Kiwi cuisine in transition
Several weeks have passed since I returned to summery Frankfurt, but I’m only now finding time to review my final notes from New Zealand. My work for the Culinary Festival requires my full concentration. But since I don’t want to deprive you of my last impressions of island life, here are some of my recollections:
I’m sitting in the Botanic Garden in Wellington and my return flight awaits me. It’s 25 April 2012, Anzac Day, a holiday. The morning sun warms our faces and a couple of sparrows fight over fallen breadcrumbs. Wind rustles through the leaves and it feels like a Sunday. I suspect that this will be my last moment of New Zealand bliss. The world is as it should be here. You go fishing and remember the victims of World War I on Anzac Day.
New Zealand society certainly also struggles with its share of poverty, crime, class differences, violence, corruption and conflicts of interest among ethnicities. But in a country where the great outdoors are never more than a few kilometres away, offering nourishment and reminding people of their place in nature, in a country where people love their bathrobes, where you often have the street to yourself and where the horizon is always in sight, you can live a good life, pure and simple.
In my time in New Zealand, I encountered a great deal of helpfulness, interest and serenity. I ate excellent food and drank terrific wine, and you’ll be able to enjoy both in October in Frankfurt. As far as the weather is concerned, I had tremendous luck. The sun was on my side; I cannot confirm that New Zealand gets a lot of rain. I got to know a country that was only introduced to the world at large in 1963 through regular air traffic – a country that is still in the midst of a culinary transformation.
The days when meat and potatoes were the standard and fish and chips were fine dining are long gone. New Zealand has everything it takes for a nation of gourmands: the best ingredients, experienced and talented chefs and curious connoisseurs. The only reason it hasn’t yet turned up on the culinary world map is rooted in the youth of the nation and its short dining tradition. The country has been cooking up a culinary identity for several decades and drawing freely and rampantly from all sorts of international culinary traditions. But it’s rather impossible (and hardly the goal) to filter out an independent national cuisine from such a rich variety of traditions. The great freedom of New Zealand cuisine lies in drawing from culinary traditions without bias, cherry-picking the best of the best, doing things differently, either consciously or unconsciously, and placing the dynamic developments that result at the heart of the nation’s food culture. Peter Gordon blazed the trail and many others are following suit, constantly enriching New Zealand cuisine in the process.
This process will continue for a long time and I’m willing to bet that it will scarcely take another couple of decades before New Zealand is famous not “only” for its people and its nature, but also for its cuisine.
To all those who don’t want to wait that long, I warmly invite you to come to Frankfurt for New Zealand is Cooking in October. That’s when the most prominent representatives of Kiwi cuisine will fire up the stove in Frankfurt and all these lovely words will be transformed into culinary bliss, delight, and flavour. And of course you’ll also discover exactly what awaits you here on our blog.