My pack list for the West Coast seemed to go on forever and I found myself wondering if we would even get it all on the truck - barbecue to cook all the whitebait we would be catching, tarpaulin for rain, wardrobe change in event of spilling tomato sauce down my front or falling into the river, props for our picnic, food for the crew, food for our supper . The worst thing about a road trip to Haast, on the West Coast of the South Island, is not that I am going to be besieged by sandflies, or that it might rain relentlessly and have us trapped by flooding. It’s the fact that there is nowhere to buy fresh food. We were late leaving so, knowing that nothing would be open after 8.30pm, I threw in some fixings for our supper. We didn’t get in until after 10pm, and with a 4am start it was a quick frittata and bed.
The best part about the next day was visiting Carol and Charlie Boulton’s garden (the fishing wasn’t up to very much). Carol had baked us some lovely morning tea treats, the sun came out and we sat in their garden, stopping for a moment to take in the day.
Here, in the wilderness, Carol and Charlie have built an amazing vegetable garden. Screened from the salt winds by sturdy native hedging, it offers prolific harvests of new potatoes, salad greens, silverbeet, brassicas, herbs and even lemons. That was the thing that really struck me - the idea that the domestication of a landscape and our sense of home is about gardens more than houses. A house is just a building in the landscape. It’s the garden that creates the stamp of domesticity and a sense of home. Gardens are about hope and the future. They speak to our sense of domesticity and engagement, and are implicit in the idea of care and nourishment.
Carol cooked up her famous whitebait fritters for us - a fabulously extravagant version which, if you have ready access to loads of whitebait, is a recipe you must try. It is so light, with a pure taste of this highly prized little fish. Click here for Carol’s Whitebait Fritter recipe.