Monday, March 31, 2014

Robert Lewis Stevenson, Hawaii,the Waiola Tea Room and Chicken Salad

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a lot of books about adventure. Adventures which took place in far away places, and in historical settings, and featured Freedom Fighters, Evil Counterparts, Ladies Fair, Pirates and young heroes. Stories that boys, who were spending lots of time reading came to love and devour with ravenous abandon.

One of those boys was me. I came to love stories like Treasure Island, The Black Arrow and Kidnapped whose young boy heroes were within the realms of my imagination, just like me. I was transported to exotic Islands in the Pacific or the Caribbean, the dark smokey fields of Scotland or onto Ships filled with Pirates. His books were easy to read and classic in their approach to historical drama and adventure. Popular in his day, he continues to be an inspiration for boys and girls growing up and reading his books today. Sailing away in their imaginations to amazing adventures, just as I did.

Now you who have been following my blog for awhile know that as a young boy I lived in Hawaii. I grew up as a navy brat and that experience shaped many of the ways I actually view the world.

Being a military brat can be a difficult thing for a kid. For example you move around a lot. You have to start over at schools. You have to make new friends every 2 years or so. Not to mention that you have to find ways to carry a sense of home with you every time you move without being able to rely on physical surroundings to support you in that.

It's about creating relationships which while being on the one hand are temporary, are also real and necessary. Family relationships also become elevated in their importance. It's a balance. And one which is typically never perfectly walked by people. Most military brats I know all have issues perhaps stemming from the manner they were raised. On the other hand, they also develop social and interpersonal skills that help them to succeed and shine in various parts of their lives. Skills, that other people raised under more traditional circumstances might not develop till later in life. It's a trade-off of sorts. But it's a trade-off, that is like many things in life, is the result of reacting to and dealing with circumstances. Circumstances One as not chosen, but has been handed.

Like many my experience as a navy brat took me all over, but Hawaii was the one place, that as a young boy of 7 to 11, was most pivotal. It was definitely the place that I had many life affirming and exciting experiences. Aside from the natural beauty and the weather, living on a naval station, going to school, and doing the things a boy of that age does. I had my first exposure to many cultures. Asian and Pan-Asian cultures mixed with Pacific Island peoples as well as the Anglo Natives living there since the time of Captain Cook, and lots of military and tourists.

So what does all this have to do with Robert Louis Stevenson? Well while looking for a warmer climate to help his weak respiratory system. He spent time in the Hawaiian Islands where he became good friends with the King and his Daughter. He lived for a time as a guest on a plantation which today is a famous 10 acre park and tea room called the Waiola Tea room. There you could have high tea or lunch, browse the gift shop, roam the grounds and even see a hut where Stevenson lived while he was staying there. It's run today by the Salvation Army as a park and is a really nice thing to do if you are visiting Oahu. It's definitely old school with table clothes in white or pastels hanging baskets full of flowers or plants and an older cliental but nonetheless a really neat experience. It was a place we took visiting relatives and friends for an authentic old Hawaii experience like my Aunt Lucy and Cousin Priscilla when they came to visit. And back in the 70's when I was there it was more military wives and ladies who lunch, than grannies and senior citizen, but I can't speak for it today.

Needless to say as a boy this was endlessly cool, great paths and historical structures to explore. And then there was the really yummy food. One of the dishes that I remember really well was the house baked Breads and the Curried Chicken Salad supposedly based on the original tea sandwiches served back in the day. At Waiola Tea Room this salad was piled onto really good homemade wheat bread and was served with a delicious mayo, sliced tomatoes and crisp lettuce. As a boy it represented everything yummy and elegant about having lunch at the Waiola Tea Room. And I never forgot it.

So today I want to offer up my family's version of this classic Old Hawaiian Tea Room offering. I love fussy little teas sandwiches cause I think they are really fun. And while this recipes is not really based on anything but my recollections of that Waiola chicken salad, it is still fun to imagine Robert Louis Stevenson sitting on the porch of that old house with his hosts the King and Queen of Hawaii back in the time. Enjoying tea and a sandwich like this. For the recipe and as a benchmark my Grandmother made a great curried chicken salad. This was from my Grandmother's hand written cookbook. It's the recipe that was served to Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Charlotte N.C. in 1976.  So I hope you enjoy this and have some of your own adventures recreating chicken salad fit for a King or Queen. Just take a moment remembering Old Hawaii in your kitchen.

Grandma's QE II Curried Chicen Salad Recipe ( circa 1976 )

2 cups chopped cooked chicken cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup water chestnuts sliced
1/2 pound white seedless grapes halved
1/2 cup toasted almonds slivered
1 8 oz. can pineapple chunks juice drained
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely diced red onion ( optional )

3/4 cup Mayo ( or greek yogurt )
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder ( Use Madras powder if you like it hot )
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce

Mix ingredients add dressing and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for 3 hours or more before serving


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