Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 7. April 23 1968
Food: Milk & money
Food: Milk & money
I would like to apologize to my readers for the mincemeat the sub-editors made of my last column. Not that there is anything wrong with mincemeat in itself, but because, like Kiwi Cooks, the subs were concerned only with the amount of space they could fill. I have therefore decided not to discuss any preparations this time, in the hope that if I do not offer my sub a substantial dish, he will not be tempted to predigest it.
I once heard a prominent member of the National Party remark that it was absurd that the Minister of Overseas Trade of a dairy exporting country should be served imported cheeses. He (I mean both of them) has just eaten at a function where exactly this happened.
Had he (the former one this time) considered the alternatives from a gastronomic rather than political point of view he could hardly have reached the some conclusion, for though large quantities of local cheese are available, quality and variety compare unfavourably with imported cheese. The Minister was wise enough to realise that political experience is of little use in judging cheese.
When we consider the other delicacies that should be available in this land of milk and money, the situation is even worse. What do you do when confronted by a recipe that says "Take three live crayfish . . ." (Ecrevisse a I'americaine)—Unless you have your own pots or a fishmonger under your thumb, you are never likely ever to see a live crayfish, much less be able to buy one. Another example: "Scrub and soak 1( pints fresh mussels . . ." (Moules a la Provencale). I have never seen uncooked mussel offered for sale in this country.
I was therefore pleasantly surprised by an article by Graham Kerr in "The Epicurean", an Australian magazine on sale here for the first time. He suggests that New Zealand Will become a kind of Fortnum and Mason's to the world:
"What New Zealand is currently doing is to producer a wide variety of excellent unusual foods for very special markets". These excellent unusual foods include "toheroa . . butterfish . . paua . . baby tuna steaks . . milk-fed veal . . jellied venison consomme . . venison salami."
My initial enthusiasm on reading this article cooled somewhat, as I realised that these foods would probably go the way of the best of our primary production: overseas. Prawns are a case in point. They have already been freeze-dried and exported, yet the only chance we have of getting New Zealand prawns is to buy the tinned variety from Japan. There is then the faint possibility that they were caught in our waters.
Another delicacy I would like to see on sale is rabbit Unfortunately, our politicians, in their usual manner, have thrown the baby out with the bathwater when formulating rabbit control regulations.
When the vast range of natural flavour at present neglected has been exploited there will still be room for development of the variety of prepared ingredients available. Jellies, stocks, consommes and any other preparation that can be used as an ingredient when the cook has not the time or energy to prepare the real thing. As the moment, prepared ingredients comprise a few old Favourites, such as custard powder, so widely used that I suspect many of my country men have never tasted a real custard. I think we can do without it and some of the more recent additions, such as T.V. dinners.
Instead wide variety of prepared ingredients, such as the better ones available in the U.S., could be developed and would give a great stimulus to the culinary art. But we will have to watch that enough is held back from export to satisfy our own needs, so a little chauvinis, would not be amiss here. Why should we sell our best food to foreigners and eat pap ourselves—It is merely buying our motor cars for a mess of potage.