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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Put a lid on the bad marinara and bring us a Trader Joe's

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

With gratitude to Chuck Martin of the Cincinnati Enquirer — who had a year-end column idea too good not to borrow — let me say, I've been writing about food and restaurants for more than 25 years, but there are still many things I can't understand:

• Why supermarkets don't have better directories. What would be really helpful would be a kiosk with a computer where you could key in a brand or product and be directed to the right aisle.

• Why waiters can't wait until you're through talking or chewing before asking you if everything's all right. ("It was until you butted in," I want to snarl.)

• Why restaurant menus are so badly written. They too often give you a false impression of the dish or waste words on puffery that isn't descriptive.

• Why so many Italian restaurants put bad marinara sauce on everything.

• Why O'ahu doesn't have a Trader Joe's.

• Why the Puainako KTA Super Store in Hilo has a broader selection of interesting stuff than most Honolulu grocery stores do.

• Why people can't remember how to roast a turkey from one year to the next.

• Why more home cooks haven't figured out that you can get any recipe you could possibly want on the Web (www.google.com; then punch in the recipe name, or type of dish and the word "recipe").

• Why anyone would dislike mayonnaise. (Don't bother writing to tell me; we are two different species and have no common language.)

• Why dehydrated, canned parmesan cheese still exists. (I've certainly done my best to talk people out of using it.)

• Why the Neighbor Islands in general have a better selection of fresh herbs, handmade foods, produce and flowers, and better farmers markets. (OK, I understand it in principle — they've got the farmland and the back-to-nature people — but couldn't more of that stuff come over here, where the bulk of the people are?)

• Why anyone would ever want to own a restaurant, the fastest way to go bankrupt that I know. (Still, I'm slavishly grateful that so many people do own restaurants).

• Why the difference of half an hour (the length of time it takes to put a fast, fresh-cooked meal together) would be enough to make franchise food seem attractive.

• Why you can't buy really good fresh chicken, beef and vegetable stock and demi-glace in the supermarket.

• Why there are no Portuguese restaurants in Hawai'i.

• Why refrigerators are so badly designed despite the fact that every home has one. (Spaces don't accommodate odd-size items. Shelves don't pull out for easy cleaning. There should be a warmer-but-still-cool climate zone for items such as red wine and chocolate.)

• Why every kitchen isn't equipped with a gas range.

• Why waiters ignore single diners, especially female single diners. As a food writer, the daughter of restaurant owners and the sister of a longtime waiter, I'm a huge tipper, I tend to order every course whether I can finish it or not, and I generally order drinks, too. But servers still treat me as though I'm going to order the cheapest thing and leave a niggling tip. Bit of advice: As my mom taught me, you can't tell a millionaire by his clothes, so treat all customers as though they had a million bucks.