When New Zealand’s Pākehā (pronounced ‘par key har” = New Zealanders of European descent) settled in New Zealand they bought with them and adhered to the traditions they had been familiar with “back home”.
These were not just things like the fashion of the day, religious traditions, methods of farming, ways of speaking and social structure, but also their traditions concerning food.
Many things were “transferable” and in fact improved because New Zealand had better weather than northern Europe, thus longer growing seasons and a variety in the climate that allowed for many different crops in various parts of the country.
That’s why still today, Otago in the south of the South Island is as famous for it’s apricots (and other stone fruits), Blenheim for grapes and wine, as Te Puke is for Kiwifruit, Kerikeri for oranges/grapefruit, Dargaville for kumara and Katikati for avocados are in the North.
Local Maori introduced Pākehā to vegetables like kumara (a very specific tasting variery sweet potato) and thus began the fusion of cooking style that’s popular in New Zealand today and which is still evolving.
Back in my Grandparent’s day it was totally unthinkable for anything else to be on your Christmas Day menu than a full roast with all the trimmings. It was just what everyone “did”.
The big problem was that the New Zealand Christmas falls not at the start of winter per the Northeren Hemisphere, but at the start of a Southern Hemisphere summer.
December in New Zealand can be roughly compared to May in northern europe…
…weatherwise it’s an unpredicable month and there’s a fairly equal chance that it’s a temporate 17 C where a jersey (pull-over) is needed or a sweltering 28 C were everyone is happiest in tee-shirts and shorts and kids are running around with home-made water pistols made out of old, cleaned detergent bottles on the front lawn.
If it was the latter, then Kiwi families up and down the country literally sweated over a hot stove to get the roast onto the Christmas table and then found themselves sitting in front of a heavy meal of roast meat, or turkey, potatoes, parsnip, carrots, pumpkin, onions, peas and gravy, and often followed by a dessert of trifle, custard etc.
Such fare is of course true winter food and delicious as such, but it’s rather heavy going if the temperature you are eating it in is closer to 30 degrees.
During my lifetime I have seen a noticable shift in the New Zealand Christmas menu…
…mostly gone are the roast parsnips, carrots and pumpkin, there may or may not be a leg of lamb or a turkey etc but more often (at least in our circle of accquaintences) it’s being replaced by ham, regular or smoked chicken served cold, salads of many various sorts and lighter desserts like the famous New Zealand Pavlova.
New potatoes are boiled with sprigs of mint and not roasted, our freshly shelled peas picked just two days ago have been boiled and are on the table and there’s not a tankard of mulled wine in sight.
For many families, enjoying the long summer break at Christmas also means that they may or may not be at home.
They might possibly be camping, or at a “batch” (holiday home) (a.k.a. A “crib” if you hail from Otago) where stove facilites could be limited.
Wither that was the origin of the Christmas Day BBQ or not will probably never really be substantiated but more and more Kiwi’s are enjoying a Christmas Day BBQ even if they are at home to celebrate these days.
Christmas in New Zealand has definitely bcome a less formal affair. Of course there are still some people who still do the roast bird and all the trimmings but as far as I know from my own experience, most people will do something that’s a meeting in the middle, like roast meat (served hot or cold) and roast potatoes with salad.
Kiwi’s like to relax and enjoy the friends and family that have joined them and make the most of the weather.
Family Kiwidutch have been lucky enough to receive two invitations for Christmas 2011.
The first is from Rae and Pete at the B&B to join them for lunch and the second is with my Aunt and Uncle around the road for dinner as they already have a lunch engagement to attend.
We contribute to desserts and drinks and are treated to a wonderful time full of good company and food.
It’s a very different style Christmas Day than those we have in The Netherlands, but long hours of daylight and summer weather have quite rightly meant that Kiwi’s have adapted to celebrating the season according to the season…
One Christmas problem however appears to be the same no matter if you are in the northern or southern hemisphere, …the food was so delicious that despite our best intentions we all still ate too much. Look at this stuff…do you blame us? It was Christmas after all !