Story by Kathy Collins | Illustration by Matt Foster
Listen to Tita’s Maui gas station food column read aloud in pidgin:
I love da MNKO Dining Out issue, but I get one small kine complaint. Da ‘Aipono Awards stay missing one impo’tant catagory: Bes’ Gas Station Cuisine. Nowadays, get Spam musubi at almost all da gas stations an’ convenience stores, so at least da basics is covered. But titas who know, know where fo’ go, fo’ fill up wit’ da premium -grade grinds.
Bes’ Gas Station Hot Cuisine: Uptown Texaco, Wailuku — da kitchen not open weekends or nighttime, but dey get ono-licious breakfast an’ lunch specials. Try da baked ‘ōpakapaka on Fridays or pastele stew wit’ gandule rice on Wednesdays.
Except fo’ leaving out da gas stations, I t’ink da ‘Aiponos is right on. Every year, when da Bes’ of Maui issue come out, I cut out da ‘Aipono Awards part an’ I hang ‘em on da ra-fridgerator door. So when my husband ask me, What get fo’ eat? I tell him fo’ go look on da fridge. Not in da fridge, on da fridge. And den I let him pick where he going take me fo’ eat.
I always try fo’ check out all da ‘Aipono winnahs befo’ da next year’s list come out, kinda like one game. But hard, you know, ‘cause they all so good, I like keep going back. No mo’ nuff days in da week fo’ eat at all my fav’rites. I get too much fav’rites. I guess dass one good problem fo’ have.
We nevah have dat problem in da old days, when Maui was mo’ small an’ simpoh. In da’ 60s, only had couple, t’ree fancy kine restaurants. Same t’ing wit’ da big hotels. Kā‘anapali was brand new, an’ nevah have nottin’ but kiawe trees where Wailea stay now. Hard fo’ imagine, yeah?
Only had one place open all night: Gate 21 at da Kahului Airport. No ask me how come da airport restaurant was twenty-four hours when da planes wasn’t. Back den, we nevah have mainland flights, only Aloha an’ Hawaiian flyin’ intah-island, and I t’ink da las’ flight was eight o’clock.
Gate 21 was mo’ fancy dan da regulah places we went, but not cloth napkin kine fancy. Had big booths fo’ sit in, plus one countah like at da soda fountains or da mom-an’-pop dinahs. But da only t’ing I remembah eating ovah there is pancakes. Ev’ry so often, my muddah an’ faddah used to get ono fo’ pancakes at two o’clock in da mornin’, an’ since I was too small fo’ stay home all by myself, dey would take me wit’ dem to Gate 21. My muddah would wake me up jus’ long enough fo’ put on my robe on top my pajamas, an’ den my faddah would carry me to da car. Next t’ing I know, my muddah wakin’ me up again, only dis time we stay in da restaurant, an’ she get one humongous pancake fo’ share with me. When I pau eat, I wrap my blanket aroun’ me, curl up in da booth an’ go back sleep.
Now, if any of da ‘Aipono Awards winnahs would let me come eat in my pajamas and go moemoe (sleep) when I pau, dat would be da bes’ of da bes’! I wouldn’t have dis problem of too much fav’rites. I would have all my meals an’ my naps at da same place. OK, maybe not all. I would still go get da ‘ōpakapaka at Uptown.
Tita is the pidgin-speaking alter ego of local actress and Mana‘o Radio cofounder/DJ Kathy Collins. Both Tita and Ms. Collins grew up on Maui.