beautiful monsters: miracle

May 24, 2004



Our first practicum for our marae course was to organise a hui, and my role was head chef. I never got around to finishing this post so it’s really out of date...

Well, it took more than bread and a few fishes, but the masses were fed. Whew. That was one of the most stressful 48 hours of my life. It wasn’t the cooking that was stressful, cos that was so much fun. It was just the fact that we had four different people telling us what to do with conflicting results. There’s one main course co-ordinator, but she hasn’t been there for a few weeks. Then there’s another who has been helping out. Then there’s the co-ordinator of the course that runs alongside this one. And then there’s someone who helps out for this particular practicum.

So anyway, we haven’t had the course co-ordinator for several weeks, and so we just went ahead and planned as much as we could. The person standing in for the classes gave us advice, like “spend as close to the budget as you can, cos if you overspend, that’s not good, but if you under spend, that’s telling a different story. No one will be impressed if you run out of food and there's still money in the budget.” Made sense to us. So we choose a theme, I made up some recipes using indigenous herbs and we came up with a menu. And I went off and harvested some of the herbs during the holidays, as some were easier to find up the island.

Then we got back this week, and the day before the hui, the woman who was involved just in this particular assignment and the co-ordinator of the other class were running the session. And they suddenly told us stuff like “you can’t have two white meats,” and also our budget was $200 smaller. So the menu plan and the budget went out the window, and as there was only one night left we had to make some quick decisions. I reprinted the menus, and did some research about how to cook big chunks of cow (something I have never attempted before, having been vegetarian for years, and coming from a practically vegetarian upbringing...)

Then we turned up on the morning of the hui, with our shopping lists and everything... and we were told we had to go to see the course co-ordinator. And she told us we shouldn’t have done this, and we should have done that, and she couldn’t give us the money until we gave her a full detailed budget, and we explained that the menu had changed the previous afternoon and we hadn’t had time to redo the whole budget, and she tut-tutted, and told us if we wanted two white meats that was up to us... and then we should do this and this, and not that... and we were sitting there quietly, but thinking “where have you been the past three weeks when we were doing all the planning and had no guidelines?” She also told us we needed to set aside a koha for the marae. First we’d heard of it.

So finally we were allowed to take the charge sheet, though our budget was docked by a further $200. And when we went back to our other chiefs, they grumbled and said “she can’t do that, not on the day,” but we piled into the van anyway and headed into town to do the shopping. I was forced to buy a chunk of cow, one piece, which cost $89 and would feed 60 people. That’s a big piece of cow. That’s a big piece of a big cow. Especially for someone with vegetarian tendencies.

Luckily one of the guys on the course used to work in a butchers, so I just said to him, “here’s the sauce, the cow is over there, I don’t want to know about it.” It was so cool having culinary minions! We still had all our tutors coming in and saying “don’t do it like that, do it like this,” but mostly it went smoothly and was lots of fun. The menu we ended up serving was;

Chicken with kawakawa, mango and coconut salsa
Beef with horopito seasoning
Raw fish
Garlic Pikopiko
Mussel & pasta salad
Green salad
Assorted vegetable dishes (broccoli with passionfruit sauce!)
Chocolate kumara cake with vanilla icecream.

It must have tasted alright, because the wharekai went so quiet while everyone chowed down. The chocolate kumara cake was such a hit! And then people started standing up to mihi to the cooks and we all glowed with pride. The course coordinator asked if she could take home some of the leftovers!

After we’d cleared the tables and set up for breakfast, do you think we could get some rest? No, we got dragged into the wharenui for impromptu debates. My team was arguing against the moot “he kūpapa ngā Māori Mema Paremata” – that the male Māori MPs are traitors. This, you realise, is taking place at about midnight, after one of the longest days of my life, and I have to try and work out how to say, “they’re not traitors, cos that implies a conscious decision, and actually they’re just slaves to their nature, they know not what they do…” in Māori. (Before you get started I don’t really believe this ok, do I need to explain the concept of impromptu debates?)

In the morning I went into the office out from the kitchen, and the plastic bag my wallet had been in wasn’t there. Suddenly it all came back to me. Everyone else had been fed, and finally we had a chance to eat ourselves. I collapsed into a chair. Some people from another class were helping to do the dishes, and clearing the decorations (ferns and stuff) from the tables. Then someone called out to me, “do you want these ferns and shit?” holding up some plastic bags. “No,” I said, because to my sleep & food deprived brain it seemed like the easiest option. Now I realised that he’d accidentally thrown out my wallet. The bags had already been collected from outside the marae, so I nervously made my way over to the office where the cleaners hang out. A few of them were on their smoko, and they came down to where the rubbish gets taken, and helped me to look. Yup, we had to pull on some gloves and pick our way through all of the universities rubbish. And yes, there is a lot of it. Weirdly, most of it consists of empty latex glove boxes. My wallet was at the bottom of rubbish bag No. 49, concealed inside a bag of ferns. Yay for not having to go through the hassle of replacing drivers licence, ID, bank cards, etc... I gave the guys who helped me a big box of biscuits that we hadn’t used.

some of my team!

note the stylish tohu Māoritanga 2004 apron

Update: We got 100% for the practicum! Go us!

Posted by Fionnaigh at May 24, 2004 01:51 AM

This is a bad thing to read when hungry as the food sounds wonderful.

Fortunately the rubbish bag hunt helped stave off the pangs.

Posted by: RUTH at May 24, 2004 05:04 PM