By Julie Reiner, USA
“It has been years since I left Hawaii but every time I return home my feelings are bittersweet. Not just because of the beauty of the place or my childhood memories but for what happened to me the night before I left.
“I was sitting on the terrace at home, breathing in the scent of the hibiscus. Suddenly I saw a strange figure on the rocks, illuminated by the light of the full moon: it was a man I had never seen before. He appeared to be fishing but when he cast his net into the ocean it had a strange glow to it, a kind of coloured rainbow.
“I left the house and, barefooted, walked the few dozen metres that separate my home from the sea, heading towards the man. He was battling with something that must have been enormous: his back was almost completely curved and his tense muscles revealed a superhuman strength.
“After a few seconds I realised that, centimetre by centimetre, the man was pulling an entire island out of the ocean. I watched the palm trees emerge from the water and I started to hear the songs of the birds hiding in the vegetation.
“When the island was completely out of the water the man, worn out, collapsed on the sand and fell asleep. Walking on my tiptoes so as not to wake him, I got into the water and swam to the Eden he had just fished out. I walked among the plants and flowers, I sat on the beach and I picked all types of fruit growing among the vegetation. I felt at peace like never before and, in that triumph of colours and fragrances, I fell asleep.
“When I opened my eyes I was in bed, at home. For a moment I thought it had all been a dream but then I realised that I was holding a fragrant red strawberry in my hand. I ran to the window but the sea in front of me was as calm as ever, as far as the eye could see.
“At that moment I realised that that night, a mixture of dreams and reality, was my island's and my childhood’s way of saying goodbye to me. For me that strawberry, still in my hand, was a precious gift.
“I have never forgotten that night and years later, when I began working as a bartender, that strawberry was the inspiration behind my masterpiece, the KULA NEGRONI.”