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Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?

Posted by helen 
Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 03, 2016 04:59AM
My daughter (12) has just returned from school camp and grumbled about the hangi that they had while staying a night at a marae. From the girls I picked up it sounds as though the scrap bin was full of food after the meal and one of the teachers did a quick trip to town to buy food for her and some of the other adults....

I just wonder at the point of having a hangi is. It is a huge amount of work for those involved and a disgrace for it all to be thrown out again yet are urban kids really going to eat it?

Hangi food is surely for those who have been brought up with it as opposed to a preferred method of cooking food to get it to taste good.

What do you think?
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 03, 2016 05:32AM
Its a really interesting question. Because it has quite a few things to consider.
Basic manners. If you go to someone else's house and you are offered their food - do you eat it - or refuse it?
I would not refuse it - and I would hope my kids would not either. I think culturally diverse foods are interesting even when they are not to our particular taste. They should be eaten for the experience of having eaten them - if that makes sense.
We are all NZers - from all kinds of different backgrounds, but I can think of several occasions where I have been asked about hangi food and maori culture and I can honestly say I would be ashamed not to be able to answer them. I am not maori, I am a NZ European/Native American mix. I think as kiwis we all have a responsibility to help preserve maori culture. Afterall - this is the only place in the world it exists - imagine a world with no Haka, no beautiful maori moko's or greenstone carvings etc.. we'd all be the much poorer for it.
Perhaps the school should have prepared them a little better for their experience.
I'm sure there will be plenty of people that will disagree with me around the not forcing kids to eat etc, but I don't see it as that, I see it as appreciating a culture that is unique to NZ and good manners to your host.
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 03, 2016 07:05AM
I agree with Sundays points. I think at the end of the day it would have been mostly a meat and vegetable meal, nothing out of the norm or hopefully not unknown food items , so probably it would have been something most people could eat, even if it wasn`t cooked to their liking.
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 03, 2016 07:09AM
Sunday I love exploring new flavours but to be honest I personally don't find the starchy vegetables and meat from a hangi (or island umu) appealing.

I agree to preserving culture but I just don't know if I see the value in the enormous amount of work that is involved in a hangi unless they think their guests are going to appreciate it.

I see the waste as being predictable and it is just such a huge effort to cook the food.
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 03, 2016 09:07AM
I just wonder if those that were responsible for the cooking actually knew what they were doing. If the adults felt the need to then go and buy food perhaps that was some acknowledgement. Other than that a hangi is a part of someones culture and really each to their own in the wider scheme of things and no objection to it being done at school camps.
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 03, 2016 09:14AM
Unless you have grown up having been on a Marae or among those who often put down a hangi, at the age of twelve I can imagine you may view the fare a little differently. Just as you would if you were not used to any other food styles. .

I like a good hangi and they can vary a lot depending on who is doing it. I have worked with a lot of Maori and others from the Pacific Islands and that was often their way of providing food for a crowd at a social event. I must admit I don't take huge portions of it as it would be such a waste (and I do like salt!). At one particular hangi a friend handed me a small portion of something and said "try this", I liked it, then she told me it was eel. As it was dark I had no idea what I was actually eating.

I wonder whether there were any explanations as to what they may expect before their visit. A gradual introduction may have had a totally different outcome.

Helen, I also grew up on the West Coast of the South Island and I had never experienced a hangi before I moved to Canterbury and then the North Island.
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 03, 2016 10:10AM
Possibly it is easy to get the wrong idea if not enough information is presented and presumptions are easily made.

i.e. Maybe the school group were welcomed onto the Marae in the traditional way and experienced the traditional welcome and protocols of our indigenous culture. Maori hangi is what may be expected because the school group were staying the night and learning about the culture? The fact that hangi food doesn't suit everyone is possibly inevitable, but the teachers were at least able to do something about that and they may have already known they could.

So much food wasted is something else, but within a culture I expect it is also inevitable when a Marae are hosting visitors who are there to experience their culture. No doubt the uneaten food is not wasted and somewhere there is a pen of pigs who will happily gobble up unwanted food.

In my rural area, hangi is extremely popular and a good fundraiser at school galas or agriculture days. Also popular for 21st birthdays, weddings, rugby events etc. Good old country traditional fare. I love a good hangi. It is also a very social occasion in all the hours it takes to prepare from woe to go, peeling the vegetables, preparing the meat, through to cooking the food. In many ways it is healthy food - all steam cooked. But not to everyone's tastes and I do understand that. I firmly believe hangi is part of a cultural experience.
Regards,
Dawn. smiling smiley
(With apologies - I have now spelt hangi correctly!)



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 03/03/2016 08:58PM by Dawn.
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 03, 2016 10:27AM
I feel a bit foolish now as yes I do agree with your points.

I just flared at the thought of the work that goes into a hangi, the girls not eating it and then being hungry and grumpy.

I guess one night without food isn't going to hurt them.

Like Marnie I had never been exposed to hangi food as a child on the south island West Coast and have rarely eaten it now.
Unfortunately I had a terrible experience of shellfish poisoning at a hangi a few years ago which is neither here nor there as that could happen anywhere.
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 03, 2016 08:01PM
No need to feel foolish Helen and I apologise if my response made you feel this way. What I wrote was simply my opinion and I can totally understand your concern at food wastage, because that IS what it is. I wonder if the children and parents were informed that they would be getting hangi food, because, in fairness, they should have been warned by the school organisers.
Regards,
Dawn.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/03/2016 08:59PM by Dawn.
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 03, 2016 09:01PM
At a previous job we had someone that would collect up $10 a person who wanted a hangi, drive up to the Victoria University Marae and bring it back for lunch, it was something that many of us looked forward too. As long as it's done well then it's an excellent way of feeding a large number of people IMHO.

I feel the same sort of thing could be said about offering children a curry or sushi when they haven't been exposed to it.
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 04, 2016 02:12AM
I think its the cultural experience that should be the focus. Maybe they should have got the students more involved in some way so they appreciated how much work goes into a Hangi.

I've tasted good and bad Hangis, but the ones I remember are ones I was more involved in - digging the pit etc...(University days) The one I didn't particularly like was at a restaurant in Rotorua - with some foreign visitors. I guess being at a restaurant, your expectations were different.

Interesting topic Helen....!

I also wonder if these sort of experiences are lost on young people. I didn't start appreciating culture until I was in my mid 20's....I spent my early travelling days looking for a pub rather than the Sistine chapel...these days I look for both lol
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 04, 2016 03:19AM
Sunday Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Its a really interesting question. Because it has
> quite a few things to consider.
> Basic manners. If you go to someone else's house
> and you are offered their food - do you eat it -
> or refuse it?
> I would not refuse it - and I would hope my kids
> would not either. I think culturally diverse foods
> are interesting even when they are not to our
> particular taste. They should be eaten for the
> experience of having eaten them - if that makes
> sense.
> We are all NZers - from all kinds of different
> backgrounds, but I can think of several occasions
> where I have been asked about hangi food and maori
> culture and I can honestly say I would be ashamed
> not to be able to answer them. I am not maori, I
> am a NZ European/Native American mix. I think as
> kiwis we all have a responsibility to help
> preserve maori culture. Afterall - this is the
> only place in the world it exists - imagine a
> world with no Haka, no beautiful maori moko's or
> greenstone carvings etc.. we'd all be the much
> poorer for it.
> Perhaps the school should have prepared them a
> little better for their experience.
> I'm sure there will be plenty of people that will
> disagree with me around the not forcing kids to
> eat etc, but I don't see it as that, I see it as
> appreciating a culture that is unique to NZ and
> good manners to your host.

I agree with all of these thoughts. Twelve is easily old enough to have some manners, gratitude, and an appreciation of traditional culture.
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 17, 2016 02:36PM
Some great opinions & comments. I would like to say, kids being exposed to something new is a fantastic opportunity that they should be encouraged to embrace & respect. Life is all about trying new things, stepping outside our comfort zones, some they will love, some they won't, but at least they should give it a go. Perhaps even reflect upon it one day as a "remember when..."

Sometimes there are too many choices for children today and they can be over provided or catered for simply to please their supposed tastes which makes for lucky children, as long as they appreciate it & the work, cost & effort put into it.

I reflect back on a few times (especially at my grandparents home) where we remained at the table until we had finished what had been lovingly prepared & provided for us...some were very long meals! And having helped to prepare & partake in a variety of hangi meals over the years (some better than others) all were special for the sense of appreciating & sharing food together . Good times...
Re: Hangi, a cultural experience or a waste of time and food?
March 21, 2016 02:27AM
Isnt it meat and vegetables with a smoky taste?
I think that its a great experience for the kids and the teachers would have/should have primed the kids up about what to expect, saying its going to be different (not that different though) and everyone is going to try it appreciate another culture. Even to be taught the reasons why they cook the food this way.

I think they could have had some buttered bread available for the worst case BUT I would NEVER have bought the kids "other food" because they didnt like it.

Our city kids are really lucky and spoilt for choice with the range of delicious options available. My 4 year old loves sashimi and smoked salmon, my 8 year old fav food is pot sticker dumplings and teriyaki chicken (nope we arent an Asian family) BUT I would be disappointed if they didnt have some appreciation for the an experience on a school camp.
I know its hard to teach it - believe me I know as I teach this age group and they can be very superficial. Its our job as teachers to do our best to instil these values alongside home...

Vanessa
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