food

inching into my identity

Of late I’ve been hankering to get in touch with my culture, my Maori roots.

I want to colour in the other half of my picture,  join a few dots and finish a few sentences about the why the who and the how of me.  My da was Maori, and his early departure meant I grew up Anglo (my other culture).  And if you didn’t know my lineage you wouldn’t know by looking, my physicality gives nothing away.  I have the whitest of white skin that burns after just looking at the sun, oh and Auburn hair.

I find identity such an interesting possession, part purchased for you and part created by your own will.  On the pre-purchased culture I was handed, though not shown I am curious to see and learn more.

And today I had a wee taste……literally!  Today I tried my first Hangi; food cooked in the traditional Maori method  – in an earth oven with hot stones.  Pork, chicken, stuffing, potato, onion, cabbage, pumpkin and sweet potato cooked by steam, fuelled by the hot stones under the earth.  Beautifully flavoured and melt in your mouth delicious.

the parcel of goodness about to be unwrapped

My 39 year old Auburn haired, white skinned part Maori self tried her first Hangi in the suburb of Redfern, Sydney, Australia.  Oh how my friend and I laughed at that, we laughed hard.  Though better late than never.

steamed goodness - pretty no, tasty YES

In celebration of Waitangi Day (celebrated in NZ on 6 February) Sydney’s Maori communities held their own celebrations around town.  I found myself outside a Maori church ‘Te Wairua Tapu’ in Redfern (which I had no idea existed) listening to the beautiful singing of the congregation. A friend Mel, her two kids and I waited as the food was dished out and we paid our ten dollars for a pocket of goodness.

And just like that I had joined in and tasted something new.  My foodie self just loves the way that food, community, culture and family are SO inextricably connected.  Using my taste buds was a great way to dip my toes in the water.

If I squinted my eyes today I thought I was in NZ, I was surrounded by more Maori people in the twenty minutes I was there than in the five years I have lived in Sydney.  I just had to look.

4 comments

  1. Love the taste of food cooked Hangi style,way back 40 odd years mummo and company at Tonar Street would sit in their back garden and have the real traditional style hangi – food was all wrapped up in banana leaves and ‘cooked’ for best part of the day – I passed on the ‘mutton birds’ tho – wasn’t grateful for the oily texture.
    When in England few years back, the roasted chestnuts flavour and blackness took me back to that Hangi taste with it’s distinct taste. xx

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