When my friend Adele suggested we attend the Great Glenorchy Getaway, a local food and wine event, I certainly didn’t decline. When I say local, Glenorchy is a two and a half hours drive away from the farm but I never let distance ever put me off. I love attending events like this as a chance to meet more people, sample different food and hopefully learn something new. This particular Great Glenorchy Getaway day held a “Hunters and gatherers” theme and involved an afternoon of workshops and talks about local food, wine and culture.
The event was held at the rather delightful Mrs Woolly’s General Store which is practically the only grocery shop in the area and also has a selection of cute homeware and gourmet foods which despite the hefty price tag, is right up my street. We arrived around midday after beginning my culinary tour of New Zealand’s South Island starting with Lumsden’s Famous cream doughnuts from Bafe Bakery and a cheese roll from The Highway Cafe in the village of Athol, a true Southland delicacy. Despite meeting at 9am, we were a little delayed due to waiting for Steph to throw up the previous night’s tequila shots on the side of the road. It’s certainly a windy drive, I’ll give her that.
There were a couple of market stalls outside selling goodies like local cheese and the biggest avocados I’ve ever seen in my life (I picked up two). The live music playing alongside the stalls gave a real sense of community. We picked up some creamy Brie and some smoked salmon from Stewart Island (some of the best I’ve ever had) and headed toward the lake with a crate of cider in hand. Classy.
It was the most beautiful setting and I even stripped down to my vest at one point bearing the most skin since India, it was really quite a moment. After a short cider-infused snoozle on the grass we headed to the local pub to play cards. In all honesty I hate playing cards, I see it as “forced fun”, a bit like drinking games. However, after winning the first round I soon got involved. There was a talk Adele wanted to attend at the event so we headed back to learn about fishing, cooking trout and most importantly, taste local wine.
Renowned Kiwi chef Fleur Sullivan served up some delicious salmon for us to try and later gave another talk, this time speaking about her fascinating life. I really warmed to Fleur as a woman who spends every hour of her day making sure visitors have the best possible experience at her restaurant. Without really meaning to, she taught me about the affects of the recent Asian tourism boom and how eateries are struggling to cater for large groups who order just a handful of meals to share and take up 20 seats, 20 set of cutlery and a in turn, produce a mountain of dishes.
Fleur also touched on the Slow Food Movement which is something I really feel passionately about. Slow Food is all about regional local food where quality comes before quantity. Local producers are rewarded fairly and good food is appreciated without wastage. Strangely, this was already at the forefront of my mind that day after being unable to find ripe bananas after weeks of searching different supermarkets in the area. Adele, a local girl, told me that shops here would never put ripe fruit out for sale but if I ask, they may have some out back. Sure enough they did. I recently went into another supermarket and asked the same to be told “we chuck the ripe bananas in the skip“. Flabbergasted, I told the shop assistant that this was a total waste of good food and they should do something to change it. I have now boycotted Countdown Supermarkets. You should too.
This really got me thinking about how ridiculous we have become with our view towards food. I’ve seen it first hand in Japan and recently emerging in Australia and England but I was shocked to see that New Zealand also has this crazy idea that we all want “perfect” fruit and veg. Fluer talked about this too by sharing stories of her local potato man who picks up lorry loads of wasted potatoes all because they aren’t perfectly round. Where have these ludicrous rules and regulations come from and how in a world where people are starving and we are desperately running out of resources can we add to the problem in such a huge way?
Rant over it was time for a local dinner of salmon chowder, venison pie and asparagus to be served. All very tasty but it was served on picnic benches which, like the entire event, were outside. One thing I’ve learnt during the past few months is that South Islanders are tough. No central heating, shorts in the snow and most social events around here take place outside, even in the depth of winter. For me, there’s nothing worse than eating delicious food when I’m wrapped up in a million layers and sitting on a cold bench. Some may call me a whimp, I like to say I’m just normal.
After dinner we gathered around the projector for an exclusive preview of Hallowed Isles by local film maker James Reardon who was there to give us an interesting insight into the making of his film. The documentary-type film was about the remote Chatham Islands situated east of the New Zealand’s North Island and suffer from some of the worst kiwi weather. Not ideal considering most of the locals (and there aren’t many) are farmers. I actually found the talk more interesting than the film but it’s certainly worth a watch if you ever come across it. Like I said, Kiwi’s are tough.
I had a fantastic day at the Great Glenorchy Getaway and I would certainly go again if there wasn’t so many other places to explore in the area. This really is the most stunning part of the world with fabulous food, wine and generally happy people. Just how I hoped New Zealand to be.