The Chameleon. Lurking in the urban jungle, undetected, unknown, blending into the ever changing landscape, sampling everything from fine dining to reviewing take away joints, this lizard loves food possibly a little bit too much.

State of Food: New Zealand circa mid 2014

Travelling the land of the long white cloud has been fun over the last two weeks. I visited both islands during the start of winter, snow began to fall, electric blankets were bought out of the wardrobes and good old comfort food once again showed it's face at the dinner table. The burning question before embarking on this trip was to find out just what exactly 'New Zealand food' is. In America they have BBQ and take away giants and pretty much whatever else you can think off. In Australia, a lot centres around steak and seafood and in Europe, meat based dishes and dessert pretty much rule. New Zealand however appears to be stuck, much like Australia, in a weird twilight zone where the term 'national food identity' has difficulty emerging; we all know pavlova is from here, but what else? 
   The food that often presented itself at almost every stop along the way were various forms of pies. But let me ask you, is the universally adopted, seen everywhere pie, really something New Zealand should base it's culinary premise around? A pie? Mind you, there were plenty of decent pies consumed on my trip and in particular a butter chicken pie, something I had never heard of before this trip, was kind of tasty and unique. The quintessential Maori dish is of course the Hangi, but unfortunately you have to sell you soul and take out a mortgage just to get a whiff of this elusive treat, and even then, I doubt you would get your hands on an authentic 'cooked in the ground' treat. 
   I was thus treated to the usual offerings you can pretty much get in any multi-cultural western country, with no vibe of identity gracing the palate. New Zealand has it's fair share of what I am going to call signature restaurants, like Fergburger in Queenstown where I lined up with a weird and wonderful mixture of snow bunnies, hipsters and middle aged couples on their 'lifetime trip' for close to an hour from joining the cue to taking that delicious first bite. These places though are anomalies; they're dotted here and there, they are all different, hence they don't really represent what is essentially New Zealand. And as a side note; of course we all know lamb is common in NZ. But if you're going to simply replace beef with lamb and say it's New Zealandish, I would have to respectfully disagree.
   Did I have some memorable food? Yes, of course, but was it 'New Zealand'? I craved something different, something unique but as hard as I tried searching and probing, I left with an empty feeling that this beautiful country seems to adopt the cuisine of places somewhere else rather than focus on developing it's own unique identity.  

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