Back in April of '02, Island Scene published a narrative of mine in their "I Remember When" segment. Here is a revised version:
One morning my mom brought down the old deep fryer, and I knew within a few hours the house would be filled with the warm, yeasty aroma of hot malasadas. It would take all day to make these Portuguese doughnuts, but it would be worth the wait.
As she kneaded the dough, the familiar stories about Vovo began to roll. Vovo, meaning “Grandmother” in Portuguese, raised fourteen children on Ohai lane in the Pauoa valley of Honolulu. Times were rough in the ‘30’s, so when she made malasadas it was a big deal.
My mom spooned each drop of dough into the crackling hot oil, telling me how her brothers and sisters would anxiously watch the malasadas transform into various shapes. I listened as I watched the sizzling dough twitch and contort in the oil, trying to imagine which auntie or uncle would claim which of the randomly shaped animals.
Auntie Kiki’s three-footed pig ... Uncle Malin’s pregnant chicken ... Uncle Ben’s plump, bobbing seahorse ...
“Vovo, she’s one one saint, you know,” my mom said with her deep, raspy voice. “Raising all us kids and nevah complaining. She took us all Blessed Sacrament Church up Pauoa road every Sunday, and every day she wen’ pray laddat. Cuz you know, hahd times for her and Papa. Aye, all da beatings!”
“Mom, can I do the glazing this time?”
“Here,” she handed me a pair of metal tongs. “Careful yeah, da buggah’s hot.”
One by one, I dipped the golden creatures into the hot sugar glaze and lined them up on a paper towel. My mom pulled her apron up to her face to wipe her eyes.
“Sweat,” she said.
Tears, I thought.
At sunset, we sat out in our California back yard by the pool with some cold milk and devoured the hot malasadas.
“Mom, look, a two-headed turkey.”
“Aye, da cute. Eh, look mine. It’s one naked sheep.” I busted out a laugh so hard the milk sprayed from my mouth. We laughed and ate and laughed some more. Closing my eyes, I saw Vovo there on Ohai lane, gathering up her flock and heading for church.