Ready for another community fundraiser cookbook with a super-generic title and an extremely-'70s looking cover?
Favorite Recipes from Our Best Cooks (Y's Men's Clubs of the Hawaiian Region) might look extremely '70s with its yellow plaid wallpaper, calico placemat, oversized wooden pepper grinder, chafing dish full of rice, and salad with huge romaine leaves, but I'm guessing it's actually from the early '80s based on the 1982 calendar at the very end of the book.
Since this one is from Hawaii, it's full of recipes with ingredients that midwesterners of the early 1980s would probably not have recognized.
Okay, being the unsophisticated person that I am, I kind of thought kamaboko would be some kind of vegetable. Not even close! It's surimi.
At least modern midwesterners are probably aware of more of the ingredients than their counterparts of 40-or-so years ago would have been.
I've never had bittermelon, but at least I've seen cooks fuck it up Chopped. That's more exposure than 1980s midwesterners were likely to have had.
And kim chee (well, we tend to spell it kimchi now) gets so much media attention today that I imagine most non-Korean midwesterners have at least a vague understanding of what it is (and a sizable subset have eaten it and may even have some in the fridge).
Of course, my unsophisticated self has no clue about aburage and again assumes it's some kind of a vegetable. At least I'm closer this time, in that it's plant-derived. You might think as a vegetarian I'd have better ideas of what kinds of tofu products are available, but you would have far too much confidence in me if you did.
A few recipes spell out some ingredients for the uninitiated.
I especially like that the explanation of agehan notes not just that it's a brown fishcake but that it "comes on a stick with 5 pieces, cut in chunks." This is actually more helpful than a Google search, as I just get directions to and reviews of restaurants named Agehan and a suggestion that I might have meant Aegean.
Some recipes don't call for any ingredients that a midwesterner would have trouble finding, and yet they still remain an enigma to me, like this recipe for lima beans.
It's easy to find lima beans, and most cooks will have the sugar and salt in their pantries anyway. I'm just confused about how much sugar this takes-- 3/4 of a cup! What are lima beans this sweet supposed to be used for? There are no other ingredients to make them savory and barbecue-adjacent, like baked beans. Are they a plainer sweet-ish side dish? Should they be used in sweets like red bean paste? You better know because this recipe expects you to know.
A few recipes might be right at home in the midwest, though.
Midwesterners can demolish cream cheese and marshmallow cream. That pinch of ginger might be just enough to make us feel sophisticated while doing it.
The Vinegar Taffy recipe reveals a similarity between Hawaiian moms and their midwestern counterparts.
They've both got to make sacrifices: "This recipe is lots of fun for the kiddies, not so much fun for Mom; but be a martyr and try it anyway." Yep-- once you have kids, the fun is over unless you really enjoy playing a martyr (and of course, some do!). In any case, martyrdom is required, like it or not...
I always wonder what a 40+-year-ago midwestern counterpart would have thought of Hawaiian recipes, and I start out feeling superior to that long-ago imaginary person, but the feeling doesn't usually last long. We've all got our blind spots. I can just try to use the internet to make up for mine.