Busy senior finds ingredients for a fulfilling retirement


POSTED: Saturday, March 20, 2010

Eighty-one-year-old Richard Mato can't remember the last time he saw a doctor because he was sick; it's been that long. He attributes his good health to keeping busy with a job and activities that he enjoys.

Mato retired from Kuakini Medical Center in 1996, but still works about 20 hours each week as a medical radiographer (formerly known as X-ray technician) for three orthopedic surgeons there. He plays tennis every Sunday morning, jogs six laps around Kanewai Field at the foot of St. Louis Heights a few times a week in bare feet and volunteers for the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.

And he bakes.

No Duncan Hines for this octogenarian. We're talking made-from-scratch goodies that could fill a bakery, including sweet potato muffins, macadamia nut biscotti, lemon meringue pie, brownies, oatmeal cookies, double chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake, chocolate peanut butter crunch cake, orange chiffon cake, bundt cake and chocolate sauerkraut cake that he swears tastes much better than it sounds.

Friends, family and co-workers past and present have all benefited from Mato's expertise with a spatula and mixer. “;People really appreciate home-baked things,”; he said. “;I like to see them enjoy what I make.”;







4 cups flour


8 ounces potatoes, boiled


2 teaspoons salt


1 tablespoon sugar


1/4 ounce rapid-rise yeast


1 tablespoon chopped garlic


1/4 teaspoon black pepper


2 tablespoons olive oil


10 ounces water




        Combine all ingredients and mix on low 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium and mix 5 to 6 minutes or until dough is smooth. Put dough in lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise 1 hour.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Spread dough on well-oiled baking sheet and top with herbs, onions and cheese. Let rise 1 hour. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until evenly brown.


—Mike Nishi, Kapiolani Community College




Mato's mother and one of his aunts baked a lot, which might have sparked his interest. He doesn't remember for sure, but it's been one of his favorite pastimes for 50 years, and he's largely self-taught.

“;The main thing is you have to be organized,”; he said. “;You have to get all the ingredients ready beforehand. I also keep the recipe on the counter to be sure I do everything right. Even then, you can make mistakes if you don't pay attention.”;

From experience, Mato knows even seemingly insignificant oversights can result in less-than-ideal products. For example, he has occasionally forgotten to put an egg in his oatmeal cookie dough.

“;You wouldn't think one missing egg would matter, but it makes a huge difference,”; he said. “;The cookies don't come out flat like they're supposed to and they don't taste as good.”;

Mato is a longtime subscriber to Chocolatier, Cooks Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines, and he watches the 30-minute show “;America's Test Kitchen”; on PBS on Saturday mornings at 4:30 a.m. (he's up at 3 a.m. every day, so the early airtime is no problem). “;It's very interesting because they review baking products, utensils, equipment and ingredients,”; he said. “;They really do their homework and share a lot of good tips.”;

Mato enjoys browsing at the Compleat Kitchen at Kahala Mall and has received many pans, bowls, measuring cups and spoons, and other utensils as gifts. He also has made some wonderful serendipitous finds.

“;When I was a casual employee at Leahi Hospital, I bought a couple of springform pans at their thrift shop for $3 each,”; he said. “;They were in great condition, and I've made really good use of them.”;

Mato invented one of his handiest implements himself. “;We primarily take X-rays with digital equipment now, but we still use film if the doctor requests hard copies of the X-ray. I make cake cutters out of old X-ray film. Planters peanut cans are exactly 4 inches in diameter. I put the film around the can and secure it with Scotch tape. When I lift the can from it, I have the perfect cutter for a 4-inch round cake layer! I also have a commercial metal cutter, but I think the ones I make from film are better.”;

Although baking relaxes Mato, the timing has to be right for him to do it. “;If I'm not in the mood, I don't even start because I know there's going to be a lot of dishes to wash afterward,”; he said.