(by Katherine Krohn, Köln – Deutsche Übersetzung)
Katbite explains New Zealand for Germans.
Her question: Why are Pies so important to Kiwis?
I cant remember my first pie … but I cant wait for the next one. Pie is comparable to currywurst – its an icon and is right up there with gumboots and the silver fern as symbols of New Zealand. The beauty of it is tied in with its rich relationship with the dairy ( in German “kiosk” but without alcoholic beverages and being tied in with public transport.. in New Zealand, public transport is miserable. you don’t go past a dairy, you walk to the dairy… or the gas station .. more on that to come)
Pie in the New Zealand iconic sense refers to a meat pastry, where the pastry is soft and slightly flaky on top. Fillings are meat and vegetables, and they are always served warm. They are sold in individual portions, roughly larger than the average palm, in oval form.
I first remember eating pies for school lunch. A pie, a packet of chips and a can of fizzy drink. It was the jackpot of a Friday lunchtime, when we could get food delivered. Every other day of the week was packed lunches, with sad sandwiches, apple, luncheon sausage. My Dad used to drop Friday’s treat down to us at the front of the school in his ute. There was a big pie warmer in the showroom of the gas station he ran, and regular exposure and sampling led me to develop the skill to be able to see from the color of the pie roughly how long it had been in the warmer for. The thing is, when they get past their best, they don’t burn, they just sag and the filling gets crazy hot.
Every dairy and gas station has a pie warmer, and the pies of course have a shelf life. You don’t want to eat a pie after it has been in a pie warmer for a few hours, they dry out and the insides burn your mouth and its just not fun anymore.
The classics are:
Mince and Cheese
Steak and Cheese
Steak and Mushroom
Potato Top (has mince and veg under a top of piped mashed potato)
Bacon and Egg
Most people enjoy tomato sauce on their pie, but its not my thing.
If you visit New Zealand and you are in a flash restaurant and think its a good time to try a good old kiwi pie, forget about it. You might get an amazing meal, with an incredible filling but you wont get the real experience of what a pie is all about. You need to go to a random dairy and pay whatever it is these days for a possible dud. If it is a dud, you will probably burn the skin off the roof of your mouth, but more importantly you will learn about it and at the next dairy you can be a bit more savvy about whether or not you want to purchase this particular product. If its not, then, woohoo! Level Up, you have just nailed stage 1 of pie. Pie when it is good pie is incredible. Pie when it is not good? -meh. But its a risk, and the payoff when it works out will be unforgettable. Standing in the frosty cold of the early morning, hands wrapped around warm pastry and all that cheesy goodness getting absorbed straight through your tastebuds into your arteries is an experience that cannot be faked.
The first time I went with my husband together to New Zealand, we went for a walk to the beach the morning after we arrived. Totally jet-lagged, in overcast weather, we had to walk about 1.5km to get to the beach. On the way there, we happened to walk past a dairy, and I took him in for a pie. It was an awesome pie! In the middle of nowhere. He was sold from the first bite, and has been asking me to make them for him at home. But its not so easy to do that in Germany. England has a grand tradition of meat-based pies as well, but they tend to be larger. And to me the thing is – its not just about eating a pie, its about eating it and going – well, I can taste this has only been in the warmer about 90 minutes and is super-perfect and I got a good one. Im gonna eat so many pies in my life that no single one has to be the greatest.
If pies are made in the home in NZ, they will tend to be larger versions rather than individual portions. Mince is really popular, or bacon and egg. You can get them at the supermarket to heat up. In my mind its not on par with the little ones, maybe because of the pastry to filling ratio, maybe the thrill that the whole thing is your own and you don’t need to share. Here is a mince pie recipe, for a large one of course.. It’s from the bible of domesticity, the New Zealand Women’s Weekly.
The first time I made a bacon and egg pie over here for my family, I was struck by how incredibly unhealthy it is. Filo pastry, eggs, bacon. Maybe some frozen peas, or a few slices of tomato on top. No veg, no fibre. Just protein, carbs and fat. I don’t remember it ever being served with a side salad when I was a kid, the accompaniments never really got further than tomato sauce. My subsequent cooking forays incorporated finely chopped vegetables, which worked really well. So just add some (pre-cooked) veges to this recipe and it will be ever so slightly less heart-attack inducing
The other common kind of home-cooked pie is fish. But the pure kiwi icon definition of pie is the gas station/dairy reheated plastic packaged single serving delight.
Pies are great! You can have them for breakfast, lunch or dinner, from the gas station on the way home after a night out. They also keep your hands warm. That can be handy, because New Zealand can be really cold. There is generally no central heating anywhere. My mum always heats one room of the house and you wear jerseys. Everywhere. Jerseys deserves their own blog post.
There are many examples round the world where kiwis have started up pie shops in other countries. Strangely, they tend to pair this with another kiwi classic – the flat white coffee. This is mind boggling to me, because although I love both things, they do not go together in any way. A pie goes best with a cold beer, or with soft-drink. I would definitely go to a kiwi run pie and flat white shop, but I wouldn’t ever buy both those products to consume simultaneously.
Somebody stumbled across this repeat of a tav police reality show, put it on youtube at the guy got internet-famous. “Always blow on the pie” has become a meme.
Co-incidentally, here’s the non-pie-content movie “Goodbye Pork Pie” which is an awesome film from 1981 and was one of the markers of New Zealand entering the modern film age.. made with 24 people on the crew, through the length of New Zealand.. I know Im biased, but I would recommend it. It has nothing to do with pie apart from the mention in the name, but if you want to get to grips with NZ culture this will take you on a road trip right the way down.
Update by NZdeutschland:
Just a few weeks before in New Zealand …
New Zealand Herald: Georgie Pie’s back – but just one filling (Thursday 9 May)