A city underwater
On food in the floods, a new era for Vailima beer and the ongoing impacts of climate change on how we eat.
Nau mai, haere mai. Welcome to The Boil Up, The Spinoff’s weekly food newsletter produced in partnership with Boring Oat Milk. Written by me, Charlotte Muru-Lanning. It’s lovely to have you here!
What a week it’s been in Tāmaki Makaurau.
I’ve spent the last six days desperately and at times fruitlessly attempting to drain and then sweep my whānau home of knee-deep water, pull up carpet and lino, wash and dry load after endless load of drenched clothes, salvage precious mementos and dry out photographs, bid farewell to items that can’t be saved. As I write this, I’m at my parents’ place. It smells fiercely mouldy and the cleanup still left to do is overwhelming. We’re so lucky that all of us are otherwise safe and well. But just like my family, friends and boyfriend, I’m exhausted and this will be a more condensed newsletter than usual as a result.
I remember reading something a while ago about how our experience of climate change will be through apocalyptic clips on our phones until we’re the ones recording those clips ourselves. A haunting thought – but true. There’s nothing like seeing your treasured photographs blurred underwater and your childhood toys bob past you in your former-teenage-bedroom-turned-lagoon to impress the realities of climate change upon you.
Like most things in life, among the chaos, I comprehend situations like this through their relationships with kai.
Perhaps foolishly (it was very hard to know what was going on at the time), out of curiosity, we took a short walk up to Kingsland village on Friday evening during a break in the first deluge. There was a dissonance between the images I’d seen on social media of flooded buses and the reasonably bustling restaurants and bars we walked past. Canton Cafe was teeming with diners despite what looked like every tea towel they owned stacked out the front to keep water from finding its way into the restaurant. I popped into the Domino’s and asked the worker at the counter if they were busier than usual, to which he replied, “very, it’s a four-and-a-half hour wait”, while combing his hand anxiously over his cap. A man pushed in front of me and demanded to know where his pizza that he “ordered more than two hours ago” was. That people were still getting pizzas delivered and wondering why they took so long in what was fast turning into a state of emergency felt like a pure expression of the information void we experienced, and continue to experience in Auckland.
Much has been said of the staggering absence of communication from those in positions of responsibility throughout this crisis. Despite that, it was marae, iwi, community organisations, charities, schools, the CAB (to which our mayor proposes we cut funding), neighbours, friends and whānau who led the way when it came to responding to people’s needs and communicating vital information. On Saturday morning, Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei sent me a text with information about the floods and assistance and by Sunday morning they had dropped off a huge package of kai – meat, eggs, coffee, coconut cream, corned beef, milo, pasta and so much more. It was Sunday evening before any of us received an alert from Auckland Emergency Management. On the same day that our mayor spent half an hour on the phone to the NZ Herald complaining about his treatment by the media, we dropped bags of kai to exhausted food bank volunteers who had barely stopped working and who certainly didn’t have half an hour spare to whinge.
The impact of these floods has been devastating and The Spinoff has a wonderful guide to where you can get help if you’ve been affected or where you can help if you’re keen to chip in. As always, money tends to be most helpful donation, or get in touch with organisations to see what they need. To everyone in Tāmaki Makaurau, look after each other, stay out of the water and take it one soggy belonging at a time.
Iced coffee season is here. Admittedly we’ve been chugging oat iced lattes all year long, but for those of you still leaning into Mother Nature, this is the PSA you’ve been waiting for. It’s officially iced coffee season. Head to boringmilk.com for your summer supply of New Zealand-made oat milk, straight from the source.
Tall Vailima bottles are very much a status symbol. An emerald-coloured expression of Sāmoan pride in stark opposition to craft beer. So much so that when Samoa Breweries announced last year it would cease brewing Vailima in Samoa and move production to Fiji, it was met with massive public opposition which resulted in production remaining in Samoa. But once again, change is afoot. This week the company announced “the end of an era” – after almost 50 years of glass, the company is making the switch to cans – to the sorrow of many in their social media comments. The company responded to one commenter saying it was a decision made based on “freight cost, glass cost and a whole lot more” and that “it’s a decision that wasn’t taken lightly”. There are still more than 100 outlets in Aotearoa with the bottles in stock – get them while you can.
Last week, kiwifruit growers were told by Zespri they wouldn’t receive their upcoming progress payments due to fruit quality issues that mean fruit is being sold for less overseas. Now, NZKGI, the organisation representing growers, is asking Zespri for an explanation and says growers are suffering as a result of the decision, reports RNZ. Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson said fruit loss for last season’s fruit was at around 20 percent, up from the projected 7 percent. As well, he said that quality claims from customers were estimated at nearly three times the amount they experienced in 2021. Sadly the troubles for kiwifruit growers in areas like Te Puke were only worsened by the weekend’s deluge.
The Spinoff's independent, homegrown journalism is only possible because of the support of our members. Their generous donations power all our work and help keep it freely available to all. Tautoko The Spinoff this year by becoming a member, making a new donation or encouraging your organisation to donate.
In 2022, droughts were the problem, now flooding has decimated summer crops in Pukekohe in South Auckland. As a result, growers say to expect more price hikes on all green vegetables, potatoes and onions. According to a 2018 Horticulture NZ report the fertile soils of Pukekohe generate $327 million a year, the equivalent of 26 percent of New Zealand’s total domestic value for vegetable production. RNZ reports that MPI and Horticulture NZ have received no requests from the sector for recovery assistance but are continuing to assess the damage in the area.
As we’ve seen first hand with Auckland’s floods, climate change has already begun to intimately impact food security and how we eat. In Spain, the revered jamón ibérico bellota, which retails at upwards of €100 (£168) a kilo, is under threat from the climate crisis as rising temperatures and drought jeopardise a key ingredient in the pigs’ diet – acorns. The ham is produced from blackfoot pigs, which spend the last month of their lives guzzling down acorns in oak forests that are particular to the west and north-west of the country. Much of the ham is produced in Spain’s poorest regions and is a vital part of their local economies. But because of unusually hot and dry summers – last year was the hottest on record in Spain – the Guardian reports that the trees are producing fewer acorns, which along with a drop in market price has led to a 20% drop in production.
The Spinoff and Boring Oat Milk with support from Coffee Supreme proudly present Boring BreakfastA new series of morning sessions tackling crucial questions facing the Aotearoa kai and hospitality sectors. Hosted by Sophie Gilmour, the first instalment of Boring Breakfast will welcome guests Morgan Maw (Boring Oat Milk) and Tom Hishon (Orphans Kitchen, kingi, Daily Bread, Withwild) for a kōrero around sustainability in our food and hospitality sectors. We’ll touch on everything from environmentally friendly sourcing to sustainable product packaging, asking ultimately whether our current approaches will do enough in the long run, or if more radical ideas are required.We have 25 tickets to give away to Boil Up subscribers! First in, first served. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talk next week!
Hei kōnā mai, Charlotte