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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, February 19, 2006

'Island Plate' filled with recipes, history

By Simplicio Paragas
Dining Out Editor

Advertiser food editor Wanda Adams has scoured the paper's microfiche archives in writing "Island Plate."

Photo by Randy T. Fujimori

Poi mixed with milk or cream. Tomato aspic.

Salad dressings made with boiled ingredients. And ahh ... the one-time ubiquitous molded Jell-O salad.

"These are teasers to memories," said Advertiser food editor Wanda Adams, referring to her discoveries while researching her cookbook, "The Island Plate: 150 Years of Recipes and Food Lore from The Honolulu Advertiser," which will be released in the fall as part of the newspaper's momentous 150th anniversary (the actual date is July 2) celebration.

"Some people will look at the recipes in this cookbook and talk story about them," she said, "and others will actually make them."

In chronicling the history of food as it has been written about in the Advertiser for the past century and a half, Adams has spent hours — more like months — scouring strips of microfiche in search of recipes and stories about food.

"I may be blind when this is all over," laughed Adams, who has written about the subject of food for more than 25 years. "When I started I didn't realize how big of a job this was going to be."

It has been huge.

Halfway through the 10-chapter cookbook, Adams has traced the history of salt salmon (lomi lomi) back to the Hudson Bay Company in 1829, Saloon Pilot crackers to the shipping industry before the world wars and, as far as the origins of the plate lunch, the verdict is still out.

"When was it determined that two scoops of rice, macaroni salad and an entree constitute a plate lunch?" Adams asked in a rhetorical tone. "The British had their two veggies and entree but where did this 'plate lunch' come from?"

Divided by subject matter, "The Island Plate" will provide a historical narrative, as well as a vast array of recipes that have been updated to reflect today's ingredients and to appeal to people's palates.

"Old recipes were really rich," said Adams, who recruited friends and husband, Sonny Koonce, as guinea pigs to test and perfect the recipes. "They all started with lard. Now we've got butter and olive oil."

The same holds true when it comes to baking a cake, which used to be made with mace (the spice and not the eye-stinging, self-defense spray) but can now be replaced with nutmeg.

In her journey through time, Adams discovered that it wasn't until the 1920s that a euphemistically-named "Food Section" appeared in the paper.

"What's interesting is what's not there," the Maui native said. "For example, there was no mention of rice, and rice was cultivated here at the time."

But what she did find was how to prepare a society-style poi luncheon or dinner and a Mexican chili recipe that contained neither spice nor chiles.

"My husband and I thought it was a great Sloppy Joe," Adams said. "But in the book, I recommend to add spices to give it more of a modern chili taste."

Right now Adams has two cakes on her kitchen counter, three entrees in the fridge and a pie that's waiting to be eaten.

"And if they're not gone in four days, I'm moving on," Adams said. "I've got banana pie recipe to try and test, and I've got five more chapters to write."

Early orders are now being taken for the 150-page, hardcover, spiral-bound "Island Plate," which will cost $14.99.

To order this commemorative cookbook, place your order online or look for the order form in today's paper. For more information, call 535-8189.

"The Advertiser's mission is to chronicle Hawaii's story one day at a time," Adams said. "This is the approach I took in writing this book. It reflects the voices of columnists, editors, home economists and readers heard throughout the history of the paper."