When I moved to Hawaii in January of 1974, I was impressed by the hospitality of the people there. Whether local or transplants, the folks I met were kind and generous, especially when it came to sharing their food.
I was on the bus going home from work one night and sat next to a lady with a pan of sweet-smelling shoyu chicken on her lap. She must have sensed that I was hungry because without saying a word she carefully folded back a corner of the foil cover and picked up a chicken thigh. “You take,” she said.
One afternoon at Ala Moana Park I watched a large family having a picnic and I smelled the barbecue. A man who appeared to be in charge of the hibachi waved me over. “You like teriyaki?” he asked as he gave me a stick of marinated beef cooked to perfection.
I grew accustomed to accepting mangoes, guavas and papayas from neighbors who had so many falling from their trees that they insisted I was doing them a favor.
Co-workers brought their homemade cakes and cookies to our office or malasadas (Portuguese donuts) from Leonard’s Bakery. Leonard’s is a legend in Hawaii and a favorite place for locals to stop on their way to work.
Hawaii was a special place and time for me. Many of the foods I was introduced to there are unique to the islands. Here in Del Norte we have our own local foods and our own brand of hospitality.
Recently I visited our friend Norma who sent me home with two live crabs just off a boat. Saturday, Sarah left this message, “We caught steelhead today. Call if you’d like some.” I called her right back and within hours possessed a filet big enough to serve four hungry people.
It’s wonderful to receive crab and steelhead from people I know, but the mushroom story I’m about to tell you celebrates the generosity of a perfect stranger.
A co-worker has picked and brought chanterelles to our Thanksgiving dinner the last two years. Rick and I enjoyed them so much that when we saw a recipe for chanterelles and crab risotto we set out to find chanterelles so we could make the risotto for Christmas.
We assumed they wouldn’t be in a grocery store, but we hoped to find a satisfactory substitute. While we perused the produce section of a local store, a clerk approached and asked if we needed help.
“You don’t happen to have chanterelles, do you?” Rick asked. The store never carries them, she told us. “They’re found in patches in the forest. I know of one,” she said. Then she pulled a little notebook from her pocket. I thought she was going to draw us a map and I pictured myself, cold and wet, seeking evasive mushrooms for the rest of the day.
She asked for our phone number and wrote it down. “I get off work early. We’re going to cut our Christmas tree so I’ll go by the patch. How many do you need?”
Later that afternoon the phone rang and I heard Rick give someone directions to our home. A few minutes later a pickup truck with a big Christmas tree in the back pulled into our driveway. I ran outside in my stocking feet and offered the driver money for the mushrooms, or at least for her time and gas, but she shook her head no. She handed me a paper bag heaping with earthy chanterelles.
Generous, bountiful Del Norte.