Food Envy

So we have been living in Auckland since March when our plans to move back to Asia crumbled along side Thailand's aspirations towards democracy.

We are still working on "Plan B".

It's not so bad. The winter here is very mild. I go jogging around Mission Bay on sunny days and think that life is on the whole pretty good.

However, I am experiencing extreme, cross-Tasman national level food envy.

Let me explain. You know how when you go to a restaurant and order the wrong thing and wished you had ordered what your friend ordered and spend the rest of the evening eyeing up their plate? Well it's like that but on a national level.

I once thought that Canberra was at the ass end of all agro-food supply chains. How wrong I was. I've decided that New Zealand now takes that dubious title. Being an major agro-exporter to the world and extremely proud of its local food culture, I know that any New Zealander would argue that I am wrong until they are blue in the face. To which I would respond with a big fat "whateva". Yes we export a whole lotta milk powder...ngeah!

And I can say that because I am a bourgeois female – vanguard of the 21st century – the new working class male (Make way for a whole new type of chauvanism people!!! Possibly involving unbleached tampons) . I also think that most notable food critics and chefs agree with me. I've noticed in the local food press that journalists love to ask visiting food dignitaries such as Rick Stein and others what they think of New Zealand food. The overwhelming response that I have noticed is a slightly uncomfortable shifting in one's seat followed by the very diplomatic comment "it has come a long way from where it was before".

Which isn't really that far. Quite frankly I think the food here, the quality and the variety can be pretty second rate. Given the very small size of the local population, their limited spending power and generally unadventurous palates, top quality, interesting produce does not make much of a showing on most supermarket shelves or farmer's market tables (back in April, I was outraged on a fishing trip to Leigh that the local fishery there does not do any public sales and exports all of its catch directly overseas).

In the meantime, I have been endlessly taunted by Australian cooking shows. MasterChef Australia, SBS's Luke Nguyen's Vietnam and Food Safari have been goading me on cable tv. I have a serious case of Australian food envy. Sitting here in the living room eating yet more kumera, broccoli and chicken, I'm amazed to learn that the Maltese community of Australia is large enough that they make their own Gbejniet. Luke casually mentions that you can buy most varieties of mango and Vietnamese herbs in Australia now and I grimace (not in NZ tho). And to add insult to injury, histrionic Masterchef contestants get to cook with massive pieces of truffles (I asked for a truffle for my birthday but the NZ truffle crop rotted in the floods this season and of course no one imports them because NZer are just too poor to buy them, meanwhile Canberra had a bumper crop).

I love New Zealand, it will always be home. It will always be my birth place. But an unfortunate part of being a New Zealander is feeling like the poor and envious sibling of Australia. To bring it back to the intimate scale of a dining table. It's like always going out to dinner with the same friend who is richer, luckier, more worldly, interesting and louder than you and always gets the better meal...every single time.


    hahah! this serves as a cautionary tale for me.
    I did notice a strange absence of fennel in johnsonville supermarket, but then again there was a well-stocked Korean grocer down the road and a burger fuel outlet. no good bread or smelly cheeses or cheap flights to Spain, but decent coffee, seafood gathering in summer & Japanese pals to do cook-ups with. six of one, half a dozen of the other for me, compared to Germany at least...

    I would like to live in Australia some day though, mostly for the weather..


    oh btw we tried to watch a couple of episodes of Masterchef Australia but could not continue because of the ockerness! extreme 'fremdschäme'!

    Bourdain/No Reservations NZ episode was OK, though a little grey and christchurchy - I wondered if there was something funny with their camera.


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