Saturday, January 23, 2010

Elsie's Excellent Tea

Nothing like a party for a little lift during these days of earthquakes, the Haiti relief effort, aftershocks. severe weather everywhere... My friends, Elsie and Cathy, and I threw together a little Tea yesterday at Elsie's home. Cathy brought a yummy, flaky, warm!, cinnamony, raisin-apple coffee cake. Elsie made a fresh, coconutty and chewy gau. I made a pound cake heart-brownie-liliko'i curd tower. It was good to sit with friends and sip some of Elsie's amazing jasmine tea from China. We talked old-old recipes, Hawaiian Electric cooking classes and technique the whole time.

Elsie's wonderful housekeeper from China, Onna, spontaneously showed us how to make black bean bittermelon with pork and a glazed pumpkin dish in a wok. AND we got to take home samples, enough for a large lunch the next day. In about 20 minutes Onna had three heaping plates of food ready. It was amazing to watch her stir fry two-handed with spatulas: toss and turn, toss and turn.

Elsie generously shared a box of community and school cookbooks with us. Cathy and I happily plopped on the floor like kids and pored through the bin. Many treasures there, but my absolute favorite was finding the last Maili Yardley (beloved longtime food editor at the Honolulu Advertiser) cookbook out of five that she wrote. All of these are out of print. This was the one that I've looked for for years. Elsie is a force of nature and willing to give you the shirt off her back. Once we discovered these wonderful titles she kidded that she'd sell it to us for a million dollars. We said we'd exchange our labor for the price.

This is Hawai'i: On the leisurely drive back from Elsie's home, my tummy and car filled with goodies, I drove the Waimanalo way. That is, past the Lookout where you can watch whales leap, past Makapu'u and Waimanalo. One chocolate and one cream colored horse with their teenage riders ambling on the side of the road. The Mary Bonita Mexican lunchwagon advertising Garlic Shrimp along with their tamales. Only in Hawai'i.