Dispatches from June 29, 2013
9 AM: Driving to brunch with a couple of my aunties at Holuakoa Cafe, nestled up in the hills of Hōlualoa. Mom and I arrive early to walk around.
One of the many gorgeous koa wood pieces we saw in galleries
12 PM: Still grazing and chatting at Holuakoa Cafe, which is everything you could possibly want in a weekend brunch spot. It’s all open-air seating, with a huge stone koi pond and trellises bursting with island flowers. In the center of the seating area is a tiny three-vendor farmer’s market, selling vegetables, fruits, fresh eggs, and jewelry.
My cousin (Holuakoa Cafe’s breakfast and lunch chef) fed us like royalty. Everything at the restaurant is made in-house with ingredients sourced from only a three-mile radius. Nothing beats Hawaii for a variety of fresh local produce! He was kind enough to make us sampler platters of many things we wanted to try, so I started with flavorful spelt pancakes and thick-cut French toast from house-made bread, drizzled with pure maple syrup.
Then we moved on to two savory dishes. First, a braised pork scramble, with tender pork, roasted red peppers, fresh tomatoes and scallions enveloped in eggs. We also tasted a grilled ono (aka wahoo fish) and bacon sandwich on fresh ciabatta bread, with a divinely lemony house tartar sauce and fresh tomato, lettuce, and red onion.
3 PM: Driving back to Hilo, we stop at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company in Paau’ilo. They’re the first commercial vanilla plantation in the U.S., and I’m addicted to their vanilla maple syrup. I also picked up a vanilla bean, so I can make vanilla extract and remember the islands when I bake. I’d love to taste their vanilla root beer. If only I hadn’t eaten so much brunch…
6 PM: After a rain-soaked run, I clean up and we head to Honomu for their Obon dance. Obon originated among Japanese Buddhists to honor our ancestors. We celebrate their sacrifices and welcome their spirits. In Hawaii, Obon season is a huge social event. Each church holds its celebration on a different weekend, and folks travel in order to go to them all!
The festival centers around traditional dancing. It’s kind of like line dancing, in that a short sequence of moves repeats over and over, and all the dancers travel in a circle around a yagura (scaffold). A priest on the yagura and chants to accompany some dances; taiko drummers may also play drums arranged on the yagura, and many dances have recorded music.
In traditional dances, each step symbolizes something. A harvest dance includes movements to represent shoveling dirt, wiping sweat, and planting seeds. Some dances use folded towels, fans, or sticks. And there are “fun” dances, like the electric slide!
My grandma started teaching me to dance at Obon festivals when I was very young. I feel so grateful and blessed to still be able to dance with her each summer and celebrate my ancestors and my heritage.
My grandma teaching my brother and me. I’m probably about seven years old.
9 PM: Still dancing!