Lovely baskets of fresh produce beautifully stacked would normally be enough to tempt me. I consider the promise of a fresh cup of 100% Kona coffee worth a drive. Amazingly flavorful “red veal” from local ranches (the ground meat made divine burgers) would, one would think, get my ass in the car. The possibility that the bacon made from pigs raised in a mac nut orchard that I tried last year might be back seems like a reasonable inducement. Yet I cannot tell a lie. The A-number-1 reason I headed back to the Waimea farmers market for a second visit on this last trip was for one of Aunt Aggie’s malasadas.
Fried dough is tricky. It can be the thing I can’t stop eating no matter how full I am or the thing that even sharp hunger won’t urge me to eat. It can be crispy and light and flavorful or heavy and greasy and beyond bland.
Aunt Aggie’s malasadas were, obviously, the former.
The malasada, or, rather, the practice of making malasadas, was brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants, mainly from the islands of Madeira and the Azores when the grape-growing got rough in the 19th century. You can call it a doughnut. You can call it a fritter. You can call it a blob of fried dough rolled in sugar, for all I care. It is, after all, a most accurate description. Like its brethren, its deliciousness (or forgetableness) depends on a dough that was allowed some time to rise and develop flavor and texture, fresh oil that hasn’t gone rancid or taken up random ambient odors and smells, a steady oil temperature between 350 and 375 so the dough starts to cook before it has time to soak up oil, but doesn’t brown and burn on the outside before the inside is cooked and light and fluffy, and the prompt and speedy serving and eating of the result.
The people at the Aunt Aggie’s stand at the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market on Saturday mornings are doing all that. They are doing all that with smiles and good cheer.
When complimented they seem surprised. Why wouldn’t malasadas be delicious? And, I guess, when you know how to make them like that, you would think it was no big deal. But I’ve tried others and they can be, like all fried dough that is rushed or left too long, like faintly sweet industrial white bread that’s taken a oil bath.
So a humble gob of fried dough turned me into one of those people that, when gathered in enough quantity, can be the downfall of a farmers market; one of those people who head off to farmers markets to eat instead of to shop, who buy prepared food instead of ingredients. Yet how to think of salad when malasadas are there and you already have a cup of coffee in hand?