Hutchins’ First Book Has Plenty Of Lessons For Keiki
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Lessons about sharing get a local twist in the new children’s book Plenty Saimin, written by Pearl City resident Feng Feng Hutchins.
The book hearkens back to 1950s rural life in Hawaii. In the story, birthday boy Ah Kee heads to the market with his mother, all the while inviting friends to join him for noodles. After all, says Ma, “You must eat long noodles for long life.”
But any worries Ma might have had about feeding the ever-growing number of guests are relieved when each person arrives with an ingredient to add to the pot.
“(In the plantation days) people shared more freely, even when times were hard,” Hutchins said, adding that the children represent the various ethnicities from the plantation era working together to create saimin, a dish inspired by Japanese, Chinese and Filipino dishes.
Hutchins found inspiration for the book’s storyline in her own childhood in Malaysia.
“I remember my mom making ‘long life’ noodles for my birthdays,” she said. “It was always a family affair; we never had big parties. So in Plenty Saimin I wanted to invite every kid I see on the way to the market.”
Today, she continues the tradition of cooking saimin for her young son and daughter, for whom she makes the dish almost every day.
Hutchins immigrated to California nearly 30 years ago, and when city life lost its appeal, her family headed to West Oahu, where they’ve lived for seven years. Over the past few years, Hutchins has had several short stories published in compilation books such as Bamboo Ridge, but she always hoped to move on to bigger projects.
“The thought of writing a novel scared me, so I decided to try a children’s book,” she explained.
It didn’t hurt that she was intimately familiar with the material, having read stacks and stacks of stories to her own children, sometimes checking out “20 to 30 picture books at a time from the library.”
Plenty Saimin is being released by Island Paradise Publishing, which is responsible for the popular Kimo series: Surf’s Up for Kimo, Kimo’s Summer Vacation and Kimo’s Surfing Lesson. The colorful illustrations are provided by Nanakuli-born Adriano F. Abatayo.
Hutchins will be on hand for a book launch celebration and signing from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 25 at Hawaii’s Plantation Village (94-695 Waipahu St.). The first 25 signed copies come with a free pack of saimin. For more information, visit islandparadisepublishing.com.
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