Some of you may not believe it, but once upon a time, teriyaki sauce was virtually unknown in the non-Asian USofA.  Yes…  back in the Culinary Dark Ages, even Kikkoman was a fairly unheard-of name – except for soya sauce in those shaker bottles in certain Chinese restaurants.

And then Hawai’i became the 50th State.  Exotic Polynesian Hawai’i. In no time at all, little umbrellas were everywhere.

It actually started in the mid-1950s as we were gearing up towards statehood.  While I don’t know what was going on in the rest of the country, California was certainly embracing it.  I remember my Aunt Dolores (of the famous Rum Balls) and Uncle Tommy doing backyard barbecues and having wild and exotic things like grilled chicken brochettes with pineapple chunks and everyone had tall drinks with umbrellas – even the kids – although ours were definitely sans alcohol.  Tiki torches were everywhere, too – and the backyard patio became “The Lanai.”  Pretentious?!?  Of course.

Teriyaki sauce back then was more of a Hawai’ian sauce than Japanese.  Or…  at least that is how I remember it.  Teriyaki sauce was essential for your backyard Luau. And everyone was having backyard Luaus.  It was the thing to do.

Right around the time Hawai’i became a state, I was even in a ukelele group.  (I would love to find a picture of of that!)  Hawai’i was the omnipresent theme.

But theme or no – teriyaki sauce wasn’t something you picked up at the store.  You made it.

Yes.  Made It.  And everyone was trying to outdo their neighbors with their newest or best-tasting creation.

I think this particular recipe came from Aunt Dolores. I can’t be sure of the provenance because there’s no one left to ask, but I did get it from my mother, originally.  Like so many recipes of the time, it was just a few things jotted on a scrap of paper.

Auntie’s Teriyaki Sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • pinch black pepper

Mix all ingredients.  Use for chicken, beef, or pork.

It also has a liberal amount of alcohol in it.  If you’re watching Mad Men, you’ll definitely understand.  It’s just the way things were.

Tonight’s stroll down Memory Lane came about because I wanted grilled pineapple.  I had already taken the steaks out of the freezer and the only way I could tie the steaks together with the pineapple was to make the teriyaki.  Baked sweet potatoes – which should have been fabulous Hawai’ian Purple Sweet Potatoes – finished the plate.  Alas…  the Hawai’ian Purple Sweets are not readily available back here in PA-Burbia…

From steaks to Aunt Dolores and tiki torches to Hawai’i statehood and ukelele groups.  All because of a pineapple.  I even amaze myself sometimes at how I can come up with some of these associations.