Monday, November 2, 2009

Kiwi Food of the Week

At first I was puzzled by the popularity of this week's food of the week. The ubiquitous teal cans are nearly a national icon, and yet this dish is decidedly American in origin. But then I realized, this food fits on well with the Kiwi identity: humble, unfussed, convenient and the perfect plate for their beloved barbies. No need to bust a gut sussing out why Kiwi love their:

Baked Beans

There’s an overwhelming amount of things I don’t excel at- being a fully realized human being, for example. But I think I make some damn fine baked beans and that’s an exchange I’m comfortable with. So perhaps I didn’t open the tin of Wattie's Baked Beans with Sausage with an open mind. Or maybe I’m just too sophisticated for my own good. (Unlikely- I eat kidney beans straight out of the can AND enjoy it.) Whatever the case, I couldn’t enjoy these beans. They weren’t awful but like that lunchlady in Rocket Science said, “They’re not terrible if you’ve never had really good ones.” Well, I have.

What was awful was the “lamb” sausages. I can’t complain about the taste since they didn’t really have any but the texture was horrible as mechanically separated meat tends to be. They were reminiscent of those reconstituted chicken-nuggets-shaped-inexplicably-like-dinosaurs our elementary school served. And don’t tell me they “weren’t that bad,” Mom. Even as a six-year-old I remember thinking, “I deserve more than this.” Disgusting.
Still, those cylindrical tubes masquerading as sausage are definitely not the worst meat substance I’ve had while here. That title would go to either the raw muscles or the mackerel spine I stupidly agreed to eat.

My Niuean flatmate Lili likes muscles. She likes them raw with a bit of lime juice and salt. I was naively excited when she offered me one. Growing up in the desert has made me associate seafood, any kind, with worldly sophistication. Muscles? How cosmopolitan! Raw muscles, oh how cultured I am for eating bacteria-harboring seafood that could potentially kill me! How utterly urbane. That illusion was shattered as soon as I smelled the muscle. I struggled to get it into my mouth, and it’s a battle I’m not sure I’m glad I won. It was slimy, rubbery, and tasted like lime-y bile. Still, I did manage to choke it down which was farther than my German flatmate Lisa got. Victory: America!

Americans have been widely criticized for being too distanced from the sources of their food. We don’t want to think about the fact that what we’re eating used to have a face. I don’t consider myself particularly patriotic but for this, I say God bless America! As passionate as I am about all aspects of food, I am happy to let future generations deal with the ramifications of me enjoying my chicken featherless and tuna headless. Ew, ew, ew to meat in its natural state. I am hedonistic, not socially responsible. For this reason, I was unprepared for what can out of the tin of mackerel in tomato sauce I bought on whim. I was expecting only the meat, like canned tuna. What came out was the whole fish, halved lengthwise so all the guts were clearly visible. I screamed a bit and decided immediately it was too gross for me to eat. So I offered it to my Tongan flatemate Marion who told me canned mackerel is her favorite because, besides being “really yum”, it has a soft, edible spine, unlike other tinned fish. I must have looked incredulous when she told me this because she said, “Honest! You should try it.” Well, I did.

I don’t think I was even aware of the taste. It was the knowledge of what I was eating that was most horrifying. And the look of the thing. I wish I’d taken a picture so everyone could see just how brave I was. It was just like a human spine, except with tiny, tiny vertebrae. Oh god, and the texture: hard and first and then SNAP! It crumbles like a fishy marzipan. Just think about it make my stomach wonky. And that was two months ago.

Perhaps worse than the fear I felt during this wretched experiment was the embarrassment I suffered afterward. Marion is normally extremely polite and mild mannered. She found my reaction so funny she could not bring herself to stop laughing at me for about fifteen minutes after I took my first and last bite. Even when I left the room. It reminded me very much of the time Carolyn dared me to eat the pork fat from canned baked beans for two dollars. I will never forget the penetrating power of that screeching cackle. I earned that two dollars and I think that’s an appropriately relevant anecdote to end on so I think I’ve earned the right to end this post. Rachel out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

With phones, you make the call!

Ever stop and wonder what "the point" is? Ever question the validity of your existence? Ever feel that sense of general despair gnawing at the pit of your soul? Buy something! You'll feel better.

A few weeks ago I walked to the Warehouse in town intending to buy a cup as a replacement for the one I shattered while pretending to be Chris Martin. I was doing my best to stay focused and actually come home with a cup when I spotted a rack of reduced plus-sized tops. My brain got excited. Naturally, since ill-fitting clothing I’m going to wear not-as-intended is exactly what I need more of in my life. Obviously impulsive Rachel won out (doesn't she always?) or I wouldn't be writing this post.

Top as a dress! Top as a dress! What’s more exciting than a top as a dress? No, I can't take a decent picture.

It is awfully short but I’m young now and I’ve been told my pins are my best feature. I’m quite keen on the print- it’s hippie without the I-don’t-shower-on-days-for-end vibe. The navy looks great with black (Yes, yes, yes black and navy go together!) And it goes well with my cool-kids-only jean jacket. Although, every time I try to wear my jean jacket I get too cold and start shivering, which makes it hard to feel like a bad-ass rebel. I guess that’s the universe’s way of gently reminding me that I’m not cool and never will be. You cannot make milk into cheese.

Of course, I do occasionally worry that this consumerism lifestyle is actively destroying my sense of global responsibility so I make it a point to keep receipts. It’s okay because I can totally return this!

What do you think? Should I return it? I'm not going to figure out how to do a poll now so it's gimme answers in the comments section time!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kiwi Food of the Week

This week’s food of the week is a beverage, an artform, a ritual which reveals the unspoken social divisions within the societies that use it. It is a fascinating subject for social scientists of all backgrounds because of the discussions it engenders about the nature of race, class, gender, and ethnicity. This post discusses none of that. It was knocked up on a coke-high at one am in a pikered attempt to fulfil both food of the week and Carolyn’s request before studying for finals. (Hence the lack of research or pictures.) I’d apologize, but this blog has seen enough “sorry!” to fill…lots of mugs.


Oh Kiwis, they love their tea. You know, 'cause they're British. Or Asian. Or Indian. Point is, they like a good cuppa. (good intro, right?) When I asked you guys what I should write about in a cheap bid for inspiration a few weeks ago, Carolyn said I should write about tea since I refered to myself as a "tea drinker." Well, that's not strictly true...

That was true, once . But that was a long time ago. Back when I woke up stiff and shivering to a frost-coated winterscape. Back when I felt a strange sort of kinship with the makers of jumpin jammerz. Oh, those were dark days indeed. I’d do anything for a bit of heat. Taking a shower made me feel like some sort of crazed heroine addict. Just thirty seconds more. A minute longer. Five more minutes. Can this go hotter? Oh, my skin is burning! Anything for a fix.

It was in this desperate state that tea entered my life. I’d see Lisa and Sanna happily sipping their steaming mugs and think, “Why not me? Why can’t I have tea too? Isn’t it Rachel’s turn for fulfilment?” I don’t like tea, I know this, but it only seemed right that’d I’d have something hot and steamy to wake up to. So I went to the store. Carolyn, you wanted to know what kinds of tea there are here. So many! It’s a glorious sight really- a whole aisle full! Teas made of and for everything. Herbal, medicinal, ones with fruits and flowers I'd never heard of. I felt intimidated and very American. I picked golden kiwi and vanilla-flavoured since the novelty of kiwi-flavoured food hadn’t worn off yet.

I managed to make myself excited when I got home and opened the box. (Surprise!) It smelled so wonderful I thought maybe, just maybe it would taste good. It didn’t. It tasted like tea. I don’t like tea. I don’t know how many times I have to prove it to myself but I just don’t like it. I suppose part of the problem is that I think I ought to, given my love of British culture and bizarre food combinations. Tea goes with my self image. But not my actual tastes. So, I drank it, indifferently, for twenty straight mornings until there were no more bags. When the box ran out my tryst with tea ended. Sure, I could try another flavour, another brand, but what’s the point? I think the problem is me. Sanna did tell me I make my tea the wrong way, “like the English” (Dumping hot water from the tap over the tea bag) Apparently the water doesn’t get hot enough this way. The burn on my forearm disagrees with her. It probably doesn’t help that I used to eat bags of tea during all-nighters back in high school. I cannot think of an adverb that describes how strongly I don’t advise this. I hysterically advise against this. I mean, I doubt too many other people would willingly try this, but, seriously, don’t.

There, I'm done. And I'm not even going to think about my blog until finals are over so I hope you've had your fill. Don't be greedy for the verse.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kiwi Words of the Week

Cautionary note: Since I can't be "on" all the time and because I believe this topic deserves reverence, I will attempt to be serious. That means no dumb puns, or, God help me, Boosh references. Here it goes:
Molly requested I write about The Maori. I hardly feel qualified to do this, but I would certainly be misrepresenting Kiwi slang by ignoring the huge impact the Maori language has on New Zealand English. Like so many cultures affected by British colonialization, the Maori find their own language disapearing. Something like nine percent of Maori adults can actually speak Maori conversationally. The national government has taken measures too, using Maori terms in government documents and printing public service announcements in English and Maori. Since Maori is an official language of New Zealand, university students are allowed to submmit assignments in Maori if they wish. As I've cautioned, I'm no expert, but the following are terms that all Kiwis seem to know and use.

Te Reo Maor: The Maori Language

Aotearoa: "Land of the Long White Cloud" Maori name for New Zealand. I won a crappy t-shirt for

knowing this. I read a book in which the author virulently contested this translation but it's also partof the collective Kiwi general knowledge so I'm not going to bother with his argument.

Some history might be helpful here. Relatively speaking, the Maori haven't been here too long - only about 700 years (New Zealand was the last significant landmass to be inhabited). By most accounts, the first people to set foot in what would become New Zealand were a group of Polynesians in ocean-going canoes (waka) around 1300 AD. Or much later, or much sooner- there's a heaps of debate about this. There's also a lot of debate as to whether these first visitors were actively searching for a large landmass or simply lost. Whatever the case, their first perceptions of the New Zealand coast must have been as a long white cloud, hence the name.

Haka "to ignite the breath" This deserves its own post, really. You can watch the All Blacks (national rugby team) performing their famed version here.

Iwi "bones" This term is probably best understood as "clan" or "tribe" but to really understand iwi you have to understand the concept of whakapapa, Maori genealogy. Iwi is the largest everyday social unit but it can even be extended further to distinguish between the descendents of each of the original voyagers . While explaining whakapapa to the class, our Maori lecturer told us "In my iwi, it is said that if you can't trace your whakapapa back to the original waka, you are descended from a horse!" Horse didn't exisit in New Zealand until they were introduced in the late 18th century by European settlers. (Actually, there are no large, indigenous mammals.) So that's quite an insult. Zing!

Kia ora "be well/healthy" Hi! An informal greeting which can also signify agreement of gratitude. Most of my lecturers begin class with it. Since I'm hopelessly Pakeha I still can't pronounce it correctly. I reckon the closest people like me can get is saying "kee or uh" as quickly as possible.

Pakeha: Maori word for a non-Maori. "Pakeha" is similar to the hispanic word "gringo" in that its meaning and offensiveness really depends on the context and user. Like gringo, Pakeha usually refers to white people, but this isn't the only meaning. It can refer specifically to New Zealand-born white people of European descent when contrasted with indigenous Maori. Or it can mean white people in New Zealand in general, or more broadly, anyone who isn't Maori. As can be expected, there's some controversy surrounding the term but my lecturers use it so I'm going to assume most people don't take offense.

Arguments over etymology give you a good idea of some of the upset over the term. Some claim it's derived from a combination of the Maori word for pig, poaka, and flea, keha, though this is

unlikely. Others believe it is derived from the Maori word for stranger/foreigner which is the basis for most of the Pakeha-lead protests since the word then implies that they are outsiders in the country they were born in. However, the most popular interpretation traces the term back to Pakepakeha, "Mythical, human like being, with fair skin and hair who possessed canoes made of reeds which changed magically into sailing vessels." If you're interested, this paper gives a much more thorough explanation.

If you're just interested in pronouncing it properly, I'd go with "paw kay haw."

Whakapapa: I'm not going to attempt to define this one. Wikipedia does a bang-up job anyway:

"Whakapapa is a fundamental principle that permeates the whole of Māori culture. However, it is more than just a genealogical 'device'. It is in fact a paradigm of cultural discourse and provides the basis for establishing, enhancing, and even challenging relationships between individuals, whanau (families), hapu (local tribal entities), and iwi (regional tribal bodies)."

Wahanu "to give birth" Usually interpreted to mean "extended family" although government use in public service announcements seems to apply it more to the Western nuclear family. But maybe that's just me.

I think wahanu is a good illustration of the interrelatedness of Polynesian languages. Phoenetically, it's quite similar to Hawaiian's "ohana."

Goodness me! That was educational. If you're truly interested in in this subject, I recommend 100 Maori words every New Zealander should know. There's quite a few important terms I've skipped but I'll happily do another post like this if you guys enjoyed it. And since I can't help myself:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I promise to do a real update in the morning. When I wake up morning, not 2 AM right now morning.

I know, I know, I'm behind again. I was getting a tad upset about the paucity of comments but you guys have delivered so it's time for me to return the favor. I thought I'd start by writing about an adventure, since I think I might have had one today and this blog is supposed to be about my adventures anyway. But I have some questions first. Do you guys care about the food of the week posts? Because I think of little else, it's hard for me to conceive of anyone not caring about New Zealand delicacies but judging by the number of comments I generally receive about Food of the Week, you guys don't seem so interested. What about Word of the Week? Even though this mostly blog is self-indulgent, I intend it be for y'all and I really do want you guys to enjoy it. If you'd rather I write about something else, please let me know. I don't act like it, but I am capable of considering other people from time to time.
This post is to let you know that I'm aware I'm once again behind but I'm working on it! Just give me some sweet time.

EDIT or UPDATE or whatever bloggers are supposed to say when they revise posts:
I took this post down so no one would get confused about the ordering and miss last week's word of the week. A little bird told me another bossier little bird was upset I deleted it (and all the comments that came with it). Of course I did not delete it! Your comments are what make this blog worthwhile. And I'm sure as Steve not gonna delete any comments with flattery or ill-advised permission to do "what I feel like."
Since I'm going to guess you've all seen the profanity post by now, this one goes back up. I'm very nearly finished with the next post, but in the mean time, you can look at the new photos I've added to my Picaso web album.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kiwi Words of the Week

I doubt you noticed or cared that there was no word of the week last week. Or the week before that. Or the week before that. Even so, I care and I'm determined to make it up to you! Therefore, this week's word of the week is actually going to be three words, all relating to a subject I find deeply fascinating:

Bugger, Stuff You and Struth:
Zealand Prophanity
Bugger: Like much of Kiwi English, New Zealand slang is greatly influenced by British English. "Bugger" is a prime example. It's definitely British is origin, but it's an important part of the Kiwi lexicon. I think it's closest in meaning and offensiveness to to "damn" in America. Hardly offensive, but an indication that you'd really like to say something foul. It's a step up from "Well, goodness me!" (or Gee whiz! in American) but far more polite than...well, a lot of things, really. Despite its apparent mildness, its use in the infamous Toyota commercial back in '99 (click on the picture!) cause quite a bit of "controvo" (controversy).

In the interest of journalistic integrity, I asked my Niuen flatmate, Lili, about "bugger". Lili has lived in New Zealand for two years but she's spoken Kiwi English for since she was seven so I'm counting her as a proper authority. She said it might be offensive "to some." Like her grandmother who once gave her brother "a hiney" (spanking) for saying it .
Alternative versions:
buggered: exhausted
bugger all: very little (to know bugger all)
bugger off (or naff/raff off): get lost!

Stuff You! Or, alternatively, "get stuffed!" If you spend your
free time obsessively watching the same contemporary British sitcoms as I do, you'll know that "stuff you" was born and still thrives in merry old Britain. But, like a loveable London tramp, it has wandered, working its way into the hearts of New Zealanders along the way. It's also the only Kiwi slang prominently feature in Flight of the Conchords (that I can think of off the top of my head). Click of the picture to see what I mean!

Strewth: I hope I haven't given you the impression that New Zealand culture is entirely derived from Britainia. Assuredly, Kiwis are an industrious, inventive people. They build their own houses, grow their own food and fix just about anything with a bit of number-eight wire and hard yakka. They can very well make their own swears without bossy Britain's help, thank you!
"Strewth" is an example of this. Strewth, or rather "s'truth" is an abbreviation of "God's truth." Of course, this means it's likely a result of British-imported Anglicanism, but that's speculation. From the minimal amount of research I've done, I can safely say it's as Kiwi as marmite.
It's a good all-around swear for venting frustration but it can also mean "honestly." As in,
"Did you chuck the bin bags out the back?"
"Weren't me, mate. Strewth! Musta been the dodgy chippy!"

...and of course, no discussion of swearing would be complete without mentioning the big three: ass, shit and f@ck (which I'm deeming too offensive for the family-friendly blog). Shit is shit but ass is arse, which tickles me to no end. Especially when it's made into a compound noun: "smart-arsed" or in the phrase "He's the whole sheep's arse" (said about someone who's funny). The f-word is as popular here as it is anywhere, but in the true spirit of Kiwi inventiveness, Kiwis have created their own, New Zealand-specific applications. I think sheepf@cker is my favorite. Although, it should be noted, this is as often said about them rather than by them. If you're over eighteen, click here to see some classic New Zealand/Australia banter. If you're not eighteen click here, Also, I apologize for being a morally destructive influence in your life.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Best Kind of Prize is a SUR-prise!

Yesterday was special. Know why, know WHY? Three months ago yesterday Molly posted For Libbie: Rachel's Fantastic Adventures's first blog entry:

The Beginning of something potentially life changing for my readers

Hi Everyone,My name is Rachel and I am going to New Zealand! man my life is so awesome. Well it is a lot better than yours LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL Hmmmm... well your probably wondering a little bit about me and my awesome life. To start off, I am a straight A student. I firmly belive that receiving anyother grade shows that you are a complete failure at life, with no potential for ANY improvement.

Aww, thanks Molly! To celebrate my quarter-year "blogversary" I thought I'd write about something I know my readers will be interested in: themselves. I'd like to think the beginning of this blog marked a turning point in my life, even if I don't know it yet. Perhaps this blog is the start of something grand; perhaps it will lead me places I've never even dared to dream about before. Yes sir, we are going places! I feel the same way about my relationships with you, dear readers. Meeting and befriending each one of you has played a crucial role in my development as a human being. Some of you way more than others, obviously, but I'll let you guess which one you are. So, to commemorate this most important of events, I'd like to take this opportunity to reminisce about my beginnings with y'all.

Carolyn: My first clear memory of you is one you should be ashamed about. I was taking a bath in Mom and Dad's bedroom, minding my own business, completely vulnerable. You ran in the room, screaming, and threw a glass of water on me you dyed bright green with food coloring. I don't remember exactly how I felt (probably annoyed and slightly amused) but I do remember how much trouble you got in. In the end, I remember thinking I won in that situation because you had to apologize to me and clean the tub (which you stained) and I wasn't even that mad. Ha- ha!
And since I know you're going to bring this up, I'll beat you to it and apologize for locking you in the trunk of the car when I was seven. I didn't mean to and I said I was sorry! Probably a hundred times by now. Let's both move on.

Courtney: Oh Courtney, you know what I though about you the first time I met you. In case you don't know, I first met Courtney when I was forced to sit next to her during a summer art class. I was upset about this because Courtney spent the whole hour mocking children for liking children's television programming. I remember thinking, "It's so pathetic that people our age (12) still act like this." That was seven years ago and all I can say is: not much has changed, has it?
I think my first memory of us as friends is you freaking out in the Stapley girl's bathroom during NAL practice. You lied about doing those AIMS computer exercises and got caught by that effeminate computer lab guy who informed Ms. Floerchinger. You were afraid to tell me this because you thought she was hiding in the pipes, listening to our conversation.
Or maybe it was when I told you how upset Ms. Florechinger was about that racially-insensitive story "someone" (you) wrote about Mexicans making tamales to throw at the president. I wish I knew how to instill fear in you like that woman.

Kaitlyn: I hope you're not too insulted I don't remember meeting you for the first time. Sorry! You probably dazzled me, so it's not really my fault. I do remember how shocked I was when you came over to our house and repeatedly called Carolyn a "whore." Catty, shocking, and deliciously provocative. I knew I liked you.
And then you told Carolyn, "If you touch that [my beloved pet turtle Tony] we won't be friends anymore." I guess you're lucky you're a beautiful person (physically) living in a society that judges looks to be more important than kindness to animals and other small creatures, like children. Otherwise I might have to look past your sparkling exterior and decide if I like the person inside.

Libbie: I remember meeting you perfectly. I was, as usual, besides myself with excitement. Everyone on AcDec was thrilled to have you and Courtney told me how cool and funny and stylish you were and showed me the comment you wrote in her yearbook. I thought I was going to have to wait until AcDec sixth hour to meet you, but I was wrong! For the first
few days of our senior year, we had English together first hour. On the first day, Mr. Robinson had the class go pick up that ginormous packet of vocab words. I was last in line and the girl in front of me got hers and then turned to me. "Here." she said, smiling, and handed me a packet. I remember thinking, "That's the sort of casually friendly thing normal, sociable people do. I'm totally going to try that next time!" Then we sat back down and Mr. Robinson called the roll. Oh Libbie, you were that girl! When I heard him call your name, I thought, "Wow! That's Libbie Henrie- and she's super nice!" And then I got mad at myself because I couldn't remember what your face looked like and I NEEDED to know right then. So I spent the rest of the hour trying to stare at you discretely. But you never turned in my direction.
My next memory of you is a few weeks later, in Mr. Eply's room where we had those economics lessons. I walked in late to hear you mocking a certain someone under the pretense of joking. But I knew better, I could feel your hatred because it was a twin version of my own. Even if I couldn't articulate it then, I think I knew you were destined to become an integral part of my life and well-being, like Simon Pegg or Arrested Development.

Molly: I think my first memory of you is from when we were about three. I very clearly remember coloring a picture with you in a corner of the living room. We were coloring in secret, on the lower shelf of the end table that's now in the den. I think the picture was for Mom's birthday. I remember telling you, "This is for Mom so it has to be really pretty." As in, only use purple and pink crayons to make a giant ugly scribble. Happy Birthday, Mom!