Sam and I have always enjoyed cooking, but up until this semester, we never had the opportunity to do it on a regular basis. Now with a kitchen to ourselves (or more to ourselves, anyway) we were able to pursue all of our culinary endeavors, most of which ended up being a huge success.
Certainly, food is often times just that – food. It’s sustenance that keeps you alive, no flair or extravagance needed. Our one flatmate, Alex, perceived ‘food’ as just that as he survived on a diet of eggs and yogurt. Regrettably, this mentality is all too common among my generation, as most college students I know never even attempt learning to make anything outside of cereal and sandwiches. I believe that food, while vital to survival, is also a form of art dealing with the senses of sight, smell, and most importantly, taste. Sure, you can live on pizza for a semester, but where’s the fun in that?
Throughout our time in New Zealand, we’ve made quite a variety of dishes. Naturally, we used some recipes we learned back home – just because you’re on the other side of Earth doesn’t mean you have to abandon what you like to eat. This meant that we wouldn’t have to be without quesadillas, chicken picatta, stuffed pork tenderloin, french onion soup, etc. However, due to geographic differences, ingredient availability and prices varied. Good luck finding cilantro in New Zealand (no, coriander is NOT the same thing, despite the fact that it comes from the same plant), or a lime that doesn’t cost more than a house. While problematic, this did not prevent us from making food that we were used to. It simply meant that we would have to get creative and substitute the ingredients we wanted for the ingredients we had available. When cooking Jambalaya, we used venison (deer) sausage instead of the Andouille we would use back home.
Most people have never heard of ‘Cajun food’ here.
We substituted lemons in recipes calling for limes. Vegetables like bok choy were used to replace iceberg lettuce in salads. Though a bit different, all of our favorite dishes still turned out great, and made us better and more adaptable cooks! Of course, not every recipe needed substitutions. For instance, our lemon-pie-bars and chocolate-chip-and-sea-salt-cookies went off without a hitch.
Naturally, we didn’t just stick to what we knew – we made and enjoyed the food New Zealand had to offer. One of the most popular pizza toppings we’ve seen over here is cranberry, cream cheese, and chicken. Sounds a bit strange, I know, but actually tastes amazing. We enjoyed it so much that we made one of our own!
Considering New Zealand is a multicultural country, it’s hard to say what food is distinctly unique or indicative of the country, but lamb is a popular food here, as there are more sheep than people, and we have had our fill of it! Steaks, chops, meatballs, ice cream, etc. if there’s a way you can eat lamb, they’ve done it here.
All in all, we’ve had a pretty great time cooking and eating in New Zealand. Switch up your go-to recipes sometime – it’s a nice challenge and can produce some pretty great results!