Hawaii mom's recipes gift to her three sons
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Audrey Wilson made sure her three sons learned to cook. After her divorce, she raised the boys on her own in Hilo, with help from her parents. To make ends meet, the boys each took jobs in Dotty's Coffee Shop.
"Reid started at 14, washing dishes, then became a cook in high school. Neil worked for a little bit and Dean probably spent the longest time as a cook at Dotty's," Wilson recalls.
Rather than resent the hard work, her sons thrived on it. The three boys are now in their 20s, and each loves to cook. And not just easy stuff like pancakes and fried rice. When Audrey and her boys are in the kitchen, the menu is like the finale dinner in "Top Chef," except nobody is fighting.
Reid, Neil and Dean Shigeoka recently came home to their mother's kitchen in Volcano to help with her annual holiday party. It was the first time in a long time she had them all together and a chance to show the project she had been working on for years: a massive cookbook with 1,400 of their favorite recipes.
She titled it "Recipes and Remembrances: A Mother's Gift to her Three Sons."
Neil thumbed through the familiar recipes in awe. "I love the 'abouts,' " he said. Wilson writes a weekly food column for the Hawai'i Tribune-Herald and teaches cooking classes. Her "abouts" are little lessons on techniques, ingredients, sometimes even historical notes or pep talks.
The cookbook also is Wilson's tribute to her mother, Fusaye Takaki, who died this past year. Takaki instilled in her daughter the love of cooking. She spent her retirement years cooking for her grandsons. Many of the recipes are from her days of Shimachi Japanese camp in Hilo, and are filed under "G" for "Grandma Takaki's Miso Pork Butt" or "Grandma Takaki's Lima Beans."
Mixed in with the plantation-era dishes are others that are exotic, healthful, clever, complicated — just about anything you can imagine — Wilson and her sons have created, served, taught, catered.
"I have most of my recipes from the past 12 years of having our annual open house in December," Wilson wrote in an e-mail. "Some were from special dinners I have fixed (like when people buy dinners at auctions) or when I have a themed dinner with some friends — like I have had Spanish dinners, French, Cajun, etc.
Wilson also teaches Saturday cooking classes to a group of ladies from Volcano, has taught healthy cooking for diabetics and seniors, and gives private cooking lessons at her Volcano home, AJ's Bed and Breakfast. (Information on her private lessons assures students that if they want, they can just hang out and talk story while she demonstrates.)
She has created cookbooks for various community projects before, but none like this one, so expansive, personal, beloved and wise.
The list of errata alone is darling:
"I was never known for my typing skills so the cornbread may say dread instead of bread; the words form and from and used interchangeably — just use your judgment on which is the right word for that particular phrase ... if you see cram, it probably means cream."
The apologies are for little typos, not for mistakes in ingredients or measurements. Those are reliable, and she has made every one of the 1,400 dishes (actually, 1,398, because Dean's tempura and sweet sour cabbage recipes are her favorite and got typed in twice.)
The book was printed by a Mainland company, Morris Press, which provides a cookbook template and makes formatting easy. Wilson has just about sold (and given away, her sons say with exasperation) most of the 200 books from the first printing, but she is considering ordering more. Plus, she has even more recipes to share, with her sons and students and anyone else who loves to cook, and is considering a sequel.
Her eldest-son, Reid, graduated from UH Manoa with a degree in Japanese, and lives on O'ahu and works for Continental Airlines as a manager in the Chelsea Food division.
Middle son Neil has an undergraduate degree in physics and a master's degree from UC Santa Barbara in materials engineering.
"He loves to cook and does catering on the side for the rich L.A.-ers who have money but don't know how to cook," Wilson said.
Youngest son Dean, of the beloved tempura recipe, worked for Restaurant Miyo in Hilo and now is with the Hawai'i Tribune-Herald, but his first love is cooking.
"Count your blessings and show appreciation for your food," Wilson wrote to her sons in the cookbook she wrote for them. "Earn your living honestly."
Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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