Tucker. Food. Meat pies. Lolly cake. Sausages. Cheese platters. Custard squares. Roast lamb. Where does it end? Where do I start?
Breakfast is a good place to start. Scones (pronounced scons for reasons unknown) are a magical food which definitely need to make their way onto American breakfast menus. One might have a date scone, a sultana (raisin) scone, a cinnamon and sugar scone, or if morning sweets aren’t in order, the savory scone is a major winner with its bacon, chives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Scones are basically biscuits, only moister (more moist?). And bigger. With fun stuff inside. I like to cut them in half and toast them in the oven, then let them cool just enough so that when the butter is applied it gets that silvery look but doesn’t entirely melt. Some people add jam. Some people add whipped cream. Some people (my in-laws) go to Coupland’s Bakery in the morning and bring some back home and retain hero status for the following 24 hours.
Scones are weekday food. After a big Friday night out, a Kiwi cooked breakfast is in order. This involves pulling everything from the fridge and frying it up. Eggs (almost always poached), hash browns, sausages, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans on toast. Baked beans on toast can be eaten with a straight face at any meal in New Zealand. And there are a lot of meals. Mason, channeling Peregrin Took, constantly corrects me for getting the meal names mixed up or forgetting one. In one short day at home and preschool he has breakfast, morning tea (elevenses!), lunch, afternoon tea, late snack, and dinner which is usually referred to as tea.
On top of all this food tea, actual tea is being offered ’round the clock. When arriving at someone’s house the pleasantries cannot begin without first knowing if I want a cuppa. If we’ve just had morning tea and a long-lost relative pops in, get out the china again ’cause we’re having another round. Nothing can be accomplished without a hot drink on hand. Here a cuppa, there a cuppa, everywhere a cuppa. There are probably 30 cafes in this small town for the express purpose of a enjoying a cup of tea or coffee. McDonald’s has a dedicated cafe area. At Subway, I saw an employee behind the counter carrying a beautifully made coffee in a bright red cup and saucer. I thought, “how gangster just enjoying a cup of coffee while you make sandwiches. And he even took the time to make it look pretty.” Silly me, he was carrying it to a customer. It was then I noticed the gleaming espresso station. Because on a hot day, nothing pairs better with a five dollar meatball sub than an artistic cappuccino.
Lunch. Meat pie. End of story. For Tony and many others anyway. I can do a pie about once every six weeks. Any more and I get an overwhelming urge to shower on the inside and the outside.
Dinner. Commonly referred to as tea. Eating tea with my in-laws has always been a jovial affair. Normally we would just be in town for a couple of weeks visiting for Christmas or otherwise. On those trips, everyone would casually filter into the kitchen area around 5pm when my mother-in-law would get busy dicing and frying and roasting. With the imminent promise of a home-cooked meal, our spirits were high. We would chat and tease each other, always with a cold beer or white wine and a bowl of cashew nuts.
Now that we are full-time lodgers, we share the burden (some might say joy) of cooking dinners. Divide seven nights a week by four and dinner gets really easy. Toss in the odd night of fish and chips, sprinkle with one night of cheese and crackers, and I end up cooking one meal per week! Brilliant. Mexican food hasn’t really struck Blenheim yet, so that cuts my repertoire down by 90%. Forget asking Mason; he either wants sausages, pizza, or fish and chips. He’ll begrudgingly choke down one piece of lettuce, one tomato, and shredded carrots but he refuses to call it a salad. The horror.
My mother-in-law will religiously cook a Kiwi roast dinner every week or so. This is such a staple for Kiwis, second nature, and she is a professional. It is the type of meal a television family would eat on a Sunday night while asking their kids about their day. Normally the centerpiece is roast lamb (calm down, it’s usually hogget which is like a teenager sheep. Or maybe that’s just what they tell the sensitive people. Or maybe the opposite. Maybe it’s meat from a really old sheep and they call it lamb so we think it’s soft and tender. Who knows which way they are trying to spin it? Actually, I’m sure lots of people know, just not me). Roast vegetables attend the meat. Oh, no, not broccoli vegetables or Brussels sprouts vegetables – potatoes vegetables. Peeled and often parboiled first, kumara (my favorite) which is like a cross between a sweet potato and a regular potato, and pumpkin, all cut into one-inch bits and roasted till sweet and just on the crunchy side. Something green always feels the need to show up, usually peas. Now peas are just peas until you introduce mint sauce. Not the gelatinous green jelly stuff often served with lamb, but sugary syrup with crushed mint leaves. Intermingling with a little gravy, it makes each part of the meal so delicious. Peas become tolerable.
Roast dinners are as big a staple as hot drinks. If cooking for a large group, roast dinner is the go to. There are roast dinner buffets, roast dinner restaurants, Roast-on-the-Run takeaways. It will be one of the meals offered almost anywhere food can be attained. Except Subway, I guess they draw the line at espresso. Good on ya, Subway. Roast dinner seems like home food to me. Why would I go to a restaurant to eat home food? When I’m out I want Thai green curry, Turkish kebabs, burgers and beer. There is a little tavern around the corner from our house with a sign out front claiming, “Roast Dinner! All day, every day!” No. I’m sorry, that’s too much roast dinner. Enough already.
Dessert, otherwise known as pudding. When first offered pudding, I felt insulted like the hostess thought I had just learned to tie my shoes. Then she turned up with some sort of chocolate lava cake and I said, “watch me tie a double knot!” After several such encounters I clued in. Very occasionally it actually means pudding, but in the form of custard. Hello, where has this been all my life? It’s like vanilla pudding but with more eggs, cream, sugar, and flavor.
Gotta run, I’m hungry now.
Kiwi Glossary: Chocker. Completely full. I couldn’t eat another wafer; I’m chocker.