Healing With Good Food

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - January 02, 2008
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I’ve always been aware of the healing power of food. I don’t mean the magical properties attributed to “superfoods” like blueberries, poi and wheat grass, but rather the spiritual healing that can come when people share meals, however small.

At a hospice, where I worked for many years as a certified registered nurse, the healing that came from visitors bringing food to loved ones was incredible. One lady, I remember, ate nothing but a few teaspoons of ice cream every day during her final weeks, but the sense of purpose her husband had in making the journey to Maurice Grasso’s La Gelateria to find different flavors for her each day was crucial to his own healing and survival.

I make food whenever anything goes wrong. On the morning of 9/11, I was in the kitchen watching CNN and making stacks of sandwiches for my husband to take to work. Why? I have absolutely no idea, except I knew I wanted to feed someone because I couldn’t do anything else. I make hot toddies when friends have colds, and I almost always have homemade chicken stock and soup in the freezer for any emergency.

So it came as no surprise when our son Finn was mauled by a dog two weeks ago that our friends rallied round and raised our spirits with food.

At Queen’s hospital, where Finn and I spent 12 hours, a good friend turned up in the evening with plates of food and the kind of excellent, sweet cheesecake that helps when you’re in shock. The next day other friends called to say they were bringing dinner and arrived at our home with recyclable boxes filled with food from Uahi Island Grill in Kailua. The entrees were excellent, particularly the red curry fish and garlic chicken.

Uahi is a new restaurant serving locally grown produce in containers that are made from biodegradable plant fibers. Sandwiches all come on a toasted baguette with sides of chili aioli, and fillings include Kalua pork, Korean steak, and smoked fish and furikake tofu. You’ll find Uahi on Uluniu Street in Kailua. Well worth a stop.

The night after this feast, more friends came by to cook a dinner of locally grown salad greens, Hauula tomatoes, island-grown corn and grilled steak. As Finn began his recovery, we realized we’d been given the gift of freedom from shopping, cooking and washing up for more than two days. The next morning, some kind well-wishers sent a dozen cookies to Finn from the Hokulani Bake Shop in Restaurant Row. I’ve passed the shop many times, and though I’d met the owners, Tushar and Ana Dubey, once at a fundraiser, I’d never had time to try out their cookies and cupcakes. We were hooked from the first bite. The children loved the fish shapes (our tin featured a dozen hand-made cookies inspired by Hanauma Bay), and I love that the cookies are made with Ka Lei Island Eggs, 100 percent real butter and sugar, and no hydrogenated oils or corn syrup. I headed on down to the store on Christmas Eve to stock up on gifts for Finn’s doctor and plastic surgeon at Queen’s.

Seemed only fitting to share some sweetness with the people responsible for his remarkable recovery.

So, as this year comes to an end, I’m ever grateful for the food that’s grown on this island, the people who prepare it and the knowledge that, in times of celebration and sadness, there’s nothing as healing as a meal shared with friends.

Happy eating!

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