I generally am happiest eating at a hole-in-the-wall over a fancy restaurant, even today, when I can actually afford to eat at nice places once in a while. It wasn’t too long ago for me, though, when meals that cost more than $10 were reserved for special occasions. I’d done other splurges in those days, but a lot of times it just felt like it wasn’t worth the cash: like when I carefully took out $80 from the ATM to order the prix fixe menu at Lotus – it felt kinda cool going past the velvet ropes, but was really an unmemorable meal.
This memory comes from my dirt-poor days living in Honolulu, interning for the Hawaii International Film Festival, when spam and eggs over rice was a typical dinner. The festival’s main venue was the Hawaii Theatre downtown, and right around the corner was the chi-chi Indigo restaurant. It was one night after a film screening, my movie buddy J. and I were just going to meet up with my boyfriend at the Indigo bar, and then go off to grab crappy Chinese. It was November on Oahu, though, and one of those torrential “sky-opening-up” deluge rains started. One drink led to another, the divorcee cougar at the bar had put a tractor-beam lock on my boyfriend (since she thought I was with J. and I amusedly did nothing to save him). Our stomachs were grumbling, so we threw caution to the wind and said let’s just eat here.
I stuck to pupus, and ordered lobster potstickers and mashed potatoes, which were probably still something like $10 each. But oh my god, those potatoes were still the most divine spuds I've ever had. Regular mashed potatoes mixed with mashed sweet potatoes, then topped with homemade potato chips, so the whole concoction was creamy, crunchy, buttery, salty, sweet, all sensations at once. The boys went all out with nice rare steaks, and I was in heaven with my mash.
But more than that, it was the feeling of being young and broke and blowing more money on one night of drinking and eating than you made in a week, but being exactly where you wanted to be and feeling like yeah, this IS good.
(Photo of lovely Makaha Beach on Oahu swiped from cyberrentals.com)