Barack Obama extends his press honeymoon for one more day with this fascinating New York Times story about the Hawaiian plate lunch, said to be one of those secret-longing favorites of the president-elect.
Which is? you ask. Get ready:
Drawing on the food ways of the Hawaiian Islands’ many Asian immigrant groups, and chowed down on regularly by everyone from surfers to businessmen to the future occupant of the White House, the plate lunch is simple in form but varied in its elements. Its foundation: two scoops of white rice and a side of macaroni salad, heavy on the mayonnaise.
This carbo load — usually piled into a plastic foam container — is paired with a protein, generally of the pan-Asian variety, often slathered in brown gravy. After a morning of hard work (or hard surf), one might opt for Korean kalbi or meat jun, Chinese char siu roast pork, Philippine pork adobo, Hawaiian kalua pork (a luau favorite), Japanese katsu or salmon teriyaki, Portuguese sausage, American-style beef stew, or loco moco — a hamburger patty and a fried egg.
I was with him right up to the brown gravy, but I get the idea. While perhaps unique in its pan-Asian weirdness, the basic structure of the plate lunch should be familiar to anyone who ever ate beef and noodles, chicken and noodles (including that singular Hoosier oddity, chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes), or my personal favorite, the Amish haystack.
My first screenplay was based in Amish country, and I included a haystack scene. Two teenage boys were sitting at a dinner table, and if a haystack should appeal to anyone, it’s the bottomless pit of an adolescent male stomach. Googling around for a description, most point back to the Amish Cook column, but I think this single line from a Washington Post travel piece says it best:
Plates in hand, we walked a line of women and girls, who each added a scoop of haystack ingredients: cracker crumbs, rice, seasoned hamburger, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers, melted Velveeta cheese and crumbled Doritos.
You see the similarities: Start with a bed of carbs, add protein, top with sauce. It’s not really a recipe so much as it’s a way to clean out the fridge. Lots of recipes start with spaghetti on the bottom, but the interesting thing about Amish food is the way it calls, so often, for the cheapest possible ingredients, real Depression food — hence the crackers. And the Velveeta. (So often city people think of the Amish as the proto-crunchy con, living their pure peasant lives out in the country, which isn’t necessarily untrue, but I only want to note: When you have no refrigerator, Velveeta makes more sense than artisanal cream cheese, eh?)
Anyway, back to the plate lunch. I admire its daffiness, signified by the macaroni salad. Hawaii really is a land of mutts, isn’t it?
Quick bloggage, because I have a lot to do today:
The most interesting thing about this post-election period has been the beating of breasts and searching of souls in the GOP. “Fresh Air” had an interview with the NYT’s conservatism beat writer, David Kirkpatrick, who identified the new and old factions within the party. Old: Social issues, national security and fiscal restraint. New: “High” and “low.” Pretty cruel, I know, but what it boils down to is, if you aren’t embarrassed to say you believe in evolution, and are embarrassed by the separation of the country into “real” and “not real” segments, you’re high. If you love Sarah Palin, you’re low. I’d add to that: If Ted Nugent makes you want to change the subject, high; if you put his “writing” in your magazine, low low low.
Probably of interest to Detroiters only, this nearly slipped past me on Tuesday, a pollster’s look at the two key suburban counties here, Macomb and Oakland, and how the changes of past years reflect on voting trends there.
And probably of interest to journalists only, Ron Rosenbaum delivers a long-overdue takedown of Jeff Jarvis, he of the citizen-journalists-will-save-the-world school of media analysis.
Finally, I posted this to Facebook because I found it simultaneously amusing and depressing: Michelle Slatalla’s rumination on how difficult it is for a woman to lose weight after 40. I’d heard of Spanx, but I’ve never worn them. (Gents: They’re the 21st-century version of your grandma’s girdle.) What I’ve been missing:
I still remember how ecstatic I felt the first time I slipped on a pair of Seamless Mid-Thigh Shapers and managed to zip my tightest jeans. A sense of relief and well-being flooded me.
Unfortunately the good feeling didn’t last. Soon I had to start wearing two pairs at once. If only, like Gwyneth, I could have stopped there.
But I graduated to the harder stuff. I moved on to the Slim Cognito Body Shaping Cami and the Hide & Sleek Full Slip, as well. Yet each time a new layer magically smoothed one bulge, another popped out like a balloon sculpture of a dachshund.
Despite the company’s warnings, I kept going. “If you go with more than two layers, it’s Spanx abuse and you need to get help,” a Spanx spokeswoman warned me.
Two layers of Spanx! No plate lunch for you!
OK, have a good day. I’ll be writin’ and exercisin’, so I can be a big fat middle-aged girl, too.