Tag Archives: vegan cuisine

All This Writing is Making Me Hungry

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I have good news, and bad news. The good news first, of course: I am truly enjoying my doctoral research program (I’m studying changing foodways in the Cook Islands), although there have already been (inevitably) a few overwhelming moments. The bad news? I want to eat all. the. pancake-flippin’. time. Much of my days are spent reading and writing about food, and though this has not resulted in cravings for tinned meats or breadfruit, it does mean I’m pondering foodstuffs whilst sitting. I’ve already gained 2 kilos, and while this isn’t in itself a serious issue, if things keep going in this direction–and I’m referring here to biscuits going in the direction of my mouth — I will have to get another part-time job to buy new clothes!  I decided instead to join the on-campus fitness center. Sliding back into graduate life with yoga pants (the kind from Athleta that have pockets so I’m like, these are totally presentable) and ponytails has felt quite natural after 15+ years and two kids. . . until, that is, I visited a cross-fit class at the gym today and realized a) I may never be able to do real jumping-jacks again (humiliating, I think I cleared 2 mm), and b) wearing glasses to this type of activity is just not acceptable (why did I think it was?). For every gruelling and bizarre exercise the instructor looked directly at me for the “alternate” option: “If you’re not sure you can leap into the air and land in a low squat repeatedly because you might keel over and traumatize us all, just jog slowly in place.” I left early (to pick up Everett, don’t judge) and kicked a barbell on my way out of the darkened, neon-lit room, emitting a Homer Simpsonesque “doh!” Tomorrow I’ll be back to riding the exercise bike for a slow 23 minutes and highlighting an article. Nerd alert. (And yes, double nerd points for writing nerd alert.)

Before my embarrassing foray into the world of cross-fit I had a turning-point meeting with my supervisors. I sent them a 12 page paper on Friday that was supposed to be about gender in the context of religion and food in the Cook Islands. It was, technically, but –and this is what they each pointed out to me — I seem to always return to a more modern narrative of health and nutrition, asking questions, for example, about how the Cooks came to be, along with Nauru and Micronesia, one of the most obese nations in the world? A modern problem with roots in the period I’m researching, yes, but how much of this transition from dependence on traditional to imported foods can be tied to missionaries? By narrowing my view was I leaving out potentially excellent sources? (The other option was that my paper made zero sense.)

“What kind of historian do you want to be — a historian of religion, of food, or the Pacific?” “Definitely food. And the Pacific.”  So there we are, and my project has broadened to looking at many influences on changing foodways, not just religion. Don’t worry, missionaries will still figure prominently in my work — how could I leave out Seventh-day Adventists telling Cook Islanders they had to abandon pork, shellfish and kava, all important ceremonial foods, in order to join the church? — but I will be exploring other influences as well.

Breadfruit and Taro, two traditional Pacific Island foods

Greetings from the Land of Kiwis

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Is it a bird, a fruit, a person. . . or all of the above?  

After almost two weeks in this beautiful land of all kinds of kiwis, we are settling in and beginning to get our bearings. There have been hits and misses food-wise, to be sure, and mostly misses. Why, you ask? Well. For starters, my beloved cookbooks, Vitamix, and coffee accoutrements — not to mention my coats and winter shoes (which I’d like to wear to find good eats, it’s been stormy and cold) — remain MIA in the storage unit. Furthermore, since our arrival we’ve been staying in a 16th-floor-itsy-bitsy-not-one-drawer hotel room with our 10 pieces of luggage and four people, and subsisting mainly on peanut butter (cue celestial music for PB, I somehow still like it). Further furthermore, we have been focused primarily on getting everyone registered and set up for various levels of educational pursuits. As a result of all these non-food related shenanigans, my status as expat foodie has been on the back burner.

But the times are a-changin’, friends! Tonight we’ll be checking out my top choice for Thai cuisine in Auckland, Blue Elephant, and this weekend we will venture into a new part of the city and peruse another farmer’s market (there are dozens!). And perhaps most important, we are moving into a 4-bedroom house tomorrow and I will be able to not only stretch my legs and get a moment’s peace from certain energetic children, but be able to cook. 

Last weekend we visited the Bay of Islands and toured the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the 1840 agreement that made New Zealand a nation was signed between the Maori and the British. Our Maori guide told the legend of why kiwi birds are the national bird of New Zealand as well as a beloved nickname for her people. Apparently insects were destroying the forest, and the god of the forest, Tane-mahuta, called upon the birds of the sky to help. The brave kiwi was the only one to come to the forest floor and fight to save the trees. As a reward for giving up its ability to fly the kiwi became the most adored and well-known bird of all. I hope the trade, which made kiwis susceptible to all kinds of flightless bird issues, was worth it. 

Just as you might expect, kiwifruits are prolific, inexpensive, and delicious here — we’ve eaten them almost daily, and our favorite is definitely the golden variety. Kiwifruit–originally known as “Chinese gooseberries”– are indigenous to China and were brought to New Zealand in the early 1900s. It wasn’t until after World War II when American servicemen first tasted the fruit that Chinese gooseberries shipped commercially from New Zealand were renamed “kiwis” as they resemble the birds in shape and color. 

There are over 60 species of kiwifruits, but only a few are well-known around the world. High in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C — and low in calories, of course (unless paired with twinkies or fries) — the tiny kiwi packs an unexpected nutritional punch. High potassium intake has been shown to help lower blood pressure, regulate and deepen sleep (jet-lag be gone!), and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Having just relocated to one of the most intensely sunny places in the world, I’m happy to report that collagen production (think youthful, smooth, healthy skin.. . are you listening, face?) depends heavily on vitamin C.  

I’ve been enjoying kiwis in their own tiny, adorable bowls, but am excited to try them in my smoothies, atop chia-seed coconut pudding, and in salads. I will post a few kiwi-laden recipes soon. Until then, kia ora (good health)! 🙂

kiwi