On arrival the first thing that struck about New Zealand was their undying love for "pies". Over the weeks I therefore endeavoured but failed to work my way fully through the local pub's pie menu which boasted the likes of: Ostrish & Blue Cheese; Venison & Red Current; Rabbit, Lamb & Bacon; Lamb & Rasberry, Chilli Beef & Sour Cream and last but not least, Cajun Chicken & Cream Cheese. However to be perfectly honest while tasty and filling when served with the usual chips and salad, the popular pies unfortunately failed to live up to the expectations set by their wondrous names. This however may be due to the fact that I never tasted a true home made pie as oppposed to the "weekly delivery batch" which I base my opinion on. Mind you mass production without the mothers special touch doesn't seem to to put the local farmers off each afternoon. Indeed observing these stubbled faced, lumber jack shirted, hiking booted men climbing down from their John Deere in khaki rugby shorts (that should not be consistent with deep voices) brought me back to my childhood reads of the Dandy Comic. It has perhaps at last solved that life long mystery ! Cow pie loving Deserate Dan was obviously a Kiwi !!
Nevertheless I am happy to say that there were many times when I was not eating local kiwi pies but instead sampling the home grown lamb. Now unlike the second division pies, the said meat which tasted of no hormones or European subsidies was tuly spectacular. Be it Roast Lamb, Lamb Shanks, or even Lamb Salad it was without question the best I have ever tasted .
Like many other nations the barbeque is an integral part of Kiwi culture. Christmas, New Years, Sundays, birthdays and holidays are all seemingly honoured with one. However this is not barbeque of the charcoal kind but rather the modern looking trolley that is run uneventfully on gas. Those of you who have passed through Argentina will easily remember the national pride taken in the charcoal BBQ. So much so that they would mention it in the same sentence as Maradonna, Batistuta and Tango. You might also remember being asked by perplexed faces, "Is it ture that in Europe you use a gas barbeque?". My excuse was always the unreliability of Irish weather and hence lack of tradition. However in New Zealand they rhym off a line about danger of forest fires even though there were definitely no forests to be seen in the city and village gardens where I was.I also recall the personal pride of the Argentine who held the position of head chef for the gathering. In New Zealand however I never sensed the same concept of the barbeque being the intricate and delicate delicate art which one must master. Furthermore I am highly surprised that a country with perhaps more barbequers than cars has not developed some sort of garnish or sauce to accompany their al fresco meal. The phrase "lack of gastronomic sophistication" springs to mind but maybe that is a bit rich coming from an Irishman. Then again, I may be a little too criticial and it would be dishonest of me to not mention the unmatcheable hospitality, steady flow of cold beers and great kiwi company that Argentina could only dream of equalling. Afterall who needs a garnish or charcoal when the meat tastes so naturally great in between all those laughs.
Every person in a foreign land will always have a list in their heads of things that only ever taste good and proper in their native home. Milk is high on mine which is further confounded by the plastic tasting UHT that they force feed me in Madrid. New Zealand on the other hand have silenced my Irish trumpet. While I won't use the word "better", I will compromise with an "as good as". The same accolade goes to their white bread.
In restaurants coffee always tastes of the jar but quite frankly who cares when the three tiered Pavlova is not far behind it. However not only are they three times bigger than our irish mothers fantastic offerings but the family proud Irish contingent unhesitantly took their hats off to the Kiwi team. I am sure Mammy Moran in Meath will not mind such remarks given that they invented it here. In other words, it is theirs !! They don't send their Kiwi sons around Ireland saying that their mother in North Cantebury make sbetter Guinness. Mind you, I can't imagine us ever renaming our stout after a Russian Ballet dancer performing in Dublin !!