In April I had the great pleasure of attending “Savour Northland”, a collaborative event organised by Northland INC and Eat New Zealand, hosted by the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell, Bay of Islands. Regional food entrepreneurs shared their vision of the Northland -Te Tai Tokerau Food Story, fortified by abundant and delectable offerings of New Zealand top chef Guilio Sturla and the team at the Duke.
It was an opportunity to workshop and explore the heart and soul of what makes New Zealand’s own sub-tropical paradise unique, within the theme of enjoyment and celebration of food. I was reminded of the long history of cultural fusion that exists here, brought about by a combination of immigration and isolation. A realisation emerged that Te Tai Tokerau is the birthplace of our national food story. And to confirm this I also visited local landmarks where some of the first attempts at livestock farming were made – in the 1830s by missionaries in Kerikeri and Waimate North, and by Rawiri Taiwhanga, a Maori agronomist who operated the first commercial dairy farm at Kaikohe. Now I didn’t know that 40 years ago when my horses grazed in the very same paddock!
Some of my most delectable early food memories are of digging for toheroa and tuatua on 90 Mile Beach – and more recently hearing of surfcasting exploits from my brothers, who spend their lives farming, hunting and fishing. Perhaps it’s the home of slow, home cooked food where the people, the adventure and history are the real stories here.