“So what do you eat normally in New Zealand?”
“We eat a lot of lamb. There are 13 sheep for every person in New Zealand. I guess… mince (minced meat) and cheese pies. We eat that a lot. It’s like a normal lunch or dinner food. But it’s like too normal to be our cultural food…”
“So what’s your cultural food?”
“Well there’s a lot of dessert. Do you know Pavlova? It’s like a meringue cake. Oh and there’s Hangi. It’s like the traditional form of cooking in New Zealand. Meat gets buried underground for like 8 hours. It’s this real smokey flavor. ”
Informant & Context:
My informant for this piece is a USC student from New Zealand who lived in Auckland for 18 years. She is speaking about cultural food in both senses: the first being food she commonly eats, and the second being historical or traditional food.
Regarding Hangi: it is a traditional Maori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven. It is still used in special occasions. (Wikipedia)
These items of food don’t seem especially odd by western standards. Presumably this is because they take a lot of influence from English culture and English food—where a lot of American culture is rooted as well. It was slightly odd to me that my informant cited a Maori tradition as the cultural food of New Zealand—considering that in the USA, we don’t define traditional American culture as Native American culture.