Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pt 6: Waitangi Treaty Grounds; Stone Store and Pavlova; Dinner at Island Life Restaurant

Thursday 18 February – Waitangi Treaty Ground, Kerikeri and Island Life

A very slow start today with hubby sleeping until about 9 am. It’s well after 10:30 before we get in to Paihia to replenish the cash supplies which were depleted last night after paying cash for the cultural show.

It’s a pretty miserable though warm day today. Humid and raining on and off. The tail of a cyclone is giving the north a bit of a lashing. The brilliant blue of the bay is a thing of the past and the water has turned a golden green colour as the churning water has stirred up the sand. The beach across from the long rows of tourist accommodation is a continual parade of dumping waves. Although it’s hot the beach doesn’t look at all inviting.

In Paihia township we wander about checking the place out. Wander over to the i-site and pick up some brochures. Although it’s nearing lunch time we head on over to the Waitangi Treaty ground so we can be in time for the tours.

Arriving at the Treaty Ground we are impressed by the grand entry ways and gardens. As a physical space the entire compound is befitting of its historical significance. After some initial procrastination we opt for the Treaty House Treasures tour that only runs once per day at 12:30 and the Walking with Nature tour who’s second and last tour of the day is at 2pm.

First things first we inspect the facilities. Very impressive I have to say. Not often you feel moved to photograph the toilets!

We’re ravenously hungry so pop down to the off site café to grab a bit before going to join the tour. We ask the guy behind the counter if we have time to order the fush and chups (their spelling) and the cornucopia. We are advised that they take about 15 mins and we’d be the only order in the kitchen at the moment. Tight but should be OK so we go ahead. Half an hour later we are still waiting. Forget the tour. The Owner/Manager of the café does her best to help out, rings the tour centre etc. It’s all a big stuff up. We’re not that fussed. We can consider it a donation to a worthy cause.

We head up to the treaty house past the big waka down by Hobson’s beach and the girl there ends up sending us back down to the entry gates to sort things out. Having missed the only treasures tour for the day we switch to the cultural performance Kapa Haka which pretty much backs onto the Walking with Nature tour.

The Kapa Haka is a performance by mostly very young people. It is enjoyable and covers the usual territory. Singing Maori Songs, poi, stick games, and there’s an audience participation section where the men from the audience get to learn a little bit of haka. This is of course very amusing. The session closes with a question and answer section which today included some questions about moku and why don’t these young men have any Maori tattoos. As a whole the session can’t compete with the Culture North show last night, but then it’s only ¼ of the price too.

Straight from the show to meet our guide for the walk. We emerge into the pathways leading down from the entrance. It is a series of raised wooden walkways through some nice indigenous vegetation. Lovely.

It’s drizzling rain and off and on during the tour the precipitation gets heavier finally driving us under cover, when we’d just about finished. The patch of forest we walk through is very nice. Lots of tree ferns and several reasonable sized trees. Large Manuka (pronounced MAH- nooka) trees as well. I am a bit dubious about some things mentioned on this tour as they didn’t quite gel with information provided in other places. It refreshed my memory about kawakawa plants and the medicinal uses of the leaves, and medicinal tea, pain killing properties of the leaves and usefulness as a bandage for wounds. Our guide has a nasty scar where he was hurt as a child and his mother treated him with kawakawa. It must do the trick, as it must have been a nasty wound.

By three oclock we’re pretty much done for the day and decide to come back tomorrow afternoon if we want to. For now we feel like a change of scene. We’re off to Kerikeri. We’re quite surprised to find that kerikeri is quite a big place. Much bigger than Paihia. Prosperous looking. Very congested traffic. Significant roadway infrastructure in the areas immediately approaching the town. We persevere through the traffic and find our way to the Stone Store. This is in a very nice little area with picnic tables and grassed areas. Somehow we’ve taken the less convenient route that parks outside Rewa’s village. Consequently we need to wander across the creek to get to the stone store.

There are a lot of red billed gulls hanging around including one recently fledged chick that is concentrating on making it’s parent birds’ life a misery.. begging continually and chasing the older bird hither and non.

The Stone Store itself is very interesting and has done a great job of displaying the sort of wares that would have been for sale in days gone by. Well above average.

In the next room there is a range of souvenir products and one thing catches my eye. On a shelf with a number of cookbooks for sale is one all about the Pavlova wars! Yes, a whole, 189 page fully referenced hardcover book about the history of Pavlova and the arguments between Australia and New Zealand about where Pavlova originated. Good heavens. This is where the commentary is likely to become controversial!

Published by Otago University Press, the author of this book is an academic and the investigations which inform the book have been conducted by quite a considerable and well qualified team of people. The research …depended on detailed analysis of a very comprehensive collection of pavlova recipes from cookbooks, newspapers and periodicals. Funding was provided by a Marsden Grant by the Royal Society of New Zealand. Clearly some serious grunt has been brought to bear on this most weighty of issues.

There is an early section in the book devoted to the “pavlova wars” between Australia and New Zealand. I think she sums up the issue quite well in the final paragraph of that section:

I discovered early in my involvement that this question is asked because it divides people, elevates individuals beyond their actual contribution, and is in fact quite unanswerable – since we can never be sure that the very first recipe has been found. As the public engage in their mock pavlova wars, the casualties are ignored, especially those whose memories are treated as unreliable, or whose ancestors are accused of plagiarism. This book is dedicated to those who have been doubted, and to those who are genuinely interested in the complicated history of all the different sorts of Pavlovas.

The book goes on to scholarly discussion of meringue cakes and sweets named Pavlova and meringue cakes named Pavlova.. even a chapter dedicated to discussion of what gives the modern pavlova a soft centre, right down to thesis research testing to see what ingredients might make a difference on this score. Over all, the emphasis in the book is that there has been a process of evolution in both development of recipes and the anthropology relating to when and how both Australia and New Zealand came to see the Meringue cake called Pavlova as a cultural icon. Ms Leach suggests that it is entirely possible that the single layer meringue cake we call pavlova may have evolved independently in both countries around the same time. It is also noted that the Americans were making meringue cakes long before either NZ or Australia albeit not called Pavlova.

For my own part, I think the evolution aspect is very well illustrated by the Pavlova we consumed at Soul in Auckland. It relates to the question - exactly what is a “pavlova”. The ealiest NZ recipes were a meringue called pavlova where for coffee flavoured meringues dusted with nuts… and sandwiched together. Chefs and home cooks continue to innovate. I mean it’s meringue cream and fruit. Not exactly a complicated dessert. At Soul the dish was fruit and lemon curd, with a couple of lumps of lemon jelly and quite separately on the plate a couple of soft centered meringues. Not exactly what most people would think of as a pavlova, but it is not the first time I’ve seen such an innovative approach to the dish come out of a professional kitchen.

If we must argue, why leave it at Pavlova? How about we start a war about which country first put beetroot on hamburgers.. which country “invented” lamingtons? .. or custard slice/squares or neenish tarts or any number of things that both counties indulge in but which are apparently more relished in Australia and New Zealand than elsewhere in the world. I was reading in one book about kiwi cuisine on sale at tourist places that New Zealand is the only country in the world who puts beetroot on their hamburgers. Evidence in point being that McDonalds quickly had to invent a “kiwiburger” .. same burger they market in Australia as the “McOz” burger. I don’t understand why the obsession with insisting the two countries are more different than they are. Aus and NZ are very similar in a LOT of ways. Our people go back and forth across the ditch and always have since European settlement began. We use a lot of the same slang not used elsewhere in the world as well. As each country continues the process of assimilation with our indigenous peoples we will no doubt have more and more of the real differences that it seems people crave.

Anyway, back to the Stone Store! We’re too late for a tour of the nearby house and it’s hot and muggy. We’re struggling to summon enthusiasm for doing pretty much anything at all. Gee I hate summer. Remind me again why I planned a trip for summer..

We head back to Paihia and make our way to Island Life Café Restaurant and Bar. We’re a bit early for dinner but take a seat to nurse a drink until 6 oclock. For much of the time there is a fine mist like drizzle, but it is very pleasant just sitting relaxing looking over the bay.

Among the entertainment an anonymous mottled brown pelagic bird.. maybe a juvenile black backed gull? I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the zoom on the camera.. this bird was a long way away!

Finally time comes to order our meal and we opt for cauliflower soup of the day for hubby and, having been assured that the portions are not huge, I go for the tempura prawns with soba noodle salad. I won that round! The prawns were truly delicious.
For mains I’ve decided to be adventurous and go for the Moroccan chicken with couscous, aubergine and truffle dressing and roast cherry tomatoes. This was an artistically presented arrangement with scrolls of stuffed chicken breast and a central mould of couscous topped with fine basil leaves. Great stuff. Very tasty.
Hubby had gone for the duck with orange and anise sauce. Once again very different and delicious.

When the quality of the food is that good you can’t help looking for dessert. I couldn’t resist the lemon tasting platter which had lemon thyme sorbet, brulee, and a little lemon meringue pie. All fabulous. Hubby was no less satisfied with his chocolate fondant with dark and white chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream.
Today there is no question the food was the star.

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