Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii

Since I got a fancy new double jogging stroller, I’ve made it a habit to take it out as often as I can to Thompson Road in Keokea, one of the prettiest spots on Maui. Althompsonong the winding one lane road, trees swell with loquat and mangoes, wildflowers bloom in striking colors, and Jackson chameleons idle by. The road is bordered by a picturesque lava rock wall (word has it, commissioned by resident billionaire, Oprah Winfrey), and gates lead to sweeping horse pastures — acres upon acres of green rolling hills. It’s not what most people expect when they picture Maui. To me, it’s reminiscent of the verdant North Island of New Zealand.

I spent a year in New Zealand in my early twenties, and always thought I’d discovered that magical country at the wrong time. It seemed the perfect place to build a life, a community, home, and family, but I recognized at the time that I wasn’t quite ready to do those things. I had more exploring and adventuring to do. But I thought that it wouldn’t be bad to end up back there when the time was right.

Walks in Keokea remind me that in a sense I did find my right place to build a life when I was ready, and it shares some of the same attributes that seemed so ideal about New Zealand: peace, beauty, simplicity, proud Polynesian culture that values the land, community, unity.

Recently world renowned traveling chef and pop anthropologist Anthony Bourdain added Hawaii to his list of subjects. The episode aired a few nights ago, and I was eager to see his take of this place that I’ve come to consider home. His work only permits a relatively superficial visit. Would he do it justice? Would he get to the heart of what makes this place special?

Currently there’s a blockbuster out called Aloha that’s come under fire for all kinds of insensitivities to the local culture. The entire cast are haole and Emma Stone was cast as the one multicultural character (Asian/Hawaiian, umm…). Not to mention, the word “aloha” itself has a near sacred meaning in the Hawaiian culture. So, considering Bourdain’s work is a one-hour cable show, I’ve got to say, some mispronunciations notwithstanding, he really impressed me.

In general, I love how Bourdain mixes local food, snippets of history, and good conversations with interesting ambassadors to get to know a place. Overall, he seems like a respectful visitor, staying open-minded as he lets his guides show him a place. He did just that here in Hawaii. He spoke with the right ambassadors¬†and residents of not just bustling Oahu, but isolated, rural Molokai. And predictably, he found his way to authentic food, both simple and luxurious. I enjoyed Bourdain’s work before this visit, but he definitely went up a notch or two in my mind after it.

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