In today’s article:
The Original Nissin® Top Ramen Comeback
The Spirits Papayas
The Top Ramen Comeback
Calling to me from the pantry, a case of The Original Nissin Top Ramen
Rick had wisely bought it the first week of self-isolation due to COVID-19. I laughed when it was delivered. We haven’t had Top Ramen in our house in 20 years. Rick said it was an impulse buy, he said, “We don’t know how long this is going to last, but least we’ll have some ramen.” Smart guy, I thought. So, we’re having a Top Ramen comeback in the Muir house… and it’s GOOOOOOOD!
Oh, if you’re wondering why I’m keep writing out the whole name (The Original Nissin Top Ramen) is because that’s what it actually says on the package… and who am I to change their marketing?! And, I’m definitely not getting paid by Nissin, but if they read this and want to pay me… here’s my contact page.
Yesterday, I looked outside and saw Rick bent over the garden boxes planting our summer vegetables. My back ached for him. He’d been at this project for a week; moving dirt, removing rocks, hooking up a drip line, adding it to a timer, and countless hours spent reading seed catalogues. He needs a really good lunch, I was thinking as I stood in front of almost an empty fridge.
But what? I found ½ an orange bell pepper, a forgotten bunch of bok choy needing to be eaten, four stalks of spring green onions on their way out, and a garlic clove. And about 2 inches by 2 inches slab of tofu.
The Original Nissin Top Ramen and Tofu & Vegetables Ingredients:
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serving Size: 2 adults
- 2 Packages of Top Ramen made by Nissin
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ Bell pepper chopped
- 1 small bunch bok choy
- 4 Stalks spring green onions (diced)
- 1 Garlic Clove (minced)
- 2×2 Inches of Tofu (pressed)*
*If you don’t know how to press tofu, I wrote about it in my Tortilla Tofu Scramble article.
- Follow instructions on The Original Nissin Top Ramen package
- Wrap Tofu with paper towels and press out water
- In a small skillet, heat olive oil on medium
- Add vegetables and saute while Ramen is cooking
- Instead of using the Ramen flavor packet, I use Braggs Liquid Amino Acids
- Drain almost all water from noodles into two deep soup bowls
- Top with vegetables
- Squirt a healthy amount of the Braggs Liquid Amino Acids
And serve 🙂
For a treat I whipped up a super refreshing and damn good looking celery smoothie. Simple; 1 ½ Stalks Celery w/leaves, 1 Apple cored, 1 nub peeled ginger, Sprig of Mint, Squeeze of fresh Lime, 1 Can Sparkling Water, Crushed ice. Blend, and I even rub lime on rim of glass, delish! (Me and My NutriBullet Smoothies)
Are you game for a short story?
Escape with me, and for a few precious minutes leave that damnable COVID-19 behind.
Twenty-two years ago, desperation forced Rick, our sixteen year old daughter, Anni and I to move to the Hamakua Coast on the Eastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii. Not one of our better decisions, but in the end, it was one of the best things ever to happen to us.
Rick took a job with a company developing for Prudential-Timber, twenty-two thousand acres of defunct sugarcane fields owned by the Bishop Estates. The plan was to plant Eucalyptus Forest, in the hope of eventually logging, milling and processing the lumber into paper pulp. The island was in steep economic decline, along with the Muirs; we hoped this venture would turn around a tough eight years.
We found ourselves a spot, a long twenty-three miles north of Hilo.
The house sat on what the locals referred to as the, “Makai,” ocean side of the highway. I thought we were going to be living two counties away from San Diego. Stupidly, the sum total of my knowledge of Hawaii was from the James Michener Novel, Hawaii, and Anni’s passionate following of the surfer Kelly Slater. Rick had bought a used Moons Travel Guide to the Big Island, ironically written by some guy from Chico. In other words we were clueless.
I had never eaten lilikoi fruit.
Never had seen the blossoms of a plumeria tree, much less taken in their otherworldly aroma, or watched the dorsal fin of a tiger shark, while sitting on the beach waiting for my car being serviced.
It was all so unexpected.
Previously we lived on the sleepy Sacramento River where the most exciting thing was witnessing, what looked like a 30 lb. salmon, jump and splash along the river’s edge. But this Hawaian wildness was beyond the pale for us.
When we pulled up to the house we had rented, and still in the car, a mongoose ran by and disappeared into a thicket of bamboo. Anni refused to go into her room, until Rick had looked under the bed, and in the closet checking for centipedes after we saw a couple huge ones scurrying by when we parked in the garage. She swore they could get inside and possibly into her hair when they dropped from the ceiling at night. She had him slap the window a couple times in order to shake off the ginkgos clingy to the glass with their human-like-fingers.
Lapahoehoe, means lava leaf in Hawaiian.
That was the name of the small village where we rented a house with an unbroken view of the ocean. There was one gas station, where you could buy red vienna sausage with white rice wrapped in seaweed.
The popular musubi, SPAM rolled with rice and wrapped in the ever present Nori, or a plate lunch. I loved the plate lunch, or I could relate to the plate lunch: two ice-cream scoops of white rice topped with macaroni. Talk about comfort. I wanted to like the loco moco, which is two scoops of rice, hamburger patty balanced at the top with a fried egg and a liberal dose of gravy, but eating a fried egg on a hamburger didn’t turn me on like the name did.
The poi, the color was a bit off for me, along with the texture, but I noticed Rick at a potluck eating a healthy serving, and didn’t complain. Later he told Anni, “Just pretend you are doing a student year abroad, and you got to take your parents.”
Don’t get me wrong. I loved Hawaii.
After Anni joined the swim-team, I made friends with the other parents, they were as interested in me, as I was in them. I had no idea the Portuguese had settled on the Big Island a hundred years before. Or the huge influence of the Japanese. Where had I been, I wondered, not to have at least a modicum of knowledge of our fiftieth state. When we were there, a “royalist” movement was gaining traction. I was fascinated, and asked one of the mothers what it was about. I couldn’t imagine a people in this day and age wanting Queen Elizabeth to reign over them. “Queen Elizabeth?” I asked incredulously.
“No, Queen Lili’uokalani.” (BTY, all vowels are phonetically heard in the Hawaiian language and unlike English, the second vowel is long.) This was great stuff I was hearing, I couldn’t wait to get home, get online and read, read, read.
We lived above the Laupahoehoe Point
The point was a rocky spit of land jutting out into the ocean. At night we could hear from our beds the boulders rolling with the crash of the waves. In the mornings after dropping Anni off at school, the two of us would drive down the curvy one lane, one-mile road down to the shoreline. Unfortunately, there was no beach, just huge jagged barnacle incrusted rocks. And the ever present, old Hawaiian man picking the prized, Pipipi Snails, pronounced, pee-pee-pee.
Right there in the parking lot, I’m assuming she was his wife, sitting in a lawn chair tending their campstove with a huge cast iron skillet sizzling with butter and garlic, where the tiny black spotted snails were headed. I wandered by, enticed by the rich aroma, but wasn’t invited to try a sample, so I moved on. But took note, butter and garlic, I could do this. Already, fantasizing the meal I would prepare, thinking I would add parsley and maybe a little wine.
And it was free for the picking!
I come from a long line of cheapskates, we worship from the altar of free stuff. My Dad always referred to the dump as the exchange. It was living in Hawaii where our foraging took root.
One day, I looked out the window, just in time to see Rick, with a machete strapped to his waist, tying a rope around the base of a palm tree, and went over the edge of the tree-bush-laden cliff where he had noticed a banana tree full of free ripe bananas. I couldn’t get out there fast enough. I screamed at him, “what are you doing, are you kidding me?” But, when he looked up at me, I saw in his face, pure twelve-year old joy. Standing there looking out at the ever changing sky with the warm wind blowing and the sound of rolling rocks, it was all so amazingly awesome, tears sprung from my eyes.
Rick, the runner
Rick found the road down to the point a perfect jog; a fast flying one-mile down and a suffering grind one-mile back up. He would have me drop him off and then I’d swing back by and pick him up. One day, I went on and drove down myself, with a thermos of tea. I thought he could take a break and get refreshed by the salty spray mist of the ocean. I noticed a few days before a small cemetery behind a rock wall, adorned with rough lava rocks. The graves stones were wind worn and surprisingly dark. They looked ancient to me. I know graveyards having grown up, and played in the one on the other side of our neighborhood fence. These graves didn’t look a thing like those back in faraway California.
I lost myself reading a monument, a tribute to the 26 lives lost in a tidal wave that hit Laupahoehoe Point in 1946. Tidal Wave! Twenty-six lives! And mostly kids attending the school down on the point, who ran out to the ocean when the tide receded leaving behind the never before seen, bottom of the bay. My stomach clinched as I read their ages. I recognized the last name of one victim, and wondered if the teacher I had recently met was related. I was transfixed, I couldn’t imagine the grief represented on this white sheet of rock.
After dropping Rick off…
And I’d make the drive down and take a thoughtful walk along the lush green lawn circled by towering palm trees. But, I found myself being drawn back to the graveyard and the monument. I was obsessed.
Around the third visit, I noticed hanging from the trees closest to the edge of the cemetery, papayas. And not one, but dozens of the orange ripe fruit hanging like big sweet bombs. A bunch of them had fallen on the ground and were being swarmed by bugs.
As I mentioned, as a kid, hours were spent racing around the cemetery at home. Occasionally, from the pile of old flowers which were thrown in the far corner; we’d pluck a stem or two and bring to our Mom at home. It all stopped though, when she noticed the Rest in Peace ribbon tied to the handlebars of my brother Greg’s bike.
I didn’t even think twice about climbing up and precariously reaching over the jagged lava rock in order to pick the fruit. I grabbed two that first day. And then a week later grabbed a couple more. I’d pull up, pop the trunk, trek over, and glean the fruit.
These were my first papayas.
For breakfast, I would slice down the middle length-wise, scoop out the little black seeds, fill with yogurt and serve with a sprinkle of blueberries. Died and gone to heaven good. Rick never asked where the papayas came from.
About a month later as I stood in line at the adorable little Post Office, clutching a bundle of letters to be mailed to my family, who I found myself literally pining for. I physically ached for Peter our oldest, and Clare our middle-child, I think I would have paid a million dollars to hug and see her sweet face. She was on an adventure discovering herself in Alaska of all places; so I stood in line, feeling a stomach-ache with the renting of separation, when I felt someone looking at me.
Dorthea, the post mistress
Dorthea was staring at me whenever I glanced up when the line moved. I looked over my shoulder to see if it was someone behind me getting what looked like the, “stink-eye”. But I was the person at the end of the line. I couldn’t imagine, maybe I was misreading the hard unsmiling looks I was receiving. She was a short little thing, standing on a box in order to work at the window. Trepidatiously, I came to the counter and passed my stack over to be stamped and mailed. She didn’t look up as she swept the letters into the receptacle under the shelf.
“You drive fancy silva ca?” she asked in her patois pidgin Hawaiin. Another surprise for me, the pidgin English spoken in Hawaii.
“Oh yeah, my silver Volvo. That’s right, it’s new we just bought it before we moved.” I blathered on, nervously. “It’s our second Volvo, our daughter drove our first one under a semi-truck parked on the side of the road.” That information got her head up. “She was only going six miles an hour, just learning how to drive, she was okay, Thank God” I babbled on.
“You steal papayas.”
It wasn’t a question. I swallowed the big lump which had materialized in my throat, and I could feel a red heat as it traveled from the top of my head down to my toes.
“You steal papayas at Point?” I couldn’t think. Especially since there was sitting in the back seat of my “fancy ca,” like a precious little baby, a beautiful 13 incher.
“Oh my God,” I think I yelled.“Those are yours? I didn’t think they were anyones fruit. Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I mean they’re just going to waste, the ones on the ground are covered in bugs.” Inside my mind I was using superhuman effort not to say the words, cemetery or graveyard. Most people haven’t played with abandon among graves. Most people wouldn’t understand.
“Papaya for spirits.”
She reverently answered. I know my face, and I can only imagine what I looked like at that moment. I hoped my mouth wasn’t hanging open, but I think it was.
“We leave them, spirits walk at night.” Did I hear her right? My mouth went dry. My mind racing with any possible coherent connection I could make. I came to the realization I would never have made it on the Oregon Trail. I’d be that dumbass settler who, in order to shave off a little time, unwittingly wandered through a Native American burial ground…
She was dead serious.
I stood there transfixed as she said something about the moon, gave me a nod with her head, shook her finger, with the universal no sign, and put the out to lunch notice on the counter, and closed the little glass door.
As we stood out on our lanai (balcony) watching the ever changing sky over the ocean, I told Rick about the Papayas, and the Spirits walking at night. He smiled, reached over, grabbed his machete and whacked a banana off the three-foot bunch hanging from a nail.
He kissed me and said, “Remember, we’re doing our year abroad.”