One of the great joys of my recent trip back in NZ was eating.
The joy coming not just from how fresh and delicious everything was, but that every meal was spent (mainly due to my short return and resulting temporary celebrity status) in conversation with good friends. Conversations about life and what was going on, and of course about the food. About where it came from, about what had been done to it, and other things we could do with it. Maybe my friends are just a decadent bunch, maybe they were just indulging my ramblings, but we talked about it a lot.
One of the highlights of my trip back was to attend a wedding up north. It was a home made wedding with everyone chipping in to make it happen – the day itself was joyous and felt deeply personal, with the food at the very heart of it. I had thought this would be the case, as the bride and her friends had worked at most of my favourite restaurants in London. The food was locally sourced, caught at the stag do, or in the case of the lamb and pork, raised specially for the occasion by their uncle and skilfully butchered and prepared by a friend. Everything was prepared at the house by friends with love, thought and attention, with influences from both the Portuguese and New Zealand cultures of the bride and groom.
At the wedding itself, beautiful canapés were served post ceremony to offset the sun and champagne, but my favourite part was the wedding feast that came after. It was unfussy, and uncompromising with no options (apart from to not eat) and perfectly thought out. The starter was a barbecued octopus, faro, celery and orange salad, complete with curly, charred sucker-covered arms. The main was bbq’d lamb with a couple of salads, fresh artisan breads, with salsa verde and habanero picalilly as condiments, the chef in charge of grilling this looking smooth and unspattered in his suit. The wedding cake was a passionfruit cheesecake. Everything about it was perfection – including the food just being handed down the long tables and the noisy and appreciative conversation about the food, it epitomised the whole trip.
This and many other meals besides, some in restaurants, some cooked for me and eaten on a balcony as some kind of memorial, tomatoes picked from the garden on fresh bread slathered with butter as the perfect lunch, others made collectively – leaning against the kitchen bench, drinking wine and talking about what we were doing with the food or our lives. All of them about connection with each other and the food, thoughtfully pulling things together – the ingredients, the people, the shared experience.
And so the point to this, in my first posting, is that while it is about what you eat, to me it’s more about how.