Early Thanksgiving morning, mom, Ben, our best friend Zak and I flew to Hawai‘i Island to spend the long weekend with my brother. The skies that morning were so crystal clear that we didn’t mind having to fly Northwest to ‘O‘ahu before flying back Southeast (over Maui) to Hawai‘i island.
We were all stunned by how much of the islands we could see from the air – from O‘ahu’s Diamond Head crater and Ko‘olau mountain range, to the peninsula of Kalaupapa on Moloka‘i, to the perfect sapphire channels and over Maui’s emerald West Maui mountain range, and finally over the massive mountains of the big island of Hawai‘i.
My brother, his girlfriend, and her daughter met us in Hilo at about 8:30 that morning and went straight to one of the locals’ favorite restaurants (because of their incredible variety of local food, the massive portions and affordability), Ken’s! True to Hilo’s rain forest nature, we experienced pouring rain, sunshine, drizzles, and clouds all within the hour.
After breakfast, we dropped our stuff off at our awesome vacation rental—which was right in Hilo town!—and then set off to the market to find some food for our Thanksgiving feast. We had a bit of a challenge on our hands because, although the rental did have a bbq and a toaster oven, it didn’t have a full-sized oven. Luckily, our ‘ohana loves challenge . The seven of us spread out across the local KTA market, randomly crossing paths and gawking at how much cheaper groceries were in comparison to Maui, and eventually came out with a hodge-podge of ingredients. The perfect fixins for a random Thanksgiving meal!
Lucky for us, my brother sent a photo of our deep sea, free-range “turkey” right after he caught it off the coast of Hilo, so we knew our protein was taken care of. Unlike frozen turkeys bought in a grocery store, we had to first go clean and prep our meal.
[Yes, that fish is indeed bigger than a six year old.]
[Uncle Chuck is a real fisherman with some crazy filleting skills. They kept the fish on ice for a few days, so Uncle's fingers were frozen while he was cutting this guy.]
We soon found out this was a girl mahimahi:
[She had a lot of eggs in her!]
If we knew how to eat mahi eggs, we probably would have been stoked! Instead it was just kind of cool. But not as cool as doing an autopsy on the mahi’s stomach! We found two semi-digested smaller fish and some fish bones. It was gooey.
Okay, I know that this process may seem gross to some, but to me it was an incredible experience to connect with my food on a deeper level – to know exactly where it came from and understand that it was a living creature that ate and procreated and experienced hunger… and that it had to die so that we could eat it to live.
But anyway, back to Uncle Chuck’s wicked filleting skills:
[That chunk of fish was just one-fourth of the mahimahi! We had fish for days (literally! fish tacos, garlic fish, miso fish, fried fish, fish sticks, fish casserole, baked fish, steamed fish, barbecued fish…)]
Thank you for your life, mahimahi. I will use the energy you gave me to fuel my body and do wonderful things in this life.
As it turns out, the mahi wasn’t the only fish we’d be eating that night (or for the next few days).
Kyle is a good friend of my brother’s who moved to the islands from Ohio in hopes of becoming a marine biologist. When he moved here over five years ago, he knew absolutely nothing about real, live fishing. My brother, a lifelong fisherman and diver, randomly picked him up one day as he was walking to Walmart to purchase dive gear. The rest is history.
Kyle now works at the largest fish shop in Hilo and dives with the town’s spearfishing company owners (I’m not lying here – I couldn’t make this up). He found out that my brother was having us over for Thanksgiving (and that my mom is no longer eating meat), and because my brother taught him how to dive and fish, he brought over a 10 lb uhu (parrotfish with great flavor and great texture) that he just caught, cleaned and ready to eat!
I wish I would have thought to take photos of the gorgeous blue and green fish before my brother stuffed it with green onions, mayonnaise, and sausage , wrapped it in bacon, and put it on the grill, but I was having too much fun playing in the kitchen.
[The final product. I don’t think my brother understands the whole “pescatarian” concept, but it was delicious nonetheless!]
Michelle, my brother’s girlfriend, made a great tofu salad, and we also had swiss chard, mushroom gravy, grilled corn on the cob, wild rice, Okinawan sweet potatoes, pumpkin garlic knots, and – of course – mahimahi with garlic!
For dessert, Uncle Chuck’s daughter gave us one of her freshly-baked, homemade pumpkin pies and my brother made his coconut milk Okinawan sweet potatoes… some of us topped ours with marshmallows! Yum!
Our feast definitely wasn’t “traditional”, but it was memorable and we were all immensely grateful. We took time to enjoy our thoughtful feast and each other’s company.
Then we got ready for some BIG island adventures! Stay tuned! Adventures to come .
How did you celebrate Thanksgiving? Do you eat turkey? Have you ever thought about where your turkey came from?