I’m lying in bed with a major case of the stomach flu. You name it, I got it…fever, chills, nausea… everything going in is coming out. You get the picture. Ok now erase it from your head, because even though I can’t keep anything down in my tummy, I am saddened by the closing of Kaohu Store. It was bad enough when Ma‘alaea Store closed down, who’s hot dog was quite similar if not the same, but now Kaohu Store? This is my homage to the perfect hot dog.
I’m not a huge fan of processed meat but this goes back to small kid time, when your parents thought that Spam was healthy and basically as long as you were eating, whatever it may be, was good for you. I grew up with Kimberly Tengan (granddaughter of the owner’s of Kaohu Store, which is on Kaohu Street, hence the name “Kaohu Store” just in case you were wondering) and Denise, a good friend across the street of the store. I lived only a few yards away from the store. I would walk across this big iron pipe to the other side of the Wailuku ditch which fronted my house, get on a path towards Iao School, jump a wall and Iao School was at 12:00, Kaohu Store at 3:00. I learned to describe locations through hand positions on a clock from my husband who was trying to help me find our car in the garage. Only problem was the car was at 2:00 not 3:00 thus much frustration and almost a fight. I digress. Back to KS. Ooh that rhymes!
At kindergarten and first grade our weekend playground was the back storage room of Kaohu Store. We would climb towers of cardboard boxes filled with beer and canned goods, hide, play house, fight over who’s boss, typical kid stuff. Not only was it a fun place to hang out but Aunty Misao, Kimberly’s Grandma, would always treat us to a small Icee and the best hot dog ever! For those new to Maui, let me describe the magic behind this classic snack. First of all, the buns and the red hot dogs are steamed. Most purists will order their hot dog with everything. One line of ketchup and one line of…here’s where the magic happens…a genius mixture of mayo, yellow mustard and relish. The combination of the warm red hot dog which is tender but not mushy, gently laid in a pillow of a soft steamed bun, with ketchup and the magic dressing complimenting though not overpowering the basic protein and carb makes for the ultimate hot dog. It’s so good that when your order one, you actually want two. If you order two, you actually want three. And if you order three….
A couple of months ago I stopped by Kaohu Store to pick up a couple of hot dogs for my children, to pass on the tradition but I noticed the shelves weren’t stocked with the normal candies and chips. I asked Aunty Misao if they were closing soon and she wistfully said at the end of the year. Immediately, I thought of all of my childhood memories…making play dough pots and trying to sell them to the tenants upstairs for money to buy a hot dog, racing barefoot down the driveway and the kindness of Aunty Misao. I will miss the perfect hot dog, but more so I will miss the memory of growing up at Kaohu Store.