Surf n Turf n Sand n Surf

by Joey Power
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four-seasons-resort-maui.jpgLots of winters, I’ve been lucky enough to join in the migration unique to a certain subspecies of Los Angeles native where flocks of family units pick up and move five hours by oversold mechanized bird west to an abbreviated hyphen of sand in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  But I don’t mean to sound dispassionate or cynical or something, because the nagging concerns of existential meaning1 that the previous sentence  might appear to have summoned kind of just slink away when that first warm blanket of air wraps you up in the middle of December, when the roars of leaf-blowers and the 101 have been traded for the soft lapping of the sea, when you first pull up to the shining white sprawl of a resort where everything from the photocopied New York Times crossword puzzles waiting at breakfast to the pool waterslide helps aid in the dissolution of whatever negative thoughts might be careening around between your ears. 

Never mind that the concept of vacation as escape is turned into this sort of farce due to the feeling that all inhabitants of Southern California who travel to Hawaii during the holidays end up staying at one of three hotels within half a mile of each other on the western shore of Maui and hyper-image-conscious businesspeople/kids/vague acquaintances bump into their peers all week long, except that all the judging here goes on while everybody is half-naked.  Never mind all of that; it’s totally possible to ignore the Dark Side of this scene and just chill out.   

waffle2.jpgWhich to my family, while we’re in tropical Elysium, means two things—sitting on the beach and eating.  Separate activities, yes, but the cloudy syntax linking the two gerunds there sort of unintentionally reveals something I’ve only just noticed for the first time.  Maybe it’s a function of my metabolism beginning to slow down, but I really don’t think this is a body issue thing.  It’s simply that I’ve come to believe there’s something paradoxical about waking up and going down to a breakfast buffet each morning where I see one person watching an omelet being made for him that contains about a pound of bacon and nothing else while someone else (not a child either) walks by carrying a waffle topped with 1) powdered sugar 2) syrup 3) whipped cream 4) rainbow sprinkles2 — something paradoxical about such unabashedly gluttonous consumption that occurs right before people stretch out denuded in the sun, supine and immobilized for six hours, and all I can do is laugh at the fact that I never noticed this absurd juxtaposition before. 

Now some might contend that there’s nothing contradictory about gluttony giving way to sloth, but looking at my fellow horizontally oriented human beings, I get the feeling that these are usually the kind of people who try to keep in check the number of deadly sins3 they’re committing.  Of course my conjecture happens to be partially based on such empirical evidence as no one here is grotesquely obese, which everyone would be if they functioned like this every day.  But I also don’t require my eyes to visualize such type-A personalities (who on vacation forgo extra hours of sleep to wake up with the roosters in order to claim prime beach real estate) back on the mainland on elliptical trainers for hours at a time after every meal at which they gorge themselves.  I recall from younger days, when the experience of lifting bell-less dumbbells alongside severely perspiring adults served as some sort of maturity badge, that there is a gym here and people use it.  But it isn’t very big and no one’s doing that casually territorial staking out of treadmills the way they are with lounge-chairs.  One can just tell the alarm and urgency that must have accompanied a good many hotel guests as they prepared for weeks and months to become sedentary in their skivvies for few days suddenly becomes absent in this place where the failsafe fallback question between all conversing humans is “where are you going to dinner tonight?”

Seriously, the inquiry can sustain any lagging exchange.  Since there are a limited number of dining establishments on the island and even fewer places that seem to be in the general rotation of the bon vivants at these three hotels, everyone you talk to has just been to or is going tomorrow to the restaurant you’re eating at tonight.  And so superlative recommendations for this dish or the other are flung back and forth with careless abandon and concern over the general buoyancy of the conversation usurps all consideration for the actual palate of your palaver partner.  It’s why I’ve come to trust next to no one.  That being said, due to the nature of this online organ and at the behest of my editor, I will now offer up two of my own personal suggestions as to where you could go if you are hungry in Maui and looking for a grand fucking meal. 

1) Spago, located in the Four Season Hotel. This is one of the few restaurants, in my opinion, that deserves all of the hype and recognition that’s perpetually bestowed on its kitchen.  After a lengthy conversation with our wonderfully solicitous but not overbearing waiter in which I try and fail to get to the bottom of what exactly “monchong4 with sauce Americaine” meant, I order the dish anyway and am duly rewarded for my mild bravery.  That the plate ends up clean enough to be reused for service without ever visiting the dishwasher does not stop me from really getting into the spirit of things and finishing off my mom’s pork chop (also genuflection-inducingly good) before dessert. 

generalstore.jpg2) Hali’iMaile General Store, somewhere in the middle of the island and a haven that offers us beautiful respite amidst a buckets of heaven rainstorm.  I cannot pick out for praise individual dishes because everyone at the table spends the whole meal—appetizers, main courses, and desserts—trading plates and everything makes everyone smile and plenty has been written about this restaurant elsewhere and how its chef Bev Gannon is the truth and if you are ever in Maui, just go to this place.  OK, fine—if I had to choose one thing, it’s the beet salad.  With honey bacon vinaigrette.  I can’t explain it.  I would blaspheme in the name of this salad. 

But we get ahead of ourselves with all this talk of nocturnal dining.  A great, many-houred gap exists between breakfast and dinner, and while lunch generally serves as the stepping-stone that gets us from one meal to the other, those with deeply vacationist mindsets require a more continuous, calorically-reinforced bridge to span the brutal wait.  Which might be why seaside reading appears inextricably tied to the steady unconscious act of snacking.  And when I say “might be” and “appears”, what I mean is: I have a problem.  In terribly one-sided bouts with self-restraint, I have polished off cans of macadamia nuts and bags of chips and plates of some of the best, most mouthwatering onion rings ever battered.  While we’re on gustatory confessions: I had a bite of a hot dog while floating in the pool.  Someone put French fries in my mouth for me because my hands were wet.  I drank an Oreo milkshake sitting in a Jacuzzi and had some of a cucumber-pomegranate-who-knows-what-else mojito directly after. 

It’s not that I exactly feel guilty about these acts—there’s nothing explicitly wrong about the commingling of frankfurters and chlorine—it’s more that I’m embarrassed by the knowledge that I wouldn’t even think to behave with such deliberate temerity on a regular three-meal day.  But I suppose—and it’s only a supposition because here in Hawaii I exist in a strange purgatory where the disappearance of my parent’s financial aegis in daily life has allowed me to appreciate, at least in theory, what sort of success is required to take this kind of holiday, yet, at the same time, being here fully beholden to them means I haven’t personally secured the right to unwind quite as hard as I’m unwinding—I  suppose part of the bizarre pleasure of this kind of vacation is derived from indulging is such frivolous excesses simply to know that one has earned the right to. 

And the pre-tropical starvation/exercise regimen that many people endorse so they’ll look good in their bathing suits only to then let loose once they’re actually in their bathing suits represents just one example of the extreme sinusoidal swing in behavior, which swing’s amplitude is so severe perhaps to make up for the fact that fifty weeks of the year they’re/we’re closer to the overwrought compulsive version of ourselves.  I mean, this explanation would account for the fact that the proliferation of the hydro-eating phenomenon isn’t just plaguing me but has spread hotel-wide (I shudder to think of the repercussions if it were to ever follow us back across the Pacific).  And yet, the developing pandemic provides me a level of comfort, because it helps me understand why my own personal self-consciousness over the inability to defer food until I am nice and toweled off doesn’t actually surface while I’m in the water, but only much later when, on the way to dinner, my salivary glands begin taunting me because I haven’t eaten anything in two hours, which, here, is far too long to go without a little bite.       

 


1 Such as how do I deal with these feelings of spatial/temporal insignificance and/or is this vacation, which appears to be a hard earned display of free-will and a testament to the fruits of the human teleological mind-frame, also, simply like, the manifestation of some deep-rooted animal instinct?
2 These descriptions, by the way, are not intended as aspersions.  I haven’t the right.  Perhaps though I was a bit less flagrant in the things I ate as I overate. 
3 Well, at least those two.  I can’t speak to the other five.
4 A white fish in the pomfret family and my new favorite word.

 

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