Archive for the 'Kiwi culture' Category
The New Zealand Geographic Board, Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (NZGB) is currently undertaking a consultation process to decide whether to formalise the names North Island and Te Ika-a-Māui (meaning the fish of Māui) and the South Island and Te Waipounamu (meaning greenstone waters). The names, if accepted, could be used individually or together. Our great Te Ara design team has done a mock up that shows what the names might look like together.
Renaming is often a tricky thing, with particularly contentious name changes in the past being Taranaki/Mt Egmont and more recently Wanganui/Whanganui. However, the recent announcement sparked less outrage than parody, largely on Twitter.
A large number of alternate suggestions for the North and South islands have appeared, which largely play on Kiwi culture, and my favourites are:
- Fush and Chups
- Yeah and Nah
- Fish and Ship (nice take on the Māori names)
- Ken and Ken
- Bach and Crib
- Big Ted and Little Ted
- Mostly Cows and Mostly Sheep
- Ka and Pai
- Tahi and Rua.
I’ve previously talked about historical names for the North and South islands on this blog. Additionally, the NZGB has noted other historical names, both Māori and English, for the North and South Islands in its useful FAQ.
I suspect that when the board makes its final recommendation, followed by a decision from the Minister for Land Information, that it will pass through with a minimum of fuss, save a brief reinvigoration of the hunt to find better alternate names on the #NZislands hashtag.
If so, then enjoy the fare we serve up with our four latest stories. To enjoy the whole feast follow the sequence – from Food to Cooking to Eating, and then, if you are lucky, to eating outside at Picnics and barbecues.
Together the stories tell a rich account of the diverse rituals and tastes which have graced our national table. The extent of change is striking.
Take the first entry on Food: Māori, the first people to inhabit these lands, largely lived off the bush and the sea. Birds, fish and fern root were their staple diet. Kūmara was really their only important introduced food. The British settlers, however, turned their backs on bush and sea. Instead they transformed the land into an English farm which might produce the foods they had enjoyed, or rather aspired to, at home – mutton and beef (three times a day was the proud colonial claim) accompanied by traditional veggies such as cabbage, carrots and onions. Fish was regarded as poor man’s food; crayfish, so the entry tells us, was considered good only for drunkards.
Then after the Second World War things changed. Overseas travel, television cooking shows, an urban culture and immigrants from different societies brought about a revolution. New Zealanders began to realise that they were an island where fish were bountiful and of good quality; and that their climate was more Mediterranean than North Sea. They began to grow and eat eggplant, capsicums, zucchini and avocados. Asian migrants introduced tastes for bok choy and lemongrass. White bread was replaced with grainy brown.
Cooking also saw dramatic change over time, affected in the first instance by technology. For both Māori and early Pākehā, most food was cooked outside – in a hāngī or over an open fire. The introduction of Shacklock’s coal range in the 1870s was a revolution which made possible the famous scones and baking that expressed the culinary creativity of the colonial housewife. Gas stoves and then electrical ones added to the baking repertoire and facilitated New Zealand’s (Australians please note!) invention of pavlova in the 1920s. But cooking of meats and vegetables showed little refinement up to the 1970s. In 1953, so the Cooking entry tells us, Eric Linklater described the way New Zealanders treated their famous hogget: it ‘appeared to have been killed by a bomb and the fragments of its carcase incinerated in the resulting fire.’ But if Linklater were to return half a century later he would not recognise the ingenuity and energy that New Zealanders, both men and women, spend on creating culinary masterpieces as they aspire to become television masterchefs.
Eating too has seen significant change. The midday meal, which until the 1940s was the big feed of the day, has fallen out of favour, including the big Sunday roast lunch. Eating out and takeaways have become far more common. Picnics remain an important ritual for New Zealanders, but they are no longer the huge community occasions that they were up to the 1930s. Now they more often happen as part of a family outing. Barbecues, complete with huge metal gas-fired equipment, are a more recent development.
What has not changed is the centrality of food and the rituals of its consumption to patterns of hospitality and celebration. From the Māori hākari or feast, to the birthday or Christmas dinner, New Zealanders have always enjoyed breaking bread with their fellow human beings. So fill your glasses and enjoy the feast of the four new entries which we lay before you. Cheers!
In New Zealand the event is celebrated perhaps most notably by the Storylines Trust, which holds Margaret Mahy Day annually on the Saturday closest to International Children’s Book Day. This time there will also be extra local children’s-literature excitement over the coming week, as the finalists in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards are announced tomorrow.
It’s also worth acknowledging a longstanding New Zealand publication that has given much to the thriving children’s literature scene in New Zealand, as well as to our wider culture. For more than 100 years the School Journal has nurtured this country’s writers and illustrators, many of whom have gone on to become prominent in children’s, and adult’s, literature.
New writers and illustrators have routinely embarked on their careers knowing that this was one publication to which they could always submit their work, even if other avenues were closed to beginners. However, the School Journal was never just a place to get published. It was a unique institution where you could become known and valued as one of a large, vibrant stable of freelance contributors – and where you could form relationships with generous editors who would offer helpful critiques and encouragement for next time, even while gently rejecting your current offering.
The School Journal has been the foundation of the country’s growing and flourishing children’s literature scene: a nursery for emerging writers and artists, but also a familiar and reliable port-of-call for the more seasoned.
Te Ara features work from, or biographies of, numerous New Zealanders for whom the School Journal has been a springboard, including:
- Alison Drummond
- Dick Frizzell
- Dylan Horrocks
- Mervyn Taylor
- Louis Johnson
- Murray Ball
- Janet Frame
- Patricia Grace
- Rita Angus
- Robin White
- Robyn Kahukiwa
- Russell Clark
- Tom Scott
- Witi Ihimaera.
There are also hundreds more, including Margaret Mahy herself, who have gone on to contribute immeasurably to the cultural life of this country.
Last night I noticed that the glow of the almost full moon had been joined by the glow from the large illuminated cross attached to the Mt Victoria radio mast, so there must be a Christian festival approaching soon. Given that the supermarkets are pumping out the smell of spiced buns rather than mince pies and their shelves are bestrewn with glittery glowing eggs, chickens and bunnies, I’m picking it’s Easter.
The commemoration of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection has been observed in New Zealand since the mid-1800s. In the northern hemisphere, it had been grafted onto pre-Christian traditions of celebrating the arrival of spring (or so I was always told), which doesn’t work so well on this side of the globe. If you’re not a winter lover, then you too might feel that actually what we need is a funereal celebration to get us in the right mood for the cold and dark to come.
However, it’s always a holiday! For most people. And there are the traditional things to eat and do. Mostly eat - hot cross buns and chocolate and more chocolate and even more chocolate. The range of Easter eggs available in the shops has hugely increased over my lifetime, but one that is now missing is New Zealand-made Cadbury crème eggs. I remember when they hit the shops in the 1980s - having a dribbly, gooey, unbelievable sweet filling was so different from either the hollow or marshmallow filled ones that had been standard before that (at least in our house). Apparently (and sadly) Cadburys no longer make them in their Dunedin factory - they stopped in 2009, and the crème eggs you now see are imported from the UK. Not everyone was happy about this, with some people complaining that the British eggs weren’t as good and a couple of Facebook campaigns were started up to try and reverse the decision (without any success so far).
Other egg-related traditions - nothing like a good Easter egg treasure hunt. I remember with great fondness a family friend who probably did the best Easter egg treasure hunts ever. They roamed over acres of land, and one year I remember it involved catching the donkey to get the next clue, or possibly an egg? Thinking back, it must have been a clue, as that donkey would have eaten anything remotely egg-like put in front of it, behind it or on top of it, tinfoil or not.
So hot cross buns, eggs, hens and rabbits. The symbolism of hot cross buns seems straightforward enough, and eggs - resurrection/rebirth/birth - there’s a link there, and from there to chickens - ok the endless question of who came first the chicken or the egg, similarly there’s a logic that I can see, but rabbits?
According to some, rabbits are the symbolic remnants of a festival held to honour Eostre, a northern goddess whose symbol was the hare (or rabbit). Others have suggested that rabbits are seen as a sign of fertility, (hence the phrase “breeding like rabbits”) and that is why they are associated with spring and therefore Easter. However, I got frightened off looking into this further by the number of intense (and frankly scary) debates out there in webland as to whether Eostre is linked to Easter at all, whether the holiday does or doesn’t have pagan links, where rabbits come into this, and whether it matters at all.
Here in New Zealand one of the more pragmatic ways we’ve dealt with Easter and rabbits is to spend the long weekend shooting them. According to Wednesday’s Otago Daily Times this year more than 400 hunters are expected to spend 24 hours from Friday to Saturday hunting the pests. (As you can see from the entry on rabbits in New Zealand they have been a pest pretty much since they arrived in the country). The hunt has been running since 1991, is organised by the local Lions Club as a fundraiser, and tallies of dead bunnies have ranged from a record 23,949 in 1997 to the low of 3,694 in 2001.
Luckily for small children everywhere, none of those shot so far have turned out to be an oversized white rabbit with a basket of Easter eggs. Happy Easter!