Peau Book Club, Day-Riverside Branch Library — June 25th, 7 pm
Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Salt Lake City — Aug. 2nd, 6 pm
FanX Fall 2019, Salt Lake City — Sept. 5-7th
Book Academy, UVU Wasatch — Oct. 11th
Presentation: Creating Resonance
20BooksVegas, Las Vegas — Nov. 11-15th
So, you have a story you are writing, and it is set in an exotic setting with foreign cultures, and you’re scratching your head, asking yourself: How do I go about telling my readers about this place or culture that they may not understand or know? The answer is simple: Show, don’t tell.
One of the biggest mistakes that writers do when they write a story based on a foreign setting is telling the reader everything–much of this mistake comes from a legitimate concern: I’m afraid my readers will be lost if I don’t tell them what’s going on. Well, not quite. As writers, we cannot underestimate our readers’ ability to comprehend. Now, that’s if we write clearly, and well enough to not confuse them. Ultimately, it is up to us.
Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club dwells heavily in the traditions and cultures of China, old and new. But not once in the entire book does she tell us any textbook-facts regarding her setting and the traditional practices of her characters. But yet we, as readers, understand every single aspect of the book. At the end of the book, her readers will have lived and experienced life as Chinese in China and America. How does Tan masterfully explain a foreign culture without explaining? Well, she doesn’t. Her characters do what they need to do to move the plot along. They say what they are supposed to say. They wear what they should be appropriately wearing.
By painting her setting with words, Tan’s narrative takes off beautifully without effort. There is no need to explain. Tan merely shows you how Chinese eat, how they talk, what they think, and how they react to things. And before long, we, as readers, will have learned a culture without being explained to.
The same can be said of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings volumes. He does not need to explain a culture to us, he merely shows us how things are done, from Gollum’s speech patterns to the Hobbits’s eating habits. He does not need to explain what elevenses are or the fact that the Hobbits’s calendar starts on a Saturday and ends on a Friday. But readers know this culture as much as they know their own. Why? Because Tolkien describes everything through dialogues and idiosyncrasies.
Perhaps the biggest example of the perfect explaining of cultures without explaining is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Believe it or not, this series is heavy on British culture and traditions, from school regulations to casual conversations. For example, Rowling throws out the word prefects without having to explain what they are. She doesn’t tell you, she shows you.
As writers we should let our readers discover and explore everything themselves. The correct way is to show our readers the world and culture in our books and let them find out for themselves. Give them the opportunity to ask important questions, and let them answer those questions themselves. Don’t worry about explaining everything; focus on telling your story instead, and trust me, your story will be 110% much stronger and powerful if you do.
Christopher Loke, Executive Editor for Jolly Fish Press, has made a splash in the writing world with his powerful and touching novel, The Housekeeper’s Son. This novel explores how far a mother can go for love. The answer? Murder. The Housekeeper’s Son is available as a hardcover and e-book through all major online retailers near you. Follow Chris on Twitter and Facebook for updates on his signings and events.
One Boy, No Water, Book 1 in the Niuhi Shark Saga, will be available in stores and online September 29, 2012. The series is set in Hawaii and tells the story of Zader, an 11 year old boy, and his adventures as he discovers who—and what—he really is. Most of the descriptions of island life in the series are true. However, in some areas Aunty Lehua stretched the truth just a little bit. Here’s the real scoop about Lua.
In One Boy, No Water…
Lua is ancient form of Hawaiian hand-to-hand combat. It was taught in schools by Lua masters who could perform amazing feats of strength and agility.
The real scoop…
Lua is real! Known anciently as Kapu Ku‘ialua, Lua was traditionally taught to young Hawaiian nobles and warriors, both male and female. Lua ‘ai forms focus on breaking and dislocating bones, locking joints, performing nerve strikes, and using various weapons such as shark tooth clubs, spears, and slings. Lua students were also taught to heal using massage and herbal remedies and to use spiritual forces against their enemies.
In ancient times Lua warriors plucked all their hair (girls, too!) and put a thin layer of coconut oil all over their bodies so they could slip out of holds during battle. The word for Lua master,‘ōlohe, literally means hairless.
Kept secret, sacred, and hidden in legends and taught underground since the mid-1800s, Lua is experiencing a cultural re-birth. Like many martial art forms, Lua also embodies a philosophy. It teaches traditional Hawaiian ideas such as remaining pono in all one’s thoughts, actions, and feelings.
Because so much of Lua is still considered sacred and secret and is not shared outside Lua schools, be wary of websites or people claiming to know all about it. For more information about authentic Hawaiian Lua practices, check out this book:
Lua, Art of the Hawaiian Warrior
By Richard Paglinawan, Mitchell Eli, Moses Kalauokalani, and Jerry Walker
Bishop Museum Press, 2005
One Boy, No Water, Book 1 in the Niuhi Shark Saga, will be available in stores and online September 29, 2012. The series is set in Hawaii and tells the story of Zader, an 11 year old boy, and his adventures as he discovers who—and what—he really is. Most of the descriptions of island life in the series are true. However, in some areas Aunty Lehua stretched the truth just a little bit. Here’s the real scoop about Niuhi Sharks.
In One Boy, No Water…
Niuhi sharks are sharks that are aware of themselves as predators and can choose whether or not to bite humans. Niuhi sharks can appear as human.
The real scoop…
The Hawaiian word niuhi simply means big man-eating shark and is often translated as large tiger shark.
There are hundreds of legends, stories, and myths throughout the Pacific about sharks that can turn into humans, humans that can turn into sharks, guardian spirits of ancestors who assume the shape of a shark, and demi-god children born to a human and shark parent. Many of these stories can be found on the Internet.
In ancient Hawaiian legends sharks masquerading as humans had a secret: on their backs was the large, gaping mouth of a real shark! When in human form, shark men would hide their shark mouths under capes made of leaves, feathers, or kapa cloth. Usually shark men were discovered when someone removed the cape.
Since big predatory sharks tend to hunt and travel alone, most Hawaiian shark shape-shifter stories are about a particular individual and not about whole societies of shape-shifting sharks. The Niuhi Shark People of Hohonukai only exist in the novels.
In the Niuhi Shark Saga, Uncle Kahana and Nili-boy recommend wearing ti leaf leis or special tattoos to ward off sharks. While Hawaiian tattoo traditions do include patterns used to honor shark ‘aumakua as well as to identify and protect the wearers in shark infested waters, there really isn’t an anti-shark bite tattoo, and while there are also many traditions about the healing and protective properties of ti leaves, ti leaves and ti leaf leis are not worn to ward off niuhi sharks.
In Hawaii, children are taught that the best way to avoid shark bites is to follow a few simple guidelines:
- Don’t swim with an open wound.
- Don’t swim in harbors or near the mouths of rivers.
- Don’t swim in murky water.
- Don’t swim at dusk, dawn, or at night
- When spearfishing, keep your catch away from your body. Use a long tethering line or get things back in the boat quickly.
- Be aware of your surroundings. If you feel uncomfortable, get out of the water.
- If you see a shark, remain calm. Watch the shark’s body language. Exit the water slowly.
Sometimes people with ravenous appetites, particularly for meat, are called niuhi, so the next time someone says you’re pigging out, say no, you’re really eating like a niuhi shark!
Writing is a reiterative process and creating the cover for a book is no different. The very talented Corey Egbert is the illustrator for the Niuhi Shark Saga and along with myself and the Jolly Fish Press team developed what eventually became the fantastic cover for One Boy, No Water. Surprisingly, our largest creative disagreement was over footwear.
Originally, Zader was going to be portrayed as wearing over-sized old-fashioned hip waders, the kind pineapple pickers used to wear. It’s not as odd as it sounds; it’s actually a plot point in the book. But when we saw the first draft, Christopher Loke, Executive Editor, didn’t like it. He thought it too clunky and wanted something more sleek and modern.
Corey’s next version was what Chris asked for, but I hated it. To my eye it was too girly. After some discussion, we decided to scrap the hip waders and a few other elements in our original design because we felt they were getting in the way of the emotion we wanted a potential reader to feel when he saw the cover.
Excited about the new direction, Chris asked, “What’s on Zader’s feet?”
“Slippahs or bare feet,” I said.
“On a reef?” He looked at me like I was crazy.
“It’s what kids wear,” I said.
“No, not Zader. It’s too dangerous for him to wear that. He wouldn’t do it.”
“He does in one part of the book,” said Kirk Cunningham, Head Publicist for Jolly Fish Press.
“Yeah, he does,” I said. “It’s in the climax.”
“No, it’s not right,” said Chris. “It’s not believable.”
We thought for a minute. I mentally flipped through images, trying to think of the kinds of footwear I’d seen around lava outcrops.
“What about deck shoes?” I asked.
“I LOVE deck shoes,” Chris exclaimed. “You mean the canvas-type shoes?”
“Deck shoes?” Corey asked.
“The kind from places like Landsend and LL Bean. I’ll send you some pictures,” I said.
“It’s deck shoes!” pronounced Chris, and we moved on.
But something about it bugged me and when I saw next draft, I realized why.
In Hawaii, I’ve never seen a local wear deck shoes to the beach or anywhere near water. It’s exclusively a tourist thing. The reason is simple: no matter how carefully you walk around reef, lava rocks, and the ocean, you’re still guaranteed to get your feet wet by either a rogue wave, bigger than expected splash, or unseen tide pool. In Hawaii, deck shoes, even the canvas ones, get ruined if they get ocean water in them—they never really dry out in the humidity and, well, can stink to high heaven if they’re worn again. Since you never, ever wear your shoes in a house in Hawaii (it’s considered very rude) the last thing you want to wear is stinky shoes you’ll have to take off in public.
I’m not sure why so many tourists wear them to the beach–if it’s because tourists get used to seeing these kinds of images in catalogs or because they think these kinds of shoes will protect their feet better or if they just wear shoes more often than locals–but our house was near a blow hole you could access by walking along lava rocks and tide pools and there wasn’t a day we didn’t see a tourist limping back to his car to nurse the blisters he got where the sand and saltwater’d rubbed his feet raw in his deck shoes.
As a local kid, Zader would never wear deck shoes on a reef.
My hunch was confirmed when I showed the latest image to my kids and husband individually. After “wow” then very next thing each of them said was, “What’s he wearing on his feet?”
JFP’s initial response was no, the deck shoes are great. Slippahs or bare feet would not be as elegant, especially with the heel toward the audience. But then the point was raised that one of our goals for the series was to be true to the local Hawaiian culture, even if that was counter-intuitive to the rest of the world. Corey was green-lighted to change it to slippahs.
I knew it was the right decision when I showed the final version of the cover to my Dad, Mr. Aloha himself, who’d never seen any of the other versions. The first thing he said wasn’t wow or that’s amazing or you’re going to sell a bazillion books with that cover. He said, “Oh, good. He’s in slippers.”
“Really, Dad? That’s the first thing you see? Fo’real?”
“The ghost shark thing is cool. Very sci-fi fantasy. It’s just that when you told me it was a reef scene I was a afraid he’d be in god-awful deck shoes or something.”
New press release for One Boy, No Water
OF SHARKS AND MEN
When old Uncle Kahana and his poi dog ‘Ilima find a newborn with a funny birthmark abandoned on a reef in Hawaii, he soon finds out just how special the child is: the boy is allergic to water. One drop on his skin and it’s like water on a white hot skillet; his allergies also make eating anything raw from the sea or rare meat impossible, which is simply absurd for an island dweller. Strangely, the boy’s peculiar allergies lead Uncle Kahana to believe this child is ‘ohana—family—and doesn’t have to work too hard to convince his niece and her family to adopt and give him a name—Alexander Kanoakai Westin, or “Zader” for short.
If only the rest of Zader’s life were so easy!
On the surface, despite his unusual allergies, Zader is an average eleven year old boy with typical challenges of fitting in with his peers, getting into a good prep school, and maintaining his relationship with his surfing crazed brother. In reality, Zader is Niuhi, a shark with the ability to turn into a person. As he matures and begins to adapt to his “allergies” in ways that make it easier to live a normal life, Zader’s world begins to turn upside down—he will not only have to come to terms with who he is, but what he is.
One Boy, No Water, Lehua Parker’s debut novel, is the first exciting installment in The Niuhi Shark Saga and is set to release September 29, 2012. Utilizing both Pidgin and English in her narrative, Parker accurately paints the vibrant culture and lifestyle of Hawaii, transporting her reader to the heart of the island where legend and tradition is as much a part of life as eating and drinking.
Parker, aka “Aunty Lehua,” is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. As an advocate of Hawaiian culture and literature, her writings often feature her island heritage and the unique Hawaiian Pidgin. So far, Parker has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, an author, a web designer, a mother, and a wife. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, five cats, two dogs, seven horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy winters she dreams about the beach.
One Boy, No Water is illustrated by award-winning illustrator, Corey Egbert.
For more details on One Boy, No Water, or to review the novel, please contact Kirk Cunningham at email@example.com.
Click here to visit the official site.
Title: One Boy, No Water
Author: Lehua Parker
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press, LLC
Trim: 5.5 in. x 8.5 in.
Format: Hardcover, Trade Paperback
(HC) ISBN-13: 978-0-9848801-2-6
(TPB) ISBN-13: 978-0-9848801-7-1
(E-Book) ISBN-13: 978-0-9848801-8-8
Genre: Middle-Grade, Young Adult
Region: US, CAN, UK, AU
Publication Date: September 29, 2012
This book opens with a recurring fantasy of mine. A matronly woman comes to the door wanting to cook and clean for the family. All she wants in return is a place to stay and a little petty cash. Not only is she willing and able, she’s fantastic at all things domestic, her attention to detail exquisite, her emotional radar attuned to the slightest nuance of every member of the family.
The biggest drawback? She’s a murder, of course. But that was 42 years ago. Have you tasted her apple pie? Seriously, the whole murder thing seems so passé in comparison.
Meet Eleanor Ethel Rose, a complex women of simple tastes and pleasures and epic doses of motherly love. In Christopher Loke’s debut novel, The Housekeeper’s Son, we meet Eleanor and slowly strip away the layers of her story, much like peeling an apple and removing the flesh to make a pie. Eventually you’re left with the once hidden core of motives and facts lying naked on the cutting board, revealing ideas and planting seeds that challenge the reader’s understanding of what it means to be a good mother—and son. There’s no O. Henryish gimmick in the twist; the whole apple is there from the beginning. The reveal is a matter of what’s not said as much as what is—but to tell more would only spoil it. If you like mysteries and thrillers, you’re sure to find it entertaining.
Set in rural Utah, The Housekeeper’s Son, touches on but doesn’t fully explore some of the hot button issues in modern LDS culture/Mormonism today: homosexuality, child abuse, incest, neglect, depression, and, of course, murder. It’s an adult book with adult themes handled in oblique, non-graphic ways. While I enjoyed it thoroughly, I want to stress that it’s not for middle grade readers of One Boy, No Water or The Niuhi Shark Saga.
After reading The Housekeeper’s Son and then wandering through my kitchen filled with dusty light fixtures and uninspired ingredients, I still think I’d hire Eleanor Ethel Rose. After all, as the saying goes: if good friends bail you out of jail, but great friends help bury the body, then Eleanor’s in a class of her own.
The Housekeeper’s Son, written by Christopher Loke and published by Jolly Fish Press is available in hardback and eBook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other purveyors of fine literature.
Chris’s blog can be found at: A Writer’s Notebook, http://www.chrislokenotes.blogspot.com/
For more information about Jolly Fish Press and its titles, please visit: http://www.jollyfishpress.com/
I was going through the drive-through in a place about as far away from the ocean as you can get when the voice through the speaker asked if I wanted it large-sized. I must have heard that question over a thousand times in my nefarious career as a drive-through junkie, but something about this time brought tingles of salt in sunburned creases and that special parchedness in the back of the throat that comes from a day spent body surfing at Bellows or Sherwood Forrest beaches on Oahu.
“So what part of Hawaii are you from?” I asked when I got to the window. She was young, barely out of high school, and by her expression you’d have thought I’d pulled a rabbit out of a hat.
“Uh, Honolulu,” she said, giving me the eye.
More like Papakoleʻa or Nanakule, I thought. But I understood. Honolulu’s easier.
She handed me my large drink. “How did you know?”
“Just something you said reminded me of home.”
She tilted her head, thinking back. Before we could speak more, there were other cars and customers, and the moment passed like so many random encounters do.
As the golden arches receded in the rearview mirror, the cold sweetness leapt from the straw to the back of my throat, cooling and soothing just like it used to after a day at the beach in Waimanalo. For a moment I was eighteen again, driving my old Camaro past the ironwood trees, windows down and damp towels on the seats, singing along to Kalapana on the radio while my sister dug through the glove box scrounging change so we could hit a drive-through and grab a soda for the long drive home around Makapuʻu Point. As I sipped, I could almost smell the ocean and taste the salt on the wind.
Pretty cool trick for a buck twenty-five paper cup of ice, sugar, and fizz.
We were in a big wholesale to the public store, you know, the kind with the cement floors and warehouse chic décor that sells everything from light bulbs to canapés in convenient packs of 60, when my son lugged over a 20 pound bag labeled Assorted Asian Rice Crackers.
“Hey, Mom! Didn’t you buy something like this the last time we were in Hawaii?”
I looked at the product through the bag. It was a little anemic to my eye. There weren’t very many squares stained a rich, dark shoyu brown or covered with black strips of nori. The fiery red chili pepper crescents were missing from the mix and so were the iso peanuts. There were a few with sesame seeds, and something that looked like wasabi peanuts, but later turned out to be rice puffs with a little wasabi seasoning, not anything like the blow your socks off and clear your sinuses for a week snacks I ate as a kid. There was also a disturbing number of almonds and plain peanuts in the mix and something about low sodium on the label.
Back when there was a crack seed store in every town in Hawaii, rice crackers came in a dazzling variety of textures, flavors, and crunch. There was an art to mixing them, each variety hand-selected and scooped measure by measure from large glass jars into paper sacks and weighed, combining sweet, salty, spicy, nutty, and crunchy into the perfect snack blend. We called it arare, kakimochi, or mochi crunch and packed it in school lunches, on summer fun excursions, and best of all, snuck it into movie theaters to mix in the popcorn tub with M&Ms or Milk Duds. Dipping your hand in the bucket while the movie played was a treasure hunt, the flavor combinations bold and unforgettable and often more entertaining than the movie, especially if someone’s handful had too many chili pepper crescents or wasabi peas and the straw was sucking more air than soda.
I looked at the bag of watered-down, Americanized snacks and smiled. “Toss it in the cart,” I said. “I think I saw a 90 pack of microwave popcorn next to a 10 pound bag of M&Ms on aisle 7.”
It’s easy for me to define my stance on the whole plastic coconut bra, cellophane grass shirts, and Aaaaloooooooohaaaa image of Hawaii sold by Hollywood and travel companies. It’s fantasy, escapism, romanticism—the equivalent of a bodice-ripper romance novel or cotton candy, a vacation from reality, not a reflection of it.
Living on the mainland (what people from Hawaii call the continental USA), I’ve endured the annual Hawaiian Days celebrations at our local grocery and burger joints, smiling a little too brightly as others gushed over what I knew to be paper flowers from South America and tiki-type masks from Africa and grooving to Caribbean reggae and Brazilian sambas. I’ve eaten platefuls of chicken bbq’d with pineapple and shoyu, worn plastic leis, and even taught a few basic hula moves at neighborhood luaus. Once for a friend’s daughter’s birthday party, I even busted out my ukulele and sang hapa-haole songs and taught little girls how to wear sarongs Hawaiian style.
I try to remember the point is to have fun, not an anthropology lesson. Bandanas, cowboy hats, and baked beans do not make something authentically western any more than pineapple on anything makes it Hawaiian.
I wasn’t always this way. Prickly in the way people are when they feel different from those around them, when they’re a little homesick and tired of living in a foreign environment, I once snapped at a little girl who breathlessly told me her favorite food was Hawaiian Haystacks—to my mind a truly vile layered concoction of chicken soup, shredded chicken, long grain rice, cheese, canned pineapple chunks, slivered almonds, shredded coconut, canned chow mein noodles, chopped green peppers, onions, tomatoes, celery—you get the idea. “There’s nothing Hawaiian about Hawaiian Haystacks,” I snarled, popping her balloon as surely as if I’d had a pin.
I regret that now. I know she was just trying to connect with me, a cranky adult who’d been unhappily and unwillingly pressured by other adults in ways too complicated to explain into making a presentation to a group of kids about Hawaii. She was earnest and sincere and I should have remembered my manners.
The last time I was in Hawaii I went as a teacher with privileged 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from the mainland in tow. On our last day we stopped at Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau on the Big Island, what the visitor’s bureau used to call the City of Refuge when I was their age. After a lecture, I let the students wander and found myself standing outside a grass hale, listening to a cultural demonstrator talk story with a tour bus driver as he put the finishing touches on a feather cape. Even though I looked as local as zinc oxide on a sunburn, when it became apparent I understood all the pidgin and Hawaiian, I was warmly welcomed into the conversation, and I learned so much.
He said it takes him about two years to finish a half cape, not counting all the work and time he puts into researching. He and the other cultural demonstrators spent a lot of time trying to rediscover how ancient Hawaiians made things as simple as twine, as glue, as tools. It was the common everyday things that were the hardest because at one time everyone knew how to make them until suddenly they didn’t. As our conversation ranged from origin stories to metal working to pan-pacific cultures, he said something I don’t think I will ever forget. He said that Hawaiians decided long ago that in order to preserve their culture, they would have to share it; teach everybody who wanted to learn, especially now when there is a revival of Hawaiian culture and pride in the islands and generations of people who feel Hawaiian in spirit, if not blood.
Which brings me to the real reason I started this ramble: Paul Theroux’s Quest to Define Hawaii, an article published in The Smithsonian and on Smithsonian.com. There is much in this article to raise any local islander’s hackles, let alone a Hawaiian’s, and I won’t go into it all of it here.
Theroux’s a travel writer who has owned property in Hawaii for years and felt rebuffed in his attempts to learn about Hawaiian culture for his articles. He makes some startling assumptions and truly clueless blunders as he goes about trying to gather his information, mainly in his arrogant belief that because he, a big-shot credentialed writer asked politely, ethnic Hawaiians should’ve been overjoyed to tell him the most personal and sacred parts of their lives. His article focuses on how unhelpful people were, and he spins a bunch of shibai about what he believes the reasons are for this, reasons that he and other newbies to Hawaii have quickly clamored define the real Hawaii.
Talk about wop’yo’jaws arrogance. It would’ve been hilarious, something I rolled my eyes over and ignored except The Smithsonian published it, giving it a scholarly whiff it doesn’t deserve.
Here’s the real deal: Yes, ethnic Hawaiians can be prickly when it comes to our culture. After dealing with decades of Hollywood and the travel industry’s spin, of years of waitresses hustling to bring tourists umbrella drinks and listening as they pontificate about how laid back and easy it is in Hawaii, blissfully unaware that their waitress probably holds two or more jobs to make ends meet, of entrepreneurs spinning fantasies about our way of life, our language, our history—we get a little wary and not a little pissed when someone’s nose pokes into our business not out of a desire to learn, to understand, to connect, but to make a buck. Through the article it appears that Theroux’s main attempts to integrate or understand local culture was solely in conjunction with his work as a writer, not as a neighbor, regardless of how long he’s owned property in Hawaii.
And that’s the crux: in Hawaiian culture humility and a willingness to listen before you speak, to share without expectation of quid pro quo is paramount. Anything that smacks of entitlement or arrogance or of wanting to use knowledge freely given to make money is going to end badly.
I’m considering sending Paul Theroux, world renown travel writer and Hawaiian property owner, the Hawaiian Haystacks recipe. It’s as close to real Hawaiian culture as he’s going to get.
As a kid growing up in Hawaii, it was a big deal to go to the crack seed store. We’d scrounge a few pennies, nickels, and dimes from under the couch cushions, the ashtrays in the car, and the top of Dad’s dresser and beg for rides into town. Crack seed is what we called any kind of dried, pickled, or preserved fruit. We loved it better than candy.
Brought to Hawaii by thrifty Cantonese immigrants who worked on pineapple and sugar plantations, most crack seed was originally made from fruit scraps. Peels like lemon or mango or the pits of fruit like apricots or plums with just a scrap of deliciousness clinging to them were seasoned and preserved. First fished out of jars and later plastic packets, the flavors burst in your mouth: li hing mui, lemon peel, rock salt plum, dried mango, candied shredded ginger—salty, tart, spicy, sweet, wet, or dry. Every shop and family had their own secret recipes and flavors, and unlike candy, a little crack seed went a long way. A single lemon peel would last days because you ripped it into pinkie-nail-sized pieces and kept it in your mouth forever—the best thing for a sore throat.
When I was a kid the Yick Lung crack seed brand was king. We’d even tell jokes about it: Did you hear what Yick Lung’s class voted him? Most likely to suck-seed. (Hilarious when you’re 10, trust me.) Just watching the ads for it on Checkers and Pogo, Hawaii’s afterschool version of Captain Kangaroo, would make my mouth water. My hands-down favorite was rock salt plum. Every Christmas I’d find a bag in the toe of my stocking that I would hoard through January, savoring each piece, sucking all the goodness from each one until only a flavorless pit was left. It was the perfect book-reading snack.
Sadly, Yick Lung, a family-owned business started in the early 1900s, filed for bankruptcy in the mid-1990s, and while other crack seed and Hawaiian snack brands quickly filled the void, they aren’t the same. Disappointed, but undaunted, I’m still sampling them all, trying to replicate that wet, sweet, salty memory from the bottom of a Christmas stocking.