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Nation Making, a story of New Zealand

'Cooking Soap

'Cooking Soap.

Long ago, in the very old days, there came ashore at a sea-side Maori village a number of articles from the wreck of a small Sydney trading schooner. Amongst other things, a cask containing some bars of soap came ashore.

'"White man's food," said the Maori wreckers," let us eat it," and seizing each a bar, they struggled hard to swallow the mouthfuls of soap, but their teeth sticking into it, and finding it worked up into a lather, they concluded it required cooking.'

'Come now,' interrupted the hard-headed Station Manager,' you are laying it on too thick.'

'No,' said the Magistrate, 'I don't think it strange, that the unsophisticated savages should eat soap; why, page 128I remember at a dinner at Luxor, seeing some Egyptian colonels wash out their mouths with pieces of soap.'

'Well the Egyptians might like it,' said the Station Manager,' but I know the Maories don't, for I have never seen them even wash with it until lately, much less eat it.'

'Perhaps their dislike for soap may have arisen from the wreckers' experience,' laughingly replied the Surveyor.

'Well,' continued the Interpreter,' I don't know about that, but let me finish my story. Full of the cooking idea, the Hangi (oven) being already nearly filled with Kumaras (sweet potatoes) and fish, they placed the bars of soap over all, and sprinkling the food with water from a gourd, they covered all up with fern leaves, mats and earth in the usual manner. After the proper time had passed, they prepared for their evening meal, by removing the covering. The Kumaras and fish were properly steamed—for the Maories are excellent cooks—and the food placed on mats by the women, with a piece of the new food on each, by way of a special Kinaki (relish).

'Hungry as usual they were, but strong as a Maori stomach is, this new food was too much for them, and with many hideous grimaces, they were reluctantly compelled to give it up. The steamed soap had penetrated fish and Kumaras; they could eat nothing in the oven. Worse still, the oven itself was so saturated with soap, that they had to prepare new food in a new oven.'

page 129

'No wonder the Maories don't care for soap', said the comical Major.

'Though the Maories', continued the Interpreter, 'are a hard-headed, matter-of-fact race, they are by no means devoid of sentiment, as the following incident will show.