A little taste of Hawaiian cooking

Nora and I pose for a photo after successfully making a batch of ham tetrazzini.

Nora Crumley (left) and Sydney Green (right) celebrate after making a batch of ham tetrazzini. Photo by Maggie Olson.

When people think of Hawaii, they tend to think of the luaus, the pristine beaches, the volcanoes and yes, the grass skirts and coconut bras. While I do get asked if I surf, dance hula or live in a grass hut (it happens more than you think), I often get asked: What is the food in Hawaii like?

When that happens, my mind goes in a thousand directions. I think, “Oh, there’s a lot of seafood, pork and chicken, oh, Spam and a lot of rice, too.”

Coming up with a straight answer to what the cuisine is like is hard. I can’t even tell you what my favorite food is because Hawaii is a such a diverse place. There’s Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Portuguese, Italian and Hawaiian cuisine, to name a few.

I decided that instead of just trying to explain what I eat on a daily basis, I would just show people and give them a little taste of Hawaii.

My initial thought was to make what I do best: Teriyaki stir-fry. It’s easy to throw in a wok and fry up. I somehow managed to forget that I live in a dorm, which is not the best place to cook. But my best friend Nora lent me the pots and pans and helped me prepare the meal.

Finding time to cook was difficult because we were always working on something, whether it was the trend story or some other assignment that had us going out of our comfort zones. However, one Tuesday, I decided to cook for everyone.

Cooking by ourselves was no easy task. I’ve always had my mom to help me because, knowing me, I would end up giving food poisoning to my entire family. I wasn’t too keen on causing that to happen here.

I really doubted myself cooking. I was worried that I didn’t completely cook the chicken, put in too much sauce and overcooked the broccoli. To my surprise, I didn’t do any of that. To celebrate, I even served my meal on a fancy plate, because I mean, I just managed to cook a meal in a college dorm, why wouldn’t you serve up your accomplishments on a fancy plate?

Because most of the kids on my floor love anything that isn’t 1835 Hinman Dining Hall food, they swarmed around my dish as soon as I put it down. I was thinking to myself, “Wow, this is great! So many people want to try my food!”

I still feared that what I made might not actually be edible. A few bites came and then a few more forkfuls until the whole plate was gone. I realized that I might actually be onto something with this whole cooking thing.

Since that Tuesday night, the entire dorm knew that when they saw me in the kitchen, there was a good chance that I would be cooking. Much to my delight, they’ve enjoyed my ham tetrazzini, cookies, you name it. I know that if I left anything unattended, I would come back to a plate literally licked clean. I think my attempt at a little taste of Hawaii went a long way.