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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)


Maori Hangi.

On Wednesday the public was able to watch the entire preparation of a Maori meal and its cooking according to the ancient Maori custom, and were then able to sample the results. The new grandstand at the Recreation Ground was again filled almost to capacity, and the audience was entertained in the Maori manner.
School children of the primary schools and students of the Hutt Valley Memorial Technical College were very interested spectators, and besides these were large numbers of adults. Seeing the Maoris preparing food after the old method must have aroused many memories in the minds of those not so young. It is really not very long since the Natives cooked in this fashion, and in some parts of New Zealand the hangi is still an integral part of Native life.
The various stages of the preparation were described over the loud-speaker system by Messrs. H. and M. Love, who took an active part in proceedings.
First, two pits were dug in the ground in front of the grandstand, and in these large fires were lighted. Mr. H. Love explained that the wood used in these fires had an important bearing on the result. Rata and kowhai were the best for the purpose, as they burned without emitting an acrid smoke, and so did not flavour the meat. Other woods gave off smoke that would taint the cooking foodstuffs.
Round stones such as are seen in rivers were then placed on the fires, which were kept going until the stones were heated to a high temperature. In a genuine pan oven, the stones are never allowed to get entirely cool, and yesterday the longest part of the ceremony was that of heating the stones.
At about 12.30 p.m. the meat was brought out. It consisted of a large quantity of pork and mutton cut into suitable joints, and sufficient for a fair-sized tribe. The stones were raked over
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Petone Jubilee Reunion—some of the Guests.

and the wood removed, and then the meat was grilled on the hot stones for a short time in order that the juices would be retained. It was then placed in a basket, and the pit was lined with wet cabbage leaves. These took the place of the aromatic herbs often used by the Maoris. Water was thrown on the stones to produce steam.
The basket of meat was then placed on the stones, covered with potatoes, and mats were laid across the top. It was then covered with earth. The same procedure was carried out in the other oven, where potatoes were placed to cook. The cooking time was assessed at three hours.
In the meantime Maori women were busy making little flax baskets. Before the advent of plates, these were used to contain food, and, at the conclusion of a meal, were thrown away. By the afternoon a large supply was available for those who wished later to sample the food.
When the oven was finally opened, the meat and potatoes were found to be perfectly and cleanly cooked, as all who sampled the food remarked. The old Maori method of eating with the fingers was very popular.

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