The other day I was trying to explain to a 10-year-old how important the stars once were to humans in the world. He looked at me blankly and returned to his portable screen.
It seems incredible now that thousands of years ago, early Polynesians navigated their way through the Pacific thanks to their amazing skills in celestial navigation. The movement of the stars once defined people’s understanding of seasons, the time to plant and to harvest, as well as the arrival or departure of various migratory food sources. If you didn’t know how to read what was happening up there as the stars moved their way across the sky, you could be in big trouble.
In Maori culture, the arrival in the night sky of the star cluster known as the Pleiades signified a time of celebration and the beginning of a new year. Also known as Matariki, this constellation made its annual appearance this year on 6 June.
I love the fact that down here at the bottom of the Pacific, Matariki is now our very own harvest festival, a celebration vested in the movement of the stars. A shared feast is such a great way to celebrate Matariki. It’s a wonderful opportunity to gather friends, fly kites and light fireworks and lanterns.
In my new winter annual I’ve created a feast that’s easy on the pocket, and features the season’s prime harvests. It’s just the kind of menu to divvy up for a potluck so you can share the love – don't forget to share your photos here to be in to win lunch at my place in Wanaka!
I like to start with a couple of simple pass-arounds – a creamy Smoky Cashew and Red Pepper Salsa with crudités and fresh Mussels on the Half Shell with Spicy Pickled Red Onions. Next a Silky Pumpkin and Kumara Soup followed by melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked Pulled Pork with Ginger and Star Anise served up with a Pickled Carrot Salad and hot Yams with Orange and Ginger. For dessert a Tender Ginger Loaf and Ginger and Star Anise Roasted Pears, with mugs of The Ultimate Hot Chocolate topped with homemade Winter Spice Marshmallows.
It’s all easy casual food you can make ahead of time, big shared plates you can pass around the table. I’m all for any excuse to get people together and Matariki is something that’s unqiuely ours – what better reason to celebrate!
By the time June swings around, you can really feel the turn in nature’s cycles. As we come up to the winter solstice on the 21st, the cold seeps in fast, filling up all the nooks and crannies of the day, making us reach for rugs and blankets to keep the chill at bay. And now we know, with Matariki in the sky, that the shortest day is near to hand. Another reason to get together for a midwinter feast!