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The Coming of the Maori


page 107


The earth oven with heated stones and an earth cover was so widely known that it must have been known to the early settlers. In Polynesia, however, large leaves from the wild hibiscus (hau), breadfruit, and banana were used as a cover over the food before the earth was heaped over to effectively seal the oven. Green leaves or shredded banana trunk were usually placed over the hot stones to prevent the food being scorched. In New Zealand, trees with large leaves were not so conveniently placed near the cooking houses and hence plaited flax mats (tapora) were used to cover the food before the earth was applied. On coral atolls where trees with large leaves were also scarce, oven covers were plaited from coconut leaflets. Instead of putting leaves over the hot stones, the Maoris sprinkled the stones with water and after the food was placed on them, the food was also sprinkled before being covered with the mats. Hence in New Zealand, the food was steamed, a technique which differs slightly from the dry heat of Polynesia.

Fire was produced by friction with the fire plough method as in Polynesia and the terms kaurima for the upper rubbing stick and kaunoti for the lower grooved stick were the same.