The year was 2003. I anxiously sat at the airport, wedged between my neurotic-traveler-of-a-mother and my thirteen year old brother bouncing excitedly as we awaiting to board. I watched my father, calmly monitoring the runway for any sign of our plane pulling up. This was going to be our first family vacation in over two years, and we were ready to treat ourselves. My parent’s business had flourished and my dad had just quit his day job to support my mom both at work and at home. My brother was about to start 8th grade [arguably the worst year in one’s educational career], and I was spending my summer taking practice tests to get into college. Although we typically opted for more domestic vacations like road trips to Colorado and extended weekends in New York, our last family trip had been to Cabo San Lucas, so we had gotten used to a more tropical setting for our vacations.
Dad suggested we venture to Hawaii, the best of both worlds. The last time we had gone to Hawaii was when I was three years old, so I was pretty excited to find that we would be heading back to the islands again. This time, we chose Maui, and got a nice little condo in Napili for the week. We had our own private beach where we witnessed baby sea turtle eggs hatch and crawl out to see. Double rainbows were a daily occurrence, and even on the cloudiest day we could lay on the beach and get a tan. Even though it was 10 years ago, I have vivid memories from that trip. The ever-present feeling of the humid ocean air on my skin, trying Escargot for the first time at the famed French restaurant Chez Paul, viewing Haleakela by helicopter [and the distinct feeling of nausea that came with it]. Of all the bits and pieces of Maui I can clearly remember, I have always wanted to recreate a very special breakfast I shared with my Dad.
My Dad is very well traveled, having been to many parts of the world I can only dream of visiting. Whenever we take a trip, he and I like to take a side adventure to somewhere special – just the two of us. We didn’t have time to take the road to Hana while we were in Maui, so we decided to channel our inner Bourdain and go on a food-venture instead. Dad had read up on a place called The Gazebo, that was only a few miles from where we were staying, and known for their Hawaiian Pancakes. So on one of the few sunny mornings, he woke me up early so we could beat the crowds and get back in time to go for a swim at high noon. We had a boat of a rental car, so the drive was slow and scenic, meandering through small coves and large golf courses while most of the island was still asleep. Something about the air in Hawaii makes life move at a much slower pace than California, and I was ok with that. Especially when it was just me and my Pops, cruising to the sound of the ukelele on the radio.
Once we arrived, we didn’t have to wait long before being seated. We ordered upon arrival, and both got a short stack of what would come to be the best pancakes I would ever eat. So good, in fact, that many years later, the mere sight of a macadamia nut would transport me to that sleepy morning. The pancakes were light and fluffy, and filled with pineapple, banana and mac nuts – a true Hawaiian trio. Aside from the cakes themselves, they were served with a coconut whipped cream that put any syrup to shame. The whipped cream was so good, I decided to drop a dollop of it into my coffee and then it was game over. Being 17 years old and an athlete, I could put down a stack of pancakes pretty quickly. But with these, I perfectly balanced each bite and took my time. As we ate, we sat in silence only to be broken by the frequent “WOW” and the breeze rustling through the palm trees.
Fast forward to now.
Bananas and pineapple are always in stock in our home, they are the two fruits I could eat forever and not get sick of. We recently had to pack up and move all of our stuff from our house for a fumigation, and in the process, I found some mac nuts I had used for a recipe a few months ago, along with some pancake mix we had in our baking pantry. I immediately thought of those pancakes and – with the weather forecasted to be a bright and sunny 75 – decided that it would be the perfect time to recreate the breakfast I still dreamt about.
Obviously, the original version was homemade and used a slightly different recipe, however I will say that with only 5 ingredients [pancake mix, pineapple, banana, mac nuts and maple syrup], my modified version still managed to satiate my craving. I invited my friend over for a lazy morning where we proceeded to put down pancakes until we fell asleep on the couch. I have since found the real recipe, and canNOT wait to make them again. Because when you can’t make it to Hawaii, make Hawaii come to you.