Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The cultural desert in which I dwell

A sign caught my eye while I was in town today. It proudly proclaimed that the local Fisherman's Table (a mere 30km from the sea, and 75km from the nearest source of fresh fish) had been voted the Manawatu's best restaurant. For the third year running.

These hicks wouldn't know good food if it hit them in the face.


so ... why live there?

Posted by Anonymous : 6/13/2007 06:53:00 PM

And here I was complaining about the lack of good laksa and curry in Canberra!

Posted by Anonymous : 6/13/2007 06:56:00 PM

This isnt the eastern bloc - if you dont like the people move ......Maybe you can enjoy the culinary delights of your comrades in north korea, i hear they do great things with bark

Posted by Anonymous : 6/13/2007 08:40:00 PM

Wellington isn't that much better IMO- at least for those of us who are vegetarians/vegans.

I think about moving to Palmerston North sometimes. The idea of cheap housing and short commutes is very appealing. There appears to be a working internet and I expect Amazon would deliver- And I hear it is a great place to raise kids;)

Posted by Amanda : 6/13/2007 08:53:00 PM

Canberra curry: Jewel of India in Manuka (upstairs)
Wellington vegan: Prahna in Newtown

Posted by Anonymous : 6/13/2007 10:06:00 PM

I feel your pain, as a vegan who dwells in the very same cultural desert. The question has to be asked - voted by whom? I would be surprised if the voting/possibly fictional voters had any real integrity (or taste buds).

Posted by Rachel : 6/14/2007 06:17:00 AM

What do you mean, no vegan offerings in Wellington? The Green Belt is full of mushrooms!

Posted by Will de Cleene : 6/14/2007 08:54:00 AM

I lived in Palmerston North once, for nine months. It felt like nine years. It's the perfect storm of provincial awfulness with no beaches, boring nightlife, a second class university full of the B-teamers getting their dubious degrees in resource management and pre-school education, a dreary climate and geographical anonymity. Absolutely dreadful place.

Posted by Sanctuary : 6/14/2007 09:08:00 AM

It isn't that easy to get quality fresh fish even in actual coastal places like Tauranga. Auckland is fortunate to have both the Auckland Fish Market and numerous Chinese supermarkets (like the Silver Bell) that have a good range of fish.

When I was in Papamoa, one bliock from the beach, if you didn't catch it yourself the best you could do was snapper fillets from the chippy (the woman there did say I sounded like Jamie Oliver though!!)

What I really want to know is:

- why do you need a mortgage to buy a prawn in NZ - and why are they always frozen (or frozen and then defrosted for sale, which I don't see the point of)?

- why are your meat choices basically limited to beef,lamb,pork,chook. Tescos in London have venison, pheasant, duck, quail - if you can eat it they sell it...

anon: there is a great restuarant in Pyongyang called "Enemies of the People" - they do the live monkey brain thing, only with tories.

Posted by Rich : 6/14/2007 09:17:00 AM

I seem to recall the Two Fat Ladies bewailing the way you could get better fish in London than you could get on the coast.

why do you need a mortgage to buy a prawn in NZ?

Having been to Queensland (and read a lot of recipies in Austrlia-NZ editions of magazines) I do understand. It's like the use them for confetti over there. All of ours are imported, if that explains anything.

why are your meat choices basically limited to beef,lamb,pork,chook

Because you don't live in the same city as a Moore Wilson's?

Posted by Lyndon : 6/14/2007 10:08:00 AM

The really sad thing is that New Zealand has only two inland cities - Palmerston North and Hamilton. So when sea levels rise, I think many of us will prefer to drown that live in those hell holes.

Posted by G7 : 6/14/2007 10:42:00 AM

"why do you need a mortgage to buy a prawn in NZ?"

For the same reason that milk just went up 18c a litre, and for the same reason lamb is scandalously expensive. We pay whatever the highest price a foreigner is prepared to pay for our good on the export market. Indeed, given the general selfish irresponsibility and rapacious greed that characterises our primary export sectors (think strip mining the ocean, die-in-a-ditch resistance to polluter pays in dairying) I wouldn't be surprised if our exporters wouldn't worry about a Bengal famine - - at home if export prices were high enough.

As someone who spent all his adolescence and a fair proportion of his adult life working in the fishing industry, I can vouchsafe our fishing industry, "reformed" at the height of Rogernomics, is geared towards providing corporate quota holders with a robber baron mentality maximum profits at everyone - and everything - elses expense.

They way our fishing industry, specifically the inshore fishery, is run by crony capitalist cartels is an absolute scandal and disgrace. The supply of moderately priced seafood to the local market from the inshore fishery industry should rightly be seen as cultural right, and should not be totally subservient to the profit drive of corporate fishing interests. Its appalling that only Maori with traditional access (a widely and cynically abused privilege) and those rich enough to own a boat can access decent seafood in a country of four million people that has the third largest EEZ in the world.

The answer is to (re)create a small owner operator class of fishers in every port, who accept technology restrictions (on boat size, speed, on the number and type and construction of nets and pots) in return for the ability to catch and sell seafood into the local market without quota. That would far more server New Zealanders than our current structure.

Posted by Sanctuary : 6/14/2007 10:52:00 AM

If you don't trust them for simple things like which food is nice, why do you trust them to make important decisions over your life through the political process?

Posted by Samuel Konkin : 6/14/2007 11:25:00 AM

Sanctuary: good idea on local fishing and local markets.

Posted by Muerk : 6/14/2007 11:35:00 AM

if you're in wellington, check out moore wilsons for a good variety of meats (wild hare, vension, duck etc). also some good exotic vegetables, and pulses/grains at reasonable prices.

but if you need vegetables at a great price, the sunday markets on willis st and in schafers park are a must.

there's an asian (thai? cambodian?) couple way down the back at the schafers one who sell asian herbs at incredibly cheap prices.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/14/2007 02:22:00 PM

MTNW: The housing isn't that cheap (to be affordable you really need to move to Invercargill), and the commutes not that short. As half of town tries to get to Massey every morning, the result is a 5km long traffic jam. But Amazon does deliver, so you don't need to rely on the local intellectual resources.

Rachel: by the readers of the Manawatu Standard apparently. Which given the quality of their restaurant "reviewer" (who eats steak and complains about the napkins and presence of vegetarian food in a different place every week) is hardly surprising.

Sanctuary: that about sums it up. Though I console myself with the thought that it is not Fielding.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/14/2007 03:28:00 PM

Complains about the napkins
What, that they have any? Real men should walk out proudly bearing the evidence of a hearty meal?

So where is "moore wilsons"? I will go there on my next visit to the civilized world.

Posted by Rich : 6/14/2007 04:15:00 PM

Rich: No - that they're usually paper rather than cloth. Or something like that. he also has something against dukkah, which I can never understand.

As for Moore Wilson's, see here.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/14/2007 04:32:00 PM

It's crazy isn't it? I heard of a couple in Dannevirke (friend-of-a-friend connection) who had a big celebration dinner in Palmerston North for their 50th wedding anniversary. They went to Cobb & Co.

What're your favourite local restaurants then I/S? We often go to Halikarnas, though I did once make the mistake of going there a day after going to the excellent Cafe Istanbul in Wellington - there was a notable difference.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/14/2007 05:16:00 PM

David: Ah, "the Cobb". I had the misfortune of being forced to eat there once, and all I can say is that Her Majesty has very poor taste in restaurants (which IMHO is another reason to ditch her and declare a republic).

As for PN restaurants, I'm quite fond of Roma, and of the Bangkok Thai (though I think its gone downhill recently, and you really need a good group to sample things). I'd also like to further explore the menu at Bathhouse. As for brunch, I quite like The Elm; my previous favourite was Moxies, but it hasn't been the same since they ditched the corn fritters.

(As for Halikarnas', I agree, they compare very badly with Istanbul).

Generally, when I want to eat out, I go to Wellington.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/14/2007 05:38:00 PM

One time when I was at Cobb and Co, Whangarei, a guy at the next table took out his false teeth and swooshed them around in his jug of rum and coke to stop anyone from drinking from it.

I haven't seen anything like that recently in Wellington-its so bland and dull here- though lets not forget a couple of years ago it was mentioned as the food poisoning capital of New Zealand

Posted by Amanda : 6/14/2007 05:54:00 PM

I've only been to Bangkok Thai and Roma once. I recall being disappointed at Roma, but it was years ago so I don't remember why.

I have to say that by far the best eatery in the city was the gelateria that opened in Rangatikei St a year or two ago. It was fantastic, but predictably folded after a short while.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/14/2007 06:52:00 PM

David: I have to say that by far the best eatery in the city was the gelateria that opened in Rangatikei St a year or two ago. It was fantastic, but predictably folded after a short while.

Yeah, I was disappointed about that too.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/14/2007 07:26:00 PM

next time you're in wellington and need a great meal at a reasonable price, check out plum in cuba mall.

well worth every cent.

dunno if they do vegetarian or vegan but...

Posted by Anonymous : 6/14/2007 08:11:00 PM

If you examine the worldview condensed into that post, you'll understand one of the reasons why the left has failed to gain more traction in this country over the past quarter century.

One of the reasons why ordinary, uncool people - the sort of people who don't buy trim milk or drink lattes or do yoga - in the unfashionable suburbs of our big cities and in the provinces are so susceptible to the politics of the right, particularly on 'cultural' issues like smacking or civil unions, is that they feel despised by the liberal left.

There's a cultural split between middle class liberals and much of the working class which goes back, perhaps, to the 1981 Springbok Tour.

In 1981 some division was probably unavoidable, because the Tour was an issue where urban liberals were out in front of much (though not all) of the rest of the population, but the Labour government that came to power in 1984 played on the split, winning over liberals on issues like nuke ships to secure their support for neo-liberal economic policies that savaged the working class and rural heartlands of the country.

We see the continuing influence of the split today on issues like smacking and civil unions, which the right uses to lure working class and rural voters into its camp. Cultural liberalism has been disconnected from progressive left-wing policies toward the economy and industrial relations.

Over the past year or so I've often turned on talkback radio and heard somebody inveighing against curbs on smacking or civil unions or liberals who are soft on crime or the influx of scary Muslims and then heard the same caller turn around and say 'Mind you, I don't agree with John Key/Don Brash/Brian Tamaki about other things, I'm an old Labour supporter, I think you've gotta look after the unions and the little people' and so on.
It's a depressing mantra.

It's the liberal left, and not the rest of New Zealand, which needs a culture change. A lot of the paraphenalia of the culture of the middle and upper classes, liberal or conservative, is based on a contempt for those further down the food chain.

There's nothing wrong with fish and chips, or New Zealand beer, or old men taking their false teeth at a Cobb and Co restaurant in the provinces. If urban liberals stopped cringing and took notice then they'd see that the culture of provincial New Zealand is inifintely richer and more alive than the lifestyles of the denizens of Parnell or Ponsonby or Island Bay. Read Frank Sargeson or Ronald Hugh Morrieson!

The first time I visited this blog, several years ago, I encountered an appalling post which claimed that New Zeaand history did not make very interesting study, because nothing much had ever happened here. To be fair, you've posted a lot of good stuff, and done a lot of good political work, since then. It's a pity that the old of mixture of smugness and ignorance has crept into your this latest post. A viable left-wing politics for New Zealand has to be rooted in the history and cultures of this country, not the lifestyles of urban liberals. Get yourself down the road for some fish and chips! ;)

Posted by maps : 6/15/2007 01:19:00 PM

Just to clarify: I'm not arguing that the liberal left should abandon support for progressive policies in the realm of culture just because they offend social conservatives in the provinces.

I just think that it would be a lot easier to argue for policies like the Bradford bill, civil unions and so on if liberalism was disconnected from the sort of sneering which I find in I/S's post.

What a pity it'd be if a rather petty prejudice against the diet of most New Zealanders alienated visitors to this blog, so that they didn't read the useful material here on issues like the War of Terror and sedition laws.

Confession: I was in Palmy for a week in April and I liked the place!

Posted by maps : 6/15/2007 01:46:00 PM

maps - While I think you're exaggerating the tone of the above, it's a good point. There's certainly a cultural divide.

Personally I like eating fish and chips done well, it's just there's also better food in the world. I don't think that's a political thing.

If y'all haven't been to the fundy post, you might want to compare this discussion with this, followed by this.

Posted by Lyndon : 6/15/2007 02:29:00 PM

Sorry Mum.

Posted by Sanctuary : 6/15/2007 03:21:00 PM

Thanks anon, good Indian cuisine has been reliably located in Canberra...

MTNW - a lack of veg/vegan food in Wellington? It wasn't a problem I ever encountered, although I invariably gravitate towards Sth/SE Asian food when given the choice!

Posted by GZ : 6/15/2007 07:11:00 PM