125 years in food, as told by HONOLULU and Paradise of the Pacific

I've been digging through the archives of HONOLULU and Paradise of the Pacific (the magazine before it became HONOLULU) for our monthly From our Files section. October's theme is food, so naturally the task landed on my desk. I've been procrastinating on the job of combing through 125 years of magazines (yup, 125, and nope, the archives aren't digitized)—why flip through history when there's so much exciting happening now? (The third Lawson's Station just opened on Keeaumoku!). Now that I'm finally digging in, I can't stop digging, and I'm not sure how I'll ever get out.

I have way more material than could ever fit on two magazine pages, such as:

  • A December 1917 article on the new Metropolitan Meat Market, on 50 King St. (between Fort and Bethel streets), a "thoroughly modern market, with its beautiful marble, glass and tile work that would delight the heart of the most particular housewife … There are larger establishments of the kind in the greater cities, to be sure, but it is absolutely safe to assert that nowhere in the world is there a cleaner, neater, more attractive more pleasing or more wholesome appearing headquarters for the purchase of choice meats, poultry, butter, eggs, cheese, hams, bacon, sausages, delicatessen and what else one may want to procure in a well-stocked market."
  • Or the June 1920 piece on awa in Hawaii, describing six different varieties—apu, makea, papa, hiwa, moi, mokohena. The author writes, "The awa is one of the noteworthy plants of the human race. It is as distinctive of Poynesia [sic] and the scattered islands of the Pacific as is hasheesh of the Orient, or the grape of the Mediterranean basin."
  • I want to try the Paradise of the Pacific cocktail recipe in the January 1947 issue, which mixes tamarind, Grenadine and okolehau. The writer suggests bourbon in place of okolehau in case you can't get it. "[Oke] is said to be still cherished in very select cellars, but it’s sort of in a class with moonshine extra sec, vintage of 1776, or great-great grandma’s blackberry nectar. You know."
  • There's a great photo in April 1947 of the presidents of Yale, MIT and Ohio State University sitting down to a luau to celebrate the University of Hawaii's 40th anniversary. They are eating poi and pig with their fingers, to varying degrees of dislike.
  • May 1952 announces a new restaurant at Kewalo Basin, Fisherman's Wharf, with a location where you can watch the "picturesque sampans of the Hawaiian fishing fleet tie up to unload their catches. Here, too, the fishermen may be seen drying their lines and mending their nets. Located on Kewalo lagoon between Honolulu and Waikiki, the restaurant is so situated as to command a spectacular view of the ocean, Diamond Head and green hills surrounding the city."
  • Did you know in February 1961, someone was growing mushrooms (the edible kind, not the hallucinatory) in Hawaii? Ronald H. Deisseroth, VP of the Hawaiian Housing Corporation, in his spare time, was growing 6,000 pounds of mushrooms for restaurants, Foodland and Times, in Kaneohe, in old tunnels abandoned by the military after World War II.

  • Left: Scenes from The Canlis Broiler; right: Trader Vic's. The caption reads: "cha sui, flied shlimp, sparelibs, egg loll, wonton, moo goo gai, egg flowah soup, plessed duck?"
  • I'm sad that The Canlis Broiler no longer exists in Honolulu. A June 1961 article names this restaurant, the first restaurant opened by Peter Canlis, the very same who opened the Seattle institution Canlis, as The World's Most Beautiful Restaurant. The author writes, "Among the favorite dishes, Canlis Salad served in attractive, individual bowls of monkeypod wood is unquestionably the best known. (And still is! The New York Times just featured the recipe a few months ago.) Next comes the 'Peppercorn Steak' and thirdly the very special baked potato with grated bacon and sour cream."
  • In August 1980, Tom Horton wrote a hilarious piece: "Clues to Finding the Perfect Restaurant in Hawaii." "This is what restaurants in Hawaii should be: fun. And a little unpredictable. This is not Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Union Street in San Francisco or any remote part of Manhattan. This is purely Hawaii, where a waiter in Kona who had apparently taken too much sun, or some golden Kona resource, once looked a single diner in the eye and said, 'Separate checks?' If you find exceptional food at a restaurant that is also fun, you have found the perfect Hawaii restaurant.”

    (His tips on The Perfect Seafood Restaurant: “The perfect seafood restaurant in Hawaii will be found somewhere in the middle of an island, or the greatest distance in any direction from the nearest body of sea water. Over the years I have concluded that the closer a restaurant is to the ocean, the less chance it will have fresh fish … Some say that Hawaii fish, unlike French wine, travels well." And The Perfect Service: "It will be found at lunch in a restaurant using only 70-year-old waiters who hate girls, are allergic to the sun and afraid of the water.")

  • In August 1984, there's the first ever ballot for the Hale Aina Awards. It's the size of a postcard and only has 15 categories, including Continental, Sunday brunch, fast food and "Other Ethnic."

    Which brings me to the present: our 30th annual Hale Aina Awards. Don't forget to vote! And maybe, decades down the line, we'll be reading about 2013's picks and wondering what exactly a "gastropub" is or marveling at the longevity of our favorite hole in the wall (I hope!).