Thursday, December 27, 2018

Foodie Road Trip: Jeep: 0 Hawaii: 1

Well it was the ol' morning time in Volcano, Hawaii and we had some stuff planned to do. Well, that wasn't going to happen. Not for a while anyway.

The rental Jeep had a flat. Some off-road vehicle that was.

Luckily Lydia had a AAA card and we were still in the US, so getting the tires changed was no big deal. (I did feel a little bit guilty about not changing it myself, but whatever, she's already paying for the service).

The tow truck guy was working so hard that I needed to rest and have a snack. Hawaii is all about macadamia nuts. These were covered in chocolate.

So luckily since it was a Jeep the spare bolted to the back of the vehicle was a full size tire, not some little gimpy guy. So were back in business! Huzzah!

We made another pass at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, figuring that there'd be different things to see in the daylight. 

Like life-threatening fumes.

There was one little trail still open. So we weighed the available options and chose that trail.

There were a lot of cool steam vents in action. The plant life was notably different in these areas.

There was a spot called the Sulfur Banks. Rain water seeped into cracks in the earth created by volcanic activity. As the water got closer to the underground magma it heated up, turned into steam, and rose back to the surface. On its way it brought up minerals like sulfur with it. Sulfur, sulfur everywhere. All the fun of eating old eggs with none of the calories!

Confusingly the visitor center was open. It may have been staffed by volunteers or something? I don't know.

We drove to another naturey hike.

When I saw the first sign pointing the way to the "tree molds" I thought we were about to see a special kind of Hawaiian fungus.

What we were actually about to see was where high lava flows engulfed trees, hardened into rock, then the tree died leaving a rock mold of where it had been. It both sounds kind of cool theoretically and is pretty boring in person at the same time. Sort of like meeting me at a bar.

Hawaii is such a fun melting pot of cultures. I had read about Puerto Rican pasteles being a thing, so when I saw the chance to eat some out of a cooler sitting in stranger's trunk I was like: Aloha Broha!

They were sort of a moister version of a tamale. I think the main difference is the yellow outside dough in this case is green plantain instead of the corn of the tamale.

At this point I was doing like the food version of a bar crawl. Hawaii is a little warm and so was already dulling my appetite a little bit. But the main reason was there were so many foods that I wanted to try I didn't want to eat too much of anything so that I would still have room for the next thing! Cafe 100 was where I was about to try the Hawaiian institution known as the loco moco.

The loco moco is eggs on top of a hamburger patty on top of a bed of rice with a lil gravy mixed in. Being from Springfield, IL, home of the world famous horseshoe sammich, I have a certain expertise when it comes to foods that look like someone violently shook up a McDonald's value meal before dumping it into a trough. It was delicious. Like how could it not be? I think they named it loco moco because it sounded cool: neither they nor I at the time knew "loco moco" was Spanish for "crazy mucous".

We continued our foodie rampage in the quaint little town of Hilo. Hilo was what I wish Key West had been. Yes it's touristy, but I feel like the culture here is deep enough that they can cater to outsiders without losing themselves in a sea of crappy t-shirt shops. At one point there was a ukulele emporium next to a surfboard outfitter. It was a fun place to wander around. 

Anyway, I've turned Lydia into quite the mochi fiend. Mochi of course is the Japanese glutinous beaten up rice lump that is often filled with sweet bean paste. It's a lot better than it sounds. Anyway, much like the baller lilikoi shaved ice and the SPAM sushi, Hawaii has taken something awesome from Japan and made it something awesomer.

Two Ladies Kitchen had a serious line outside, so that was a good sign.

There were a million choices with all kinds of Hawaiian fruit fillings and sweet beans and all of the things. Just all of the things guys. The star of the show was an entire friggin strawberry ensconced in a bean pastey, gooey, ricey snowball. 

The giant hunks of fruit in these things were so threatening to public safety that there were signs posted that they couldn't be taken to the mainland. Sad!

I didn't realize until I eventually made my way through the line to the register how serious this situation was. They had ten people back there in aprons stuffing rice balls full of fruity deliciousness by hand! Our order took forever. I think that the line, waiting for our treats, then sitting down someplace to begin eating them took an actual hour. They may or may not have been punishing us for ordering like one of everything on the menu.

I tried to make myself useful by walking to get us some beverages while Lydia waited in rice ball purgatory.

Apparently Hawaii has its own pidgin language. I really find the whole thing fascinating. They had a fun one going on in the Solomon Islands too.

I grabbed the most completely normal non touristy drinks I could find. Act natural, John. They think you're one of them.

Success was sweet.

There was like half a damn persimmon in this one. I officially declare you to be delicious!!

Now internally laden with the goodness, we took a stroll around and looked at more fun little shops.

That sweet tourist money did attract its share of cracked out looking weirdos asking for handouts but hey, paradise!

Back of the road I spotted a sign for the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory. Roadside food hasn't let me down so far. Onward and upward!

"I'm sorry madame but now that I've tasted a milk chocolate covered mac nut I've forgotten what Kona coffee glazed mac nuts taste like. We should probably just start over. I'm totally going to buy something later I swear."

Outside the factory was a mountain of empty nut shells. Word had gotten around in the local bird community.

It's me, Nutty McRounderson, the anthropomorphic nut that speaks 6 languages!

Whenever a company's tempted to call a place a "plantation", just call it a friggin farm or an orchard or something. I don't want you conjuring up images of Kunta Kinte when I'm trying to enjoy my friggin mango chipotle snack ok??

"Mauna Loa nuts are naturally salty, from the dried tears of the exploited."

"You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about, little white girl."

Anyway, I had some ice cream.

So I'd seen the Aloha version of Target and Seven-Eleven but those were just little tasty snacks. What I needed in my life was Hawaiian Wal. Mart. Son.

Aloha prints in the "make your own clothes for some reason" section: check.

Loaves and loaves of hot pink guava bread: check.

Mochi rice flour and canned coconut milk, surely ingredients to some delicious secret Hawaiian thing: check.

There were canned meats for days and days. I bought Lydia a can of spicy octopus as a punishment for something she would probably do to deserve it in the future.

There were little single serving slices of SPAM for your lunch box.

Things got pretty spammy there for a minute.

You'd be excused for assuming that Hawaiians like juice. But from my extensive experience here, Hawaiians like drink. I'm talkin purple drink, orange drink, drink with a palm tree on the can. You don't know how much juice is in there and you don't want to know.

I've had enough poi for a long time but I was happy to see it for sale.

I wanted to buy this for my mom so bad.

There was a fun Hawaiian stuff for tourists section that I appreciated.

Candy leis.

Flower leis.

Did you know that the sunscreen you've been wearing gets in the water and kills the very wildlife you came to see? Sweet, sweet irony alert.

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