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Travel Habits – Christchurch, New Zealand

2010 – As I go through my old posts, I have to add an addendum to this one.  The earthquakes in New Zealand caused major damage to Christchurch.  With damage reports still coming in, my hope is that everyone survived unscathed.

I think we all have them – those quirky things that we do each time we travel. Mine, not surprisingly, have to do with food and eating. It’s part of the way that I like to learn about local culture and customs when I’m in a new place. I love checking out local markets, foodshops and kitchenware stores. I always seem to discover new things as well as old favorites along the way. Anything can trigger the need to indulge this habit – a sound, a smell, a sight, a site. Once it hits, there’s no turning back.

The Cook Shop (795 Colombo Street, Christchurch, NZ;

I just returned, literally late last night, from a week in Christchurch, New Zealand. I haven’t done the work to figure it out on a globe yet, but I think I really went about half-way around the world. Why do that to get away from the office, emails, phone calls, everything? Well, there’s only one reason aside from work that I would take one taxi, one airport shuttle, and three planes to get anywhere – Family.

My brother received his doctorate on Friday. My folks and I went out there to see the big ceremony and celebrate this milestone. Being an English-speaking country, it was easy for me to get around, and that made it even easier for me to indulge in my quirky travel habit. As I’d never been there, it was a whole new food world for me to explore.  One of the things I like to do is to peruse local specialty foodshops and cookware suppliers. I always find it amazing how many familiar names I recognize.

Johnson’s Grocers (787 Colombo Street, Christchurch, NZ)

The photos of all the goodies are from a shop pointed out to us on our trolley tour as being one of the oldest in Christchurch. It is run much as when it first opened early last century, the orders added up by hand in writing on a paper bag, the shopkeeper wears a white apron. As you can pick up from the photos above, definitely, in addition to the local flavors, a wide variety of tastes have also made the journey to New Zealand.

There were English sweets, Italian olive oils, French mustards, and a wide array of candies, potato chips, spices and other goods. The cookware shop had English china, French baking pans, American muffin tins and other wonderful things to buy. Given that I would have to carry back anything I purchased, I just picked up some tea towels.

Having lived in England, I was also curious to see how much of New Zealand food culture had a British flavor to it. What I wondered was how the food influences from the UK seemed to travel around the globe. As it turned out, I really didn’t have to look very far as you can see below from the mobile food carts in the town center.

Fish & Chips Anyone? How ’bout a Curry?  Maybe a Curry w/ Chips!

Cathedral with Food Carts

But, I had to save the quintessential food cart for last. The Potato Man!!!! It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of them. There used to be one of these on a side street in Lower Manhattan. As I don’t work there anymore, I can’t confirm its continued existence. If I had my way, my office in New York would do what the one I worked at in London did – offer a variety of baked potatoes with fixings plus a side salad for lunch. On cold winter days, this hits the spot like nothing else. I still crave them from time to time.

The Potato Man Wagon and a Close-up as he fixes up a Spud

[BTW, you don’t even need to ask. Of course, I had one! Here is photo of it after I’d already dug in. I just couldn’t resist, and my parents were walking ahead of me. It was so warm and gooey and yummy: cheese, butter, sour cream and coleslaw (more like chopped cabbage and carrots). I think I might have even frightened my father with my total glee at having found one of my favorite meals so far from home He just didn’t seem to get it.]

A Spud with the Works

Of course this is not all that New Zealand food has to offer. We ate wonderful seafood, succulent baked lamb, and other great dishes. At the risk of alienating everyone, I actually put my camera away for some of these meals. I know, a complete shame, but people really don’t like to wait to dig into their food while one tries to style it so that it will look good on camera. After my father said, at one seating, “Oh, are you going to take a picture of that?”, I kind of got the message. On my next trip, I hope to be able to check out more of it, and to get everyone to let me take pictures of it as well!

Buon appetito!


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