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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 20, 2003

Cracker crumbles into history

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

News that the Hilo Macaroni Factory is closing is hard to take. The loss is right up there with saying goodbye to a sugar plantation, with Liberty House morphing into Macy's, with Tasaka Guri-Guri giving up on the azuki beans.

How are we supposed to live without Hilo Macaroni Saloon Pilot crackers?

What is Mr. Pacheco going to dip into his coffee every morning? Where is Mrs. Yoshioka going to spread the 15 cans of Underwood Deviled Ham she has stashed in her closet? How is Esme Infante-Nii going to eat her cream cheese and Saint Raphael Church pepper jelly?

This changes everything.

The Hilo Macaroni Saloon Pilot crackers are the ultimate Grampa food, matching his strong cowboy coffee. They're even the same color as the stains on his favorite puka undershirt.

Saloon Pilots are beloved baby food. Crack off a wedge and hand it to a toddler and that kid is busy gnawing for an hour.

Not that Saloon Pilots are hard as rock — more like soft rock. They're perfect late-night snacks and can go both sweet or savory.

They're on that list of local foods you miss when you move to the Mainland, alphabetically between salmon (lomi) and salty plum.

They arrive in care packages at dorms completely crushed. No amount of bubble wrap, newspaper or packing peanuts can save those crackers from turning into sand on the trip from Hawai'i. But let me tell you, that sand tastes so 'ono when you're homesick, cold and broke. Just float it on your cup of instant cocoa and you're instantly transported home — home to your grandma's kitchen table where your grandfather is sitting with his coffee-and-cracker breakfast and that stained puka undershirt.

Hawai'i simply will not be the same without those crackers.

Not to disparage the other brand. The other brand is good, too. The other brand works fine for dunking, floating, peanut-buttering, cream cheese and chili pepper jelly-ing — the works. It's just that it's different. The taste is different. More Diamond Head. Less Hilo. Kind of like the difference between Aloha shoyu and Kikkoman. People naturally have a preference for one or the other.

Now, the Hilo Macaroni creme crackers — that's a whole different story right there. There is no other, no reasonable facsimile, no sort-of kind-of tastes the same. That's the hands-down winner right there.

Sure, those beloved pasty crackers weren't exactly health food, but for generations of Hawai'i people, they were soul food.

The Hilo Macaroni Saloon Pilot cracker is gone. Long live the Mountain View Stone Cookie.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.