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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 10, 2001

Mulligan stew for your taste

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Staff Writer

Back at good old Wailuku Elementary School in the 1970s, Mrs. Ah Sam could make or break the day. She wasn't the teacher or the principal or even the head security guard (of course, elementary schools didn't have security guards in those days). She was the cafeteria manager. She had power over all.

Pig-in-the-blanket Tuesday was a good day. Spaghetti Thursday was great. But mulligan stew Friday — hoo, boy, that could go either way.

Mrs. Ah Sam took the mulligan stew concept to great extremes. Not only did she throw in whatever leftovers she could find in the cafeteria cupboards, she kept you guessing on presentation, too. Sometimes, mulligan stew was bright yellow, like curry, and served over rice. Sometimes it was white, like chowder, and served with a spoon. Sometimes, it took almost a loaf form.

Mrs. Ah Sam wore rubber boots, mega hairnets that could be used to catch mullet, and a big red hibiscus in her hair, the cafeteria lady version of Karen Keawehawai'i.

I find myself with a desk littered with odds and ends too small to serve alone but too tasty to throw out and, in the tradition of Mrs. Ah Sam, I thought I'd toss them together and see what happens:

• The best line about those women who wear choke Hawaiian heirloom bracelets came from Sig Zane-guys. "In Hilo, we call those ladies Kama'aina Metals." The other best line is lifted from Guy Hagi, who observed: "Who is this Ku'uipo and how come she get so much jewelry?"

• A magic moment witnessed at the Waimea High School graduation: A student in the front row suddenly burst into tears before the program even started. Some of the other girls standing near her in the bleachers rushed over to console her. All of a sudden, she ran into the audience toward a young woman standing in military dress whites. Her older sister had come home special for the occasion to surprise her. The crowd burst into joyful applause.

• About that word "tantaran": It's a schoolyard word, the kind you don't hear too often in adulthood. It's used to describe someone arrogant, a kind of ignorant showoff. Used in a sentence, you might hear, "Try look da way Janessa stay walking, so tantaran, yeah?" There are local variations. Rod Ohira tells me he knows the word as "tarantaran."

• KRTR's Sistah Sherry asks, "What happens if you run in the Miss Insecurity pageant and you come in first runner-up?"

• McDonald's was serving melon-flavored milkshakes, and is now offering lilikoi-flavored ice cream drinks.

7-Eleven has is offering Portuguese sausage omelet manapua. How's that for flavor combinations? Mrs. Ah Sam would be proud.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Her e-mail address is lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.