One day a year or so ago, a man parked his truck in front of our house. When he pulled out a jack and started changing a flat tire, my husband went out to help. It only took a few minutes, and Eric and the man had the spare on and the man was traveling down the road again. A few days later, the man returned with six banana trees in the back of his truck. "Thank you for your help," he said and presented Eric with the young trees he’d dug up out of his own yard. Eric planted them alongside the road where the man’s tire went flat.
Last weekend, as I departed a fellow Kaua’i Search and Rescue team member’s house, he placed a papaya in each of my hands. His tree was producing, and he couldn’t eat them all, he said.
Earlier this week, I met a friend from writing school for a quick chat at—of all places—the McDonald’s at Wal-Mart. Sherilyn visits from southern California several times a year to help out her grandparents who live in Kekaha, on the west side of Kaua’i. Every time we get together to talk about our latest writing endeavors, Sherilyn’s grandparents—whom I have only met in passing—send me gifts. Once it was green tea. Another time it was avocadoes. This time Sherilyn and I caught up at Wal-Mart—in between shuffling her grandparents from an eye doctor’s appointment and Home Depot. And this time, Sherilyn’s grandpa packed a box of mangoes for me. A whole box. Layers of mangoes, each layer protected by newspaper. For me, this was equivalent of winning the lottery, because as everyone on Kaua’i knows, the best mangoes come from the west—and dry—side.
Yesterday, I made a smoothie with banana, papaya, mango and peanut butter. I plucked the bananas from the trees we received as a gift for a few minutes of my husband’s time, and I peeled the papayas and mangoes donated to me by friends.
It just could have been the best-tasting smoothie of my life. I think the extra flavor that boosted this particular mix to all-time-best status came from the generosity (you could call it "aloha") of friends—friends who share their bounty with others. It’s like adding a drop of vanilla to homemade chocolate chip cookies. Or, as my husband would say, adding bacon to any meal.
And, yet, even after using two mangoes for my smoothie, I had a pretty full box of mangoes left. So, I gave a bagful to some other friends visiting from the mainland who invited Eric and me over for dinner last night. And, still, mangoes line the bottom of the box—it was a big box, and heavy, too.
Today, I received a recipe from a chef in Kona who is participating in the Big Island’s first annual Mango Festival on August 1, 2009. Perfect. Now, I know what to do with the remaining mangoes. Maybe I’ll bring a loaf to Honolulu with me next week—I am headed there for meetings. That is, if my husband and I don’t eat it all first.
Mango Bread Pudding
1 loaf of Punalu’u sweet bread
4 ea large mangoes diced
2 qts heavy cream
16 egg yolks
2 tbl vanilla extract
1/4 cup brandy
Cut mango and sweet bread into large cubes and place in a buttered baking pan. Then slowly heat cream over medium heat. In a separate bowl whisk egg yolks till they turn a pale yellow about five or six minutes. Then add brandy and whisk for another minute. Slowly add one cup of cream to egg mixture and whisk to temper eggs, so as not to scramble when adding to cream. Then add vanilla and slowly heat for five minutes, stirring constantly. Finally pour cream mixture to over sweet bread and bake at 350 degrees for about forty-five minutes or until a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean.
Executive Sous Chef
Keauhou Beach Resort