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The Heavenly Delight of Haystacks

Updated on September 20, 2013
Haystacks--A Delicious Study in Simplicity
Haystacks--A Delicious Study in Simplicity | Source
Keali'a on the Island of Kaua'i, ca. 1940's - 1950's
Keali'a on the Island of Kaua'i, ca. 1940's - 1950's | Source
A marker -
Kealia, HI, USA
get directions

Flashback

Circa 1958.

Keali'a, Kaua'i, Territory of Hawai'i, USA.

Three little kids playing in the sandy soil of a sugar cane plantation village. Two boys, ages 6 and 4, dressed in shorts with elastic waistbands and colored T-shirts. A girl toddler, 2 years old, sporting only a pair of cotton panties.

Father is at work in the cane fields. Mother, a few months pregnant, is washing clothes, looking out the window every now and then to check on the children.

I am the older and larger boy. Scratching my crew cut hair and wiping the sweat of my forehead with the back of my right hand, I squint in the zenith noon sun as I look at my squad.

"Okay, Sahgent!" I address my brother. "We going camp heah tonight."

"Why? What fo'? I no like da way you boss us around."

We speak in the only language we know--pidgin English. But no matter what our chosen tongue, the dynamics of older brother and younger brother would still be the same.

"Look, I da Lootenat, and you gotta listen to my orders! Nurse?"

Little sister looks up at me with big brown eyes. "Yeah?"

"What we goin' eat tonight?"

"Someting real ono!"

Little sister runs as fast as her chubby brown legs can go, stops at the simply built fence and pulls at the paper plate supply she's previously stuck between the lats.

Returning, she hands each of us brothers a plate.

"Okay, jus' copy me."

Little sister proceeds to place a handful of pebbles onto her plate.

My brother and I look quizzically at each other.

Little sister looks at us for just a second and then plops down on the dirt. "Look...watch me," she says.

My brother and I think the world of little sister, so we start to go through the motions. We quickly fill our plates with the tiny rocks. By this time, little sister is slowly sprinkling sand over the rocks.

"Ony lidda bit," she tells us.

We boys follow suit.

"Okay, now we need dis kine stuff." She's pulling grass and tossing it onto her plate.

By this time, my brother is starting to really get into the swing of things. He's done some quick scavenging behind the old rundown garage where the weeds and bushes have taken over an old garden patch. He's got all kinds of twigs and leaves and even a couple of chicken feathers.

Not wanting to be outdone, I strip a low hanging leaf off of a papaya plant, scrounge up two croton leaves that have fallen to the ground, and pick some tiny round berries from a plant growing wild.

A dead toad, its body flattened by someone's tire, the guts still oozing out of its mouth, catches my attention for a second. Aw, shucks! I don't want to scare my little sister, so I pass on the opportunity.

Our plates are beginning to fill up with stuff.

"Okay," little sister says after surveying our enthusiastic efforts. "Now we goin' put some Fren dressing all over."

With that, she runs over to her baby bottle, filled with water, and begins squeezing and shaking it over her garden salad of pebbles, dirt, grass, marbles, an old doll's head, and dandelions.

Gerald tries to grab the bottle from her. She swivels her body in the universal mine, not yours! gesture, shielding the bottle from his grasp. "No! Go fin' yo' own!"

"Hey, Gerald, we can use this!" I fill an old Coke bottle with water from the yard hose and offer it to him. He wets his plate lunch down and passes the bottle back to me. I make a few passes with the inverted bottle over my plate.

Little sister takes a deep breath and sighs. "Okay...now we goin' pray." She bows her head and closes her eyes. My brother and I grin at each other, knowing what comes next.

Sure enough, little sister raises her head slowly and winces in an effort to see what we're doing without completely opening her eyes. I pat her on the head and say, "Okay, let's pray. God is great, God is good. God, we thank you for this food. Amen."

Before my brother and I can stop her, little sister jams a fistful of grass and leaves into her mouth and starts munching away.

"No, Nana, no! Stop that!" I gently squeeze her cheeks with one hand while frantically trying to pull the debris out of her mouth. Meanwhile, she's trying to pull away from me. Little brother is yelling at me, "'A's yo' fault! If you wasn't so bossy!"

Somehow, we manage to survive another war episode. I get little sister cleaned up, promote my brother to Master Sgt. with the application of an imaginary medal to his chest, and pull them around the yard in my red wagon.

My mom asks me, "Jo-Jo, you guys playing nicely?"

I look up at her and say, "Yeah, but I think Nana's hungry."

We LOVE Haystacks!
We LOVE Haystacks! | Source

Flash Return to the Recent Present

Sorting through my email inbox today, I found a pleasant photo message from my son. In celebration of having completed his graduate thesis as well as having just learned that a fairness review board had ruled in his favor regarding a grades dispute, he put together a simple dish that he'd learned how to make from his mother years ago.

The meal--a vegetarian's delight but surprisingly appealing in both simplicity and taste to meat-eaters as well--is called HAYSTACKS.

Rather than providing you with an organized recipe, I will describe the dish in a general fashion.

The basic ingredients are: corn chips, beans (a can of chile, heated, or beans that have been pre-cooked in a crockpot), lettuce, shredded cheese (usually cheddar but any cheese according to your taste), diced tomatoes, diced onions, salsa, and sour cream. You can add other diced vegetables if you like.

You form the base by making a layer of corn chips (Fritos or tortilla chips) on your plate. Over this foundation, you pour your hot beans. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the hot beans. Over this you liberally adorn the dish with diced tomatoes and onions as well as a few lettuce leaves. Toss your salsa or other hot sauce over the top. The crowning touch is to apply several teaspoons of sour cream evenly over the entire mound of food.

The result is a small hill of food that is surprisingly nutritious and will fill you without being overly abundant in calories.

Simply put, think of it as a huge meatless taco without the shell.

Thirty-one years ago, I was introduced to this meal by my beautiful bride, Rita. If memory serves me well, it was our honeymoon meal.

As the years passed--all too quickly, at that--our young children learned how to prepare this meal on their own. We'd gather around the dinner table, occasionally with guests after church but more often than not on Friday evenings, listening to the latest radio episodes of Adventures in Odyssey, the cares of the secular work week tucked away and our hearts reveling in the joy of being a family.

Simplicity--life at its best.

This photo, then, elicits sweet nostalgia in my heart.

Essentially, it is Ryan trumpeting the progress he has made in his journey.

Ultimately, it is a father's delight at how rites of passage are embedded in even the simplest of things...layer upon layer of down to earth goodness, until, with the eventual wisdom that comes upon each of us with surprising grace and illumination, the only prayer left to our humanly devices is:

As with this meal, so with our lives.

One Variation of Haystacks

I had to call for backup!
I had to call for backup!

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  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @JPSO138

    Yes, when I first got turned on to this dish in the Seventh-day Adventist Community, I thought it was an unusual, almost funny, name as well. But when you literally see how the dish is stacked, it does appear to be what its name implies...kinda like a taco salad without the shell. Very delicious and nutritious. Thanks, my friend, for stopping by. Aloha!

    ~Joe

  • JPSO138 profile image

    JPSO138 3 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

    Funny when I check this out, i thought it was not food by rather haystack literally. You surely know how to catch someones attention. Great hub again my friend.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Jaye, this was such a special reward to me! Wow! Good for you! Isn't it amazing how the simplest of ingredients can taste so good?

    So you make lists, too? Great idea. Overachievers like us need our lists. Imagine how cruel a world that deprived us of tools and supplies to make lists with. If I'm in a situation where I have to make a checklist in my mind, my favorite mnemonic device is to take the first letters of each subject on my list and try to make a word out of it. An alternative would be to take the first letters and come up with words that begin with those letters. I then try to make a sentence out of it. Walking into the grocery store and mumbling, "Monkey For Dessert," might elicit some stares and shaking of heads, but at least I won't forget to pick up mayonnaise, Fuji apples, and Doritos! LOL! Have a great evening and Sunday, Jaye!

    Aloha!

    Joe

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

    I worked hard this morning checking off tasks from my "to do" list, so I rewarded myself for lunch with--you guessed it-- HAYSTACKS! I used drained black beans this time and sprinkled a bit of garlic powder, cayenne and black pepper over the sour cream. I was going to add sliced ripe olives, too, but discovered there were none in the pantry. (Next time...)

    SO delicious!

    Hope you're having a good weekend. I'm about to rest and read for about an hour. I've run out of power and need to recharge...Jaye

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thanks, Jim! Yep, I believe the island deejays will never lose their segues into pidgin every now and then. My son used to be one of the top deejays on O'ahu in his twenties, and when I was finally able to hear his radio voice, I was shocked that I couldn't recognize him as the source of that VOICE. He's moved on to new ventures, but I think working in the entertainment/communications field will always be a major passion with him.

    Have a super week, Jim! Looks like you have quite the beginning already! : )

  • xstatic profile image

    Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

    This is a beautiful family story with universal appeal. It also made me hungry at 10:30 AM.

    On my only visit to Oahu, I really enjoyed the local radio DJs, seemed to be all women doing their intros of records in pidgin English. I wonder if they still do that some fifteen years later now.

    Great hub, Joe!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thanks, Peg. Based on a true story of our mud pies and Army childhood games. Same dynamics, too...I smile with bittersweet nostalgia as I remember those days...and yet am cognizant of how quickly the time flew by. Aloha, and thank you so much for sharing your presence and your kind thoughts with me, Peg.

    Joe

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

    I like this version of Nachoes without the meat and your story was very entertaining. Loved the dialogue.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thanks, Mary! I respect you and your opinion so much. The same with billybuc. I just need to go dip in the good ol' Pacific! I sure miss her. It's sweltering hot over here. How are things in Tillson? You sure have a young soul, you know that? Thanks for making my cup overflow this morning. Gotta run to the storage and pick up a cool Arizona mug I just sold. Maybe I'll write about how I turned 10 cents into $20! Man, wish that could happen here on HP! Ha-ha! Thanks again, Mary--you're the righteous best! Aloha!

    Joe

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

    Oh Joe, never, EVER, throw in the towel. You are one of the most talented writers on HP or anywhere else for that matter. This hub is living proof! You start with a beautiful adventure from your childhood and end with a recipe everyone can enjoy.

    Your talent and sense of humor and family is unparalleled.

    Now, listen up Sahgent, I only gonna say dis one time....you're the best!

    You gave the 30/30 hell with some really good hubs we all enjoyed! Us old folks have to stick together, we got lots to tell.

    Voted this one all the way across!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you. HP flagged one of the hubs I tweaked from an old blog post as duplicate content. When I questioned them about it, they sent me a link. It's some guy writing for Zimbio who took my post without my permission. Now HP is giving me the warning and insinuating plagiarism. I tell you, Karen, I only need one more straw, and I'm outa here! This ain't worth it!

  • Karen Hellier profile image

    Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

    Joe,

    I just found a 2nd hand edition of Writer's Market, 2012 for $4 at a second hand bookstore! You can bet I was pleased as punch!!! It is selling for $19.99 plus shipping at Amazon and I didn't want to pay that much for it. Good luck and congrats on your hubs for this month!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    I may just do that, dear Karen. Right now, I'm trying to find the cheapest place to buy a Writer's Market 2013. Looking at both eBay and Amazon. It's about time I started listening to Bill's advice. Glad it's finally June 30th! Now that I've raised the white flag, that is! Ha-ha!

  • Karen Hellier profile image

    Karen Hellier 4 years ago from Georgia

    Yummy. It looks delicious and I love the story about you and your siblings. The conversation the 3 of you had was hilarious. You are a good writer Joe...don't you forget it. Why don't you write a book about your adventures growing up in Hawaii? I'm sure a lot of people could relate and find it quite entertaining! You're doing great in the challenge!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Oh, Liz, glad you showed up today. I am waving the white flag! But I am through kicking myself. It's actually motivating once I resign myself to the fact that I failed the 30 Hubs Challenge and am now free to put my priorities back into place. I have a lot better idea how to approach this next time around. Anyway, thank you for all your support during this 30-day period. Admittedly, I am very proud of my two sons and daughter. They're great kids and decent human beings.

    So, Liz, whatcha been up to, eBay wise? July had better be a smash mouth coming out party, I tell you! I told Rita today that I am committing to listing at least ten things each day. Hubbing has really taken up my time, and today I asked myself, WHY? My potential for earning is way better on eBay, and I've ignored IT while wooing Hubsville. Nope, I'm turning things around. Details may be forthcoming in yet unwritten hubs. But the rough draft is already percolating on the front burner. : ) Anyway, let me know of anything exciting, eBay-wise, and I'll do the same! Keep your eyes peeled for mortar and pestles--vintage wooden, marble, or whatever. They return a modest profit. Are glass juice strainers doing well? Gotta have lunch! TTYL!

    Joe

  • Radcliff profile image

    Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

    What an awesome memory of your family. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    You must be very proud of that boy of yours. Looks like he's a lot of fun (but how could he *not* be?)!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    You know, Jaye, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, the kind of thinking a man or woman does just before something exciting takes place. Your feedback only reinforces the thought process I'm experiencing lately. You just never know...Even in the "failure" of a challenge, things leading to a different kind of success may be afoot. Stay tuned, same HO time, same HO channel! Aloha, my Blue Jaye of Happiness!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Yay, Pearl, I'm so happy to hear you're gonna have haystacks! (The adult version, right?) Ha-ha! Mud pies were a common sight when we were growing up. Also, underneath the old plantation shack of a house, if one dug deeper than a foot or so, the soil turned from a drab gray to a golden color, probably more of a sandy content. My brother and I would fill our pails and pretend the stuff was pirate's gold. Seems like only yesterday...(sigh)...have a wonderful rest of your Sunday and a productive week ahead. I appreciate you so much!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Jaye, I received two slightly different messages from you, so I think what has happened is that you may have thought your message was lost because you could see it upon checking my hub site. What happened is that I was on a long walk and didn't get back in time to approve and respond to your first message. It's never visible until I'm able to approve it. Anyway, it doubled my pleasure to get two Jayes in one! Ha-ha!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Very wise words, Jaye, and I am respectfully and gratefully receiving them. I really like how you put that. Helps me to feel better about the resignation process. I want to come away from this experience genuinely feeling like I've grown as a writer, and I really do believe that I gave it my all! Next time around, II will also have the organizational savvy that will help propel me through it. You are such a blessing! How are you coming along with the healing, by the way? Please take care, and I'll talk to you soon. Aloha!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thanks, Bill!

    Are you going to see Man of Steel? Just curious. : )

    Thank you for your kindness, my friend. I've been kicking myself the last 24 hours as I come to the finish line tonight with a concession speech in hand for failing the 30 Hubs Challenge. But, not one to despair for long, I am affirming that I'll get 'er done next time, There were things I could have done differently. And like I've written before, each failure is like a stepping stone towards success. I've been mulling over what you wrote this past week. I've been thinking about Bill D. as well and how I agree with you that he should be writing articles. The way I'm feeling today reminds me of the same way I've felt before something good happens. Like a change is on its way. I am also reminded--again by you--that I need to get a Writer's Market. I'm listening, Bill, I'm seriously listening. I'll keep you posted of any significant events this coming week that have to do with writing. You've put a notion in my head, that's for sure!

    Aloha, Bill, and have fun with Bev!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you, my friend. Well said, and respectfully received. I needed that! I'm so proud of you! Aloha!

    Joe

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

    After re-reading the flashback scene at the beginning of this hub, I can't help but think you should be writing fiction as well as non-fiction prose, Joe. You have an excellent facility with dialogue, and your expository writing makes a scene and its setting come alive for the reader, especially when that setting is your beloved Hawaii. Come on, Joe...write a short story for your HP fans!

    Jaye

  • grandmapearl profile image

    Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

    Joe, I absolutely loved your childhood story. Sort of reminds me of me and my brothers, except I was the eldest. They never did what I told them, though!

    I have the ingredients, so guess what I'm having for dinner tonight?

    ;) Pearl

    Voted Up+++

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Joe...Twenty-one high quality hubs should not be considered "failure" by any measurement. It is better to stop there and prevent undue stress of trying to reach an arbitrary number within a short period of time. Your work toward this goal was worthy and should be considered a victory in itself.

    Jaye

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Hi again, Joe...Twenty-one quality hubs in a month is no small feat, my friend! Better to enjoy the success of those well-written hubs than lose sleep and create stress trying to reach an arbitrary number.

    Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

    Jaye

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    You are a masters storyteller and I am quite jealous of your talent. :)

    Hot day my friend...heading to the movies for a little relaxation and mindless entertainment....then we will sit around and sweat this afternoon. Actually, I have a ton of work I need to do to get ready for next week.

    Wishing you a wonderful day in Walla Walla.

    You really are an exceptional writer.

    Aloha,

    bill

  • wetnosedogs profile image

    wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

    Hawaii,

    I doubt you are exactly throwing in the towel. You have written wonderful hubs for the challenge and that is what counts. You are a success. No matter if you did one or fifteen, twenty or thirty.

    I have one more to go.

    Just don't want you to be so hard on yourself. :)

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, Rajan!

    I just had this dish three nights ago and loved it!

    The photo was lovingly sent from our son to his mother because it was his first attempt at it, and he wanted to get her approval which, of course, meant the world to her. It is a very delicious, nutritious, and inexpensive meal to prepare. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your wonderful comments, Rajan! Aloha!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you, WND, for all of your support.

    I am throwing in the towel. What I take away from this experience, among other things, is where I've gone wrong and how to do it better next time. Even failures are stepping stones to success.

    Blessings and aloha to you! Congratulations for the great work you've done and for successfully conquering this Challenge!

    Joe

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

    Joe, I like the way you preface the delightful Haystack recipe with an incident from your childhood. I believe as kids this has been enacted universally by kids at some point of time in their lives.

    The plate in the picture at the top looks very appealing. Since I prefer veggies to meat, I love it all the more.

    Voted up and interesting, my friend.

    Aloha!

  • wetnosedogs profile image

    wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

    hawaii,

    Sounds like a wonderful dish and I love the name haystacks.

    You have done a great job on each hub you wrote and I am very proud of you. You are nearing the finish line.

    Great going.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you, Jaye!

    I do believe it's time to throw in the towel. Working towards the goal has been the measure of success for me, one that I'll settle for this go-around. I made mistakes, and yet they're valuable stepping stones towards eventually accomplishing this noteworthy challenge. Thank you for your tremendous support through all of this. Aloha, and have a great night's rest!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, Faythe!

    So true, my friend! Easy to prepare, suitable for any time of the year, very nutritious, and inexpensive. Enjoy! Aloha!

    Joe

  • faythef profile image

    Faythe F. 4 years ago from USA

    Mmmm....this looks good.....Put everything on my grocery list..this is great for these hot days..no heating up the kitchen....

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

    What a sweet reminiscence about your childhood play. I recall making "mud pies", which may be a late 1940s Deep South thing that little girls did. It was very messy, and the results did look something like chocolate cupcakes, but they were definitely not edible!

    I've been making Haystacks all my adult life, only I didn't know it by that name. The friend who introduced me to it referred to it only as a "Tex-Mex layered salad." Now, when my great-grands come to visit and I serve it, I can tell them they're eating "Haystacks."

    Voted Up, Useful, Interesting and shared.

    Good luck as you continue working toward your goal.

    Jaye

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hey, Kathryn!

    Thank you so much for your supportive words! Glad you liked this one. I actually had some haystacks a couple of nights ago. Very easy to make and easy on the budget. Have a great Sunday, and I'll talk to you soon! Aloha!

    Joe

  • Kathryn Stratford profile image

    Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

    Joe,

    Okay, that photo to the right of your profile link is NOT you! Haha.

    This was a very sweet story. I enjoyed it. I also like the simple recipe, explained rather than written in pure recipe form. I think I have had something similar to that in the past. Looks delicious!

    Have a wonderful weekend... or maybe I should say have a spectacular Monday, once the challenge is over. You're almost there!

    ~ Kathryn

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you, Natasha. Vegas odds have me at 100 to 1 to finish the Challenge. I certainly am not betting on myself. Like Jimmy Buffet sang in Margueritaville, "It's my own damn fault." : )

    Yes, Natasha, this is a very easy dish to prepare and so tasty. I like to cut up jalapeno peppers on mine.

    Thanks for stopping by! Aloha!

    Joe

  • Natashalh profile image

    Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

    Interesting recipe and a cool way of giving it! My man likes pretty much everything with beans, so I'll have to bring this one up to him. Congrats on completing so many hubs already!