Cooking Up Holiday Gift Ideas

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - December 06, 2006
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Is it just me, or does it seem like Christmas appeared out of nowhere? I did a whole bunch of shopping at Hilo Hattie’s in August, and felt incredibly smug on my drive home as I imagined all my gifts wrapped and mailed before Thanksgiving.

Needless to say, the guest room in our house still has an unwrapped tower of aloha shirts and Hawaiian ceramics that have yet to make it out of their shopping bags.

So, with Christmas shopping in mind, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite gifts - with the hope that you may be more organized than I and actually get them wrapped and mailed on time.

I think you all know that in a perfect world I’d send everybody off to the farmers market to buy local produce, but while Hauula tomatoes, Waialua asparagus and Hamakua mushrooms might taste great, I realize they’re not really practical as gifts.

You can, however, give a little of the farmers market this year without actually being there. The Hawaii Farmers Market Cookbook is a collection of recipes using local produce with short introductions to some of Hawaii’s farmers.

Another new cookbook that’s worthy of high praise is the Junior League of Honolulu’s Aloha Days Hula Nights. Not just another ring-bound black-and-white collection of family recipes, this is a beautifully photographed, hardcover, full-color offering with cover artwork by Pegge Hopper and more than 375 recipes. It took three years to put the book together, and the fundraising committee claims to have tasted the combined recipes more than 1,000 times. Proceeds from the book go to support JLH projects that positively impact the lives of women and children in Hawaii. Good cause - great book. You can check it out at

Another favorite local cookbook of mine is Kusima Cooray’s Burst of Flavor. Kusima is a chef instructor at KCC and a wonderfully gracious lady with a talent for combining the flavors of East and West and explaining the many intricacies of Indian food in a simple and appealing way. Kusima’s book was first published in 2001, and I hear that a second book is almost complete.

Local chefs and cookbooks go together like nori and rice, and among my favorites is D.K. Kodama’s Sushi Chronicles of Hawaii, because it mixes the Kodama family history with food. D.K. Kodama documents his family’s arrival in Hawaii and his own culinary success with great charm and humility - and the recipes are great. One of my favorites is the brownie recipe shared by Kodama matriarch, Sandy.

If you’re looking for a coffee table cookbook where stunning pictures of food are as important as the recipes, then pick up a copy of Thirty Four Chefs. Jon de Mello did the photography, and profits go to benefit Shriners Hospital and the Marine Life Foundation of the Pacific. Chefs who have participated in Hilton Waikoloa’s annual Dolphin Days celebrations are the ones included. I like this book because it works well on all levels - you can leave it lying around to look good or keep it next to the stove while you’re trying new recipes.

And finally, but only because I’ve run out of column inches, not because I’ve run out of books, try to get your hands on a copy of

Vegan World Fusion Cuisine by Mark Renfield, Bo Rinaldi and the team at The Blossoming Lotus restaurant on Kauai, if you want to see a local cookbook that’s gained national recognition. Full of stunning photographs and words of wisdom that may help you eat your way to health and spiritual well-being, this cookbook is truly unique.

Happy eating!

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