobile app, you also get a chance to win a three-night stay at an Aqua hotel in Waikiki.)
Pics here are from an eye-opening dinner Monday night at Sushi ii, chosen by Yelp to kick off the week. The tiny sushi bar at the back of Keeaumoku’s Samsung Plaza now has an accompanying fixed-price menu starting at $45. Here you see the local pork-sea asparagus ‘lomi lomi’ atop a circle of fried paiai (a thick, less wet poi) that I started demolishing before I realized the juicy, meaty heap needed its own close-up, and the crispy, succulent mac nut-crusted mahi, above. These constituted the appetizer, believe it or not.
And even if you miss the Sunday deadline, it’s gotten almost ridiculously easy to eat out and eat local, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. The Yelp list includes three $15 restaurants (JJ Dolan’s, Soul Pacific and Heeia Pier). Check out this list from Byron’s Drive-In. You’ll also find locally sourced dishes at Aloha Salads, downtown, Eat Honolulu, Big City Diner, Haleiwa Joe’s, Honolulu Burger Co., Home Bar & Grill, V-Lounge, Sweet Home Waimanalo, Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha, Peace Cafe, L&L, and many, many more places.
As for my own Kanu sustainability pledges:
I am learning more about agriculture in Hawaii.
I am consistently seeking out and finding local foods at restaurants and at markets.
I am going to grow my own tomatoes.
As for Kanu’s ultimate pledge for the month, to eat strictly local for a week? I’m mostly strictly local (ahem) — toward which meals this week at Sushi ii, Plancha, Byron’s Drive-in, Grandma G’s Kitchen and Heeia Pier have helped a lot.
But I’m sorry. I also ate spaghetti.