In times like these, how do we talk about food?
On Cyclone Gabrielle's aftermath, food in film and a special Australian edition snack review.
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!
As I write, it’s raining heavily, and our corrugated roof only exaggerates the impact of each droplet. Less pitter patter and more pelting. Listening to this passing deluge makes me think how extraordinary it is that in just a few weeks the phonics of rain have collectively transformed from comforting to terrifying. It’s only February.
Somehow, it was only two newsletters back where I outlined my whānau’s experience of the floods in Auckland. All of which has since been dwarfed by the unfathomable scale of devastation that people across Aotearoa are experiencing this week.
What a week for me to escape to Sydney then – only to return yesterday to sunny skies outside Auckland Airport. It might have seemed like fortuitous timing but the dissonance between being in easy-breezy Sydney while a cyclone ravaged Aotearoa, tainted almost everything I did, or ate for that matter. Perhaps next week I’ll share what I ate there as I’d planned to for this newsletter (I did eat excellent food), but for this week at least, that doesn’t feel quite right.
To link Cyclone Gabrielle to kai isn’t difficult. For one, the impact on RSE workers, shines a light on their continued mistreatment and how our system only makes them more vulnerable. There are around 5000 RSE workers in the heavily impacted areas of Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne. Already often underpaid and working in poor conditions, those same workers who much of our horticulture and viticulture industries, and therefore what we eat and drink, are reliant on have been trapped on roofs surrounded by water, left stranded and had their belongings washed away. Then, there are the ongoing impacts on our kai as orchards, farms, crops and vines in some of the most fertile parts of the country have been destroyed. In just one example, our sponsor Boring Oat Milk, whose factory is in Hawke’s Bay, is currently without power. In the most basic sense, over a million people across the country haven’t even had the power to brew a comforting coffee, milo or a kapu tī this week.
In a heartbreaking segment on Breakfast this morning, Jenny-May Clarkson spoke to locals in Te Karaka, a small, majority-Māori town in Tairāwhiti.Locals who hadn’t even been able to contact whānau to let them know they were safe described losing homes and everything they owned, marae destroyed by water, terrifying experiences, a town underwater. Many have no insurance and nowhere to go. In a more philosophical sense, food is home, it’s connection, it’s comfort and it’s life and so many people in Aotearoa have lost those things this week.
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.
I once thought food writing would be filled with glitz, glamour and fanciful meals. Sometimes it is, but as it turns out, in this day and age, it’s actually mostly concentrated on a hell of a lot of discussion about the price of supermarket essentials. On that note, The Warehouse this week announced they would begin trials selling fresh fruit and vegetables in six stores: Whangārei, Auckland's Westgate, Wellington's Lyall Bay, Christchurch's Riccarton, Timaru and Invercargill. Stuff reported that a spokesperson for The Warehouse said it would look to sell produce at more stores if the trial is successful. So will this mean cheaper onions and carrots? Stuff has a useful piece comparing the prices of fruit and vegetables at The Warehouse to other major supermarkets which is worth a read.
This morning I saw a photograph on social media of mounds of kaimoana that you’d ordinarily have to dig for, washed up at Papamoa beach. At first glance that might seem like a dream scenario: an easy-access abundance of delicious bivalves. Could it be a post-cyclone gift from Tangaroa? No, it’s actually an unfortunate consequence of the cyclone and it’s highly likely that any washed up seafood you find is unsafe to eat. Please consider this a PSA, don’t eat washed up seafood.
“The best glass of juice is not just cold-pressed or squeezed from heirloom fruit. It is the juice bought by someone else, living in their fridge until it is served to you on a sweltering day of childhood summer,” begins N.A. Mansour’s essay on food in Palestinian Cinema. Through scenes of hummus, maqluba, bread and of course, orange juice Mansour finds vital meanings, on Palestine, occupation and resistance in the essay, which is part of a series on food in film by newsletter Vittles.
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The weekly snack
Ajitas vege chips sweet and sour, $3.30(AUD) from IGA in Sydney: The fare available at supermarkets in Australia and what you’d find in Aotearoa is much of a muchness. That similarity is reminiscent of what makes being in Australia as a New Zealander, in my opinion at least, so haunting. Which is that rather than feeling entirely far-flung, it’s unnerving in an extraordinarily familiar, uncanny valley kind of way. And so while these chips might look exceptionally unremarkable, I chose them because they were an unfamiliar blip in the chip aisle and the packaging looked demonstrably Australian too. In a result that will shock no one, because it’s difficult to go wrong with a cassava chip, these chips are good. Dusted with a tangy powder that lures you back into the bag again and again. Perhaps nothing to write home about otherwise, unless of course you’re writing a snack review in a newsletter. 6.5/10
Talk next week!
Hei kōnā mai, Charlotte