Archive for the ‘Veganism’ Category

Review: The NZ Food Show 2015

December 2, 2015

Our trip to the 2015 edition of the NZ Food Show begins with a chauffeur driven trip in the new Mazda CX9, a kind of mix between a people mover (it can seat 6) and an SUV. Okay, everything I know about cars could be written on the side of a matchstick but this vehicle was seriously comfortable, noiseless and boasted a whole heap of luxury accessories like back seat air conditioning, inbuilt GPS and a sunroof. The backseat was so wide I had to use a cell phone to communicate with the person sitting across from me. Safely delivered to the Food Show, our adventure begins.

Set within the sprawling ASB Showgrounds Complex at Greenlane in Auckland, this was serious food business with a vast range of products on display and this review will concentrate on products that caught my eye and appealed to my sensibilities.

Kumara Chips

First up was Nelson potato chip maker Proper Crisps. Made exculsively from Agria spuds, (a yellow fleshed potato specifically breed for its frying properties), these chips are glorious and are only further enhanced by Proper’s slightly thicker cut and use of a healthy frying oil, in this case sunflower.

Proper have just moved into Kumara chips and their product possesses all the flavour qualities of a good old Saturday night roast kumara. Unlike a number of other ‘Kumara’ chips on display at the show, these chips were made from a mixture of traditional purple skinned Kiwi kumara’s (sourced from Kaipara) and orange-fleshed sweet potato. Skin on, the product was crisp, tasty and potpourri of enticing colour. The other products on display were not actually Kumara, rather they were all made exclusively from sweet potato and were all, to the tee, made in China. Unlike Proper, these knock offs were oily, tasteless and a misrepresentation- that’s you Sunny Hill and Kenny’s- Sweet potato is not Kumara.





Next up is Marlborough Garlic Noir and what a delightful surprise this product was. Black garlic is an aged product offering the taste buds a wide range of subtle flavour variations including liquorice, caramel and that indefinable quality the Japanese call umami.

Back in South Korea where the product was first developed, it is considered a health food and is used in a variety of products from pizza and energy drinks through to chocolate. Rich in anti-oxidants, black garlic is chewy, tasty and would make a great addition to a cheese platter. I can also imagine it would go well with a hoppy beer.




Urban Hippie is a Nelson based miso manufacturing operation owned and operated by former chef Takehito Saiama. Miso is a fermented soybean product, a staple of Japanese cuisine and brim full of health giving nutrients. Urban Hippies Miso is a superior quality miso made the traditional way from high quality ingredients but the product that really grabbed my attention was Misomite.

Like most Australasian’s I was bought up on marmite/vegemite, a salty spread made from yeast bacteria and comes with a bevy of claims for its nutritional qualities, qualities that apparently don’t stack up. For a start the product is loaded with sodium and the B-vitamin profile is not as rigorous as marketing suggests. Urban Hippie has developed a miso variant made from rice, soybeans and salt (“minimal” Takehito assures me) that tastes remarkably like vegemite/marmite. At $7 for a small jar it isn’t cheap but oh my god it tastes amazing. Move over Kraft and Sanitarium, Takehito Saiama’s Misomite is the future.




Moutai is to China as whiskey is to Scotland. Often called the Spirit of China, this hearty tipple comes from the Guizhou province and is distilled 11 times before being set aside for a 5-year aging process. Made from wheat and sorghum the taste is somewhat akin to sake but with a more complex flavour profile, (earthy and humic with a multitude of undertones from umami to caramel) and a kick that’ll send you into the next dimension. I tasted a teaspoon full and for a moment of two, lost my bearings as my head spun in a thousand different directions. I explained this to a Chinese friend a few days later and he laughed before proudly telling me he could drink a whole bottle and stay on his feet, if he could afford it that is. Moutai is not cheap.



The Hemp Farm grows hemp and manufactures a variety of products from hemp seed including cold-pressed oil, cosmetics, food supplements and animal feed. All their hemp is grown on 7 hectares of land in the central Waikato and they plan to shortly diversify into hemp fibre textiles. They are also raising money to develop a revolutionary new type of hemp harvester that will help them to expand their business. You can help them by joining their crowdfunding project.

By the way, hemp oil is superior nutritional oil and tastes amazing. It’s a pity NZ’s stringent anti-cannabis laws make it so hard for growers to operate because this kind of Omega 3 rich oil is exactly what the Kiwi diet needs more of.



Te Mata Figs manufacture a variety of fig-based products made from figs harvested from their 2000 tree orchard in Havelock North. Their product range includes chutney, relish, syrup, jam, fig, compote and of particular note, Fig Port and Cardamom paste which is so seriously delicious I could have quite easily eaten the whole container. Damn you minimal samples and your taste teasing ways.




Macs Beer was out parading all the old favourites plus a notable newbie, Macs Green Beret IPA. Rich and spicy with deep hop hit and citrus undertones, this drop was the business and is exactly what and IPA should be. A real contender.

The other Macs newbie is Mid-Vicious, a low alcohol Pale Ale, being marketed as a ‘rock star with a day job’. Frankly, it’s an insult to the name it’s playing off, Sid Vicious, and so lacking in flavour that my own warm urine looked attractive in comparison.


Environmentally Friendly Packaging

Earthpac make biodegradable packaging from potato starch, much of which is sourced as a by-product from the food manufacturing industry. Earthpac products include plates, cups, takeaway containers, and cutlery, bags and packaging filler. Their big news is that they have developed a biodegradable meat tray that is set to displace the non-recyclable polystyrene trays currently used by supermarket chains.

Earthpac’s example was poorly underwritten by the wealth of ‘one use’ plastic spoons and sample cups in vogue at almost every stand at the food show. Terribly wasteful and in this day and age we can do an awful lot better.

Bee Wrapt – Eco Food Wrap is a cotton fabric infused with NZ beeswax. This reusable food wrapping cloth is being marketed as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic food wrap. It can be used for wrapping school lunches, cut vegetables, cheese and that bowl of leftovers destined for the fridge. The cloth comes in a variety of beautifully considered prints.



Hot Sauce

There were a number of Hot Sauces at the show, all of which were proudly displaying awards won at various international events. Culley’s boasted a variety of flavour variations and they all seemed pretty good until I wrapped my tongue around Huffman’s. Made in Wellington by Chef Nicolas Huffman, this is aged hot sauce made from chilli peppers, smoked Spanish paprika, vinegar and salt is astonishing. Unlike the more iconic brands such as Tabasco and Crystal, whose predominant characteristic is heat bound up in vinegar, Huffman’s sauce is big bold pepper with a subtle vinegary undertone and a hint of smoke. This tasted so good that in one brief moment it totally altered my notions about hot sauce and how it should be.




South Korea is not the first place that comes to mind when I think of table grapes but there they were, perfectly formed bunches of black grapes soon to be a feature of produce stands across our fair land. Certified organic, these greenhouse-grown grapes carry a deep intense flavour akin to a decent pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon. A superior product all round, well-done South Korea, well done indeed.



Jen Vegas specialises in Goan style (South India) pickles and curry pastes. Cooked in small batches, this product is not cheap but Jen’s focus is on quality over quantity and it shows; the pickles are sensational. I am a big fan of anything aubergine and Jen’s aubergine pickle was the ‘bomb’: rich, delicately flavoured and brim full of the aforementioned vegetable, this I suspect is what Indian pickles should be but so often are not (leastwise in a commercial sense). The recipes have been handed down through Jen’s family and are according to the woman herself, the personification of what one would expect if visiting Goa.



Ice Cream

NZ Natural (est.1984) supplies ‘real’ NZ made ice cream to some 700 branded franchisees across 22 countries. While I stood chowing down on a bowl of mango ice cream the Sales guy explained that Asian consumers did not like sweet ice cream while Indians like it about twice as sweet as the Kiwi palette can handle. As for the mango ice cream, yep, it was pretty damned good, all-round creamy, fruity and not overly sweet.



I am not a meat eater but I did work in the pie industry for many years (Sales and marketing for Maketu Pies in the BOP) so when I saw pies on display my interest was piqued. The Carey family run some 600 cattle on the Taranaki coast near Opunake. These bulls are fed on pasture that gets a good dose of salt spray from the ocean every time the wind blows which, according to the Cary I spoke with, accounts for the meats unique flavour. Le Dejeuner, a bakery in New Plymouth, makes two pies for Green Meadows Beef: Super Steak Pie and the Magic Mince and Cheese. These are serious pies filled to the brim with meat and wrapped in flaky pastry.

The pies and various cuts of beef, sausages and so forth can be purchased directly from Green Meadows Beef.




The various brands owned by Hamilton’s Prolife Foods include Alison’s Pantry, Value Pack, Donovan’s Chocolates and Mother Earth. Mother Earth recently bought out gourmet peanut butter maker 100% Nutz and changed the branding to Mother Earth, otherwise everything about this peanut butter remains the same, notably the use of a special breed of peanuts sourced from Australia that have the same nutritional profile as olive oil.

Besides standard peanut butter styles, (smooth and crunchy), Mother earth offers a Dark Chocolate peanut butter (a seriously tasty and healthful alternative to Nutella) and one with chia seeds. This butter was denser and richer than your standard peanut butter and the intriguing texture grew on me with each successive sampling.

Bell Plantations dried peanut butter is a totally natural product designed for adding to smoothies, baking and cooking. Very tasty indeed and it should be noted here that peanuts are a powerhouse of beneficial nutrients and are an especially good source of resveratrol, thehealth preserving compound more usually associated with red wine.


Vegan / Vegetarian

Raglan Coconut Cream Yoghurt from the Waikato’s west coast is perfect for vegans, hardcore animal rights activists and those who suffer from lactose intolerance. An alternative way to get some beneficial bacteria into your gut without the cow, it was a damned sight tastier than I imagined but the intense coconut flavour is not, I imagine, for everyone.



Fry’s is a South African company that manufactures vegan food products from grains and soy. Fry’s are a fixture of the frozen foods section of most NZ supermarkets, and are designed to replicate the taste and texture of meat. The various sausages, chicken styles and mince replicas were damned tasty but a little too close to the real thing for this vegetarian to feel comfortable eating. That said, these products should convince the most hardened of meat eaters that they don’t always need to eat the ‘real thing’ and with the experts are telling us a little less meat all-round is good for the body and the environment, Fry’s just might be worth taking home on occasion.



Laucke is a 115 years old family owned South Australian Flour milling concern that manufactures a variety of grains for break making. On display at the food show was their range of bread mixes for the home baker. These mixes are available at the Supermarket and the bread is seriously good. I tried the pizza base, the ciabatta, the sourdough rye and the wholemeal loaf and any of these was as good as anything available from my local artisan baker. Of particular interest was the flour fortified with selenium, an essential trace element severely lacking in NZ soils.




A food show in NZ is not complete without the presence of Meyer Cheese. Ben and Fieke Meyer arrived in NZ from Holland some 30 years ago with a dream; they wanted to make quality Gouda cheese from grass fed NZ cows. They eventually found themselves on a farm at Templeview (West of Hamilton), milking their own cows and making cheese in a small factory next to the cowshed. These days son Miel runs the shop and the brand is NZ’s most awarded and lauded artisan cheese. Nothing new was happening here except damned fine cheese.



I have seen Food Snob brand Bulgarian Feta’s on display at my local Countdown and despite the reasonable price I have been reluctant to purchase due to my ill informed ideas about this former Eastern bloc nation. Food safety was my primary concern and I was relieved to discover that Bulgaria, a member of the EU, operates to full EU food safety standards and conforms to EU best practice for agriculture. The Goat feta I sampled was mild, nicely salted and possessed a pleasant acidic finish. NZ goat feta is notoriously expensive and Food Snob has done us all a service by importing this well priced product.



Our time at the show is almost at an end and the Mazda CX9 is waiting outside to take us back to the office but one last stop. Wild West Worcester Sauce is made in Dargaville by Katie Noel from a recipe she has been refining for 25 years. The sauce is aged for 10 months before bottling and unlike the commercial varieties that haunt the supermarket shelves, Katie’s sauce is so full of flavour it literally set my taste buds on fire. Sweet, acidic and everything in between, it’s hard to find the right words to describe this sauce, so lets just say “bloody marvellous.”

Wild West operates a ‘closed loop’ manufacturing process, meaning: they find a use for all their by-products e.g. the onion used for flavouring the Worchester sauce ends up as a moreish onion jam.



It was a fun show with lots of exciting Kiwi food innovation on display but the bins full one-use plastic cups, spoons and forks disturbed me. Kudos to those retailers and manufacturers who were using biodegradable items, this is the example the entire show needs to emulate if it wants to show the many overseas buyers in evidence that NZ truly is ‘clean and green’ and a world leader in all aspects of food manufacture.


Vegetarian or Vegan

November 15, 2015

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I’m a vegetarian, that is: I don’t eat meat but I do consume animal products like milk, milk products and eggs. A vegan, on the other hand, eats neither flesh nor animal product. A vegetarian should not wear leather (I do … I was given a leather belt years ago and it seems a waste to discard it), a vegan would certainly never wear leather, a product formed from the skin of a slaughtered beast.

To the militant vegan, I am worse than a meat eater, because although I subscribe to the idea of animal welfare, I still participate in the exploitation of animals. I enjoy yoghurt and from time to time, grilled cheese. I am also partial to blue vein cheese since reading that scientists researching the blue mould discovered it to be a powerhouse of beneficial bio-medical compounds, ones that protect the heart, arteries and brain. My body says yes, but my mind is full of hesitation.

There are close to 7 million dairy cows in NZ and let’s face it, they pay the bills. Besides producing some 18 billion litres of milk every season, they are a major source of meat protein. Every year these several million cows give birth igniting the lactation process. Male calves are a by-product and some are kept for rearing into beef but most, along with undersized and unhealthy females (quality females are kept as replacement dairy stock), make up the mega bobby calf cull. The 2013-2014 season saw around two million four-day-old calves being turned into veal, sausages, meat patties and pet food.

As for mum, her life is fast and hard.  While she is offering an economic return she is well-cared for, but the moment she falters, she is dog meat. A cow can live for 20 years; the Kiwi cow averages 5-7 years. Besides pet food, she makes a profitable hamburger.

But she’s just a dumb cow?

I began my working life on the family dairy farm. The attitude was appalling and I look back on my education with a degree of horror. I am ashamed of the harm I caused on the road to my enlightenment and I especially regret the Camel Incident.

She was a unique beast, named for her height and posture. I always thought that by cow standards she was a genius. She could open the gates precisely designed to be cattle proof and she had no fear of the electric fence. The method of the NZ farmer is to start putting aside pasture in late summer so that by winter there is a surplus of fresh feed to sustain the herd through winter when grass growth is at its slowest.

The paddock is divided in portions by a strand of electric wire of which the cows are totally in awe. Not her – she knew that a whole paddock of fresh grass was for her and her alone, all for the price of a couple of uncomfortable shocks.

She decided that we were friends and every time she saw me she rushed over to a bunt, a cuddle (this is a creature that weighs close to a tonne and is more than capable of crushing a man), a tickle and a good cleaning. The cow tongue is rough and smelly, her saliva copious but her affection real and heart-felt, to the point of procreation. I learned to be very wary when she was on heat. The affections of this massive beast were frightening. Imagine an avalanche trying to mount you.

She was fat, unproductive and troublesome. She had to go.

I begged for her life, but Dad insisted, “That’s the way it is, any exceptions will only cost us money and set a bad example.” Most cows need to be forced onto the truck but she ambled up the ramp, ever curious, looking for adventure.

An hour later she was at the works and her life at an end. I lost faith in the farm after that but it wasn’t the trigger for my vegetarianism, which had come years before in a way I can’t adequately explain.

I was standing in line with a group of Hindu boys out from Fiji for a Kiwi education. It was a Catholic boys’ school and the fees these boys provided helped to pay the bills. Regardless of the economic benefit they allowed, they were treated with disdain; preached about Catholic truth and were directed to the end of the line in the dining hall awaiting special meals. This is where I found myself one night, late and at the end of the queue watching these quiet boys receiving their meals, mixed veges and a few deep fried potatoes. It was sparse and there was no meat. I had never seen such a thing. When my turn came I asked the cook about this strange dinner. “Hindus are vegetarian,” he said, cigarette dangling from his lips (it was the 1970s), “they don’t eat meat.” A light went off in my head and I said without further thought, “I’ll have what they’re having.”

I didn’t go full on vegetarian right away, it was a process, but a genie had awakened in me and there was no going back. Chicken, beef, sheep and pig were right off the menu but fish took a little longer. This went south after I read an article on fish intelligence. It seems that by large they experience pain and pleasure on a scale discernible enough to rate alongside whales, dolphins and octopuses and I could not eat a creature that enjoyed living.

I explained to animal rights campaigner and vegan Lynley Tulloch that when I eat cheese I give a thought for the cows that sacrifice so much for my sustenance. She tells me this is a cop out and in a way she is right. I do it salve my conscience because I do feel guilty.

I could give up dairy but I don’t want to. If I could source affordable, sustainable and readily available product I would.

There is a retired couple in the deepest darkest Wairarapa who have created a cottage industry from a cow they rescued. She became fallow, and a fallow cow produces no milk. They bought her from the farmer (she was waiting to be sent for slaughter), offered her care and lots of quality feed and she got pregnant again. Years later she is the backbone of a small herd, an outcome almost unheard off the in NZ dairy system. Sadly, their cheese is priced way beyond my means.

Veganism and vegetarianism are not new phenomenons. There have always been a minority who have urged their fellows to act more thoughtfully toward those creatures over which we have dominion, the most notable being the Jain, a religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. The Jain faith, once the dominant religion of the Indian sub-continent, dates back some seven centuries BC, giving some indication of how old the animal rights movement actually is. More closer to our own time, Mohammed, the founder of Islam, urged a more compassionate attitude toward the beasts that toil and provide for us.

Some people see past the conditioned norms that tell us that animals are lesser and not subject to the same feelings that humans are. Cutting edge neuroscience, informed observation and Facebook are teaching us differently. The latter in particular is a veritable goldmine of videos showing us pigs, dogs, cats and goats playing, bonding and doing goofy things. These videos that remind us that emotions like love, joy, and the need for companionship are universal traits, ones not confined to the human sphere.

In 2011, an estimated 58 trillion chickens,1.4 trillion pigs and 300 million cattle were slaughtered internationally.

Pigs are smart and rate better on intelligence tests than dogs, humanity’s erstwhile best friend; and cattle, while they may be incapable of operating a digger or driving a laptop, possess emotional qualities not a hundred miles removed from their human masters, but what about chickens?

Chicken was the first meat I happily gave away. Unlike a carefully butchered joint of meat that bares little resemblance to the creature it is carved from, the chicken maintains its complete shape and form after slaughter and all I could see (this is before my vegetarianism), was bone, sinew and bits of blood, all of which caused me some degree of unease, a hint of the latent and as yet undiscovered proclivity within my nature.

But it’s just a chicken?

The orthodox view is that a chicken is a pretty basic kind of intelligence, again an assumption that is not borne out by the latest research into bird intelligence. Okay, so maybe chickens don’t rate as high as the clever crows of New Caledonia or parrots like the kea, but they are clever wee beasties with reasonably complex emotional lives.

I did not realise this when my wife turned up with two red shavers a couple of years back. Katie and Christina became a subject of intense fascination as they followed me about and around the garden, scratching and pecking and speaking in sympathetic tones that spoke of reassurance and contentment.

Because they were so thoroughly rough on the garden I decided to build them a run. It was as large as your average backyard (big enough, I thought, to satisfy their wandering nature), and built to contain.

Their first hours locked away were consumed by investigation as they poked and prodded for a way through the defences. Within two hours they were out, thus setting the pattern that was to follow. For every gap I bridged, they found another escape route. Despite my best efforts I have never been able to imprison them as intended.

Chooks are creatures of habit. They leave their perch at a precise time in the morning and return to it at the same time every night. At 6am it is their habit to enter the house through the cat door and seek us out in bed. They like to cuddle up close and chat for a while before going about the routine of their day.

The other thing that amazed me about these remarkable girls is the way they quickly established a hierarchy within our larger family of cats and guinea pigs. The cats were left in no doubt who ruled the roost and to our immense surprise they became the guardians of peace, tolerating none of the occasional cat fights, rushing into conflagrations and quickly and assuredly prising apart the warring parties. How could I ever consider even eating these girls? I wouldn’t and I couldn’t because I love them, and in their own way, I know they love and more importantly, trust me.

I have come to the conclusion that my mysterious vegetarian proclivity is based on my natural empathy toward all living creatures, my choice and not one I care to impart on others. I am a pragmatic kind of non-meat eater that accepts that not everyone feels as I do. My only wish is for a more enlightened attitude toward the creatures that serve us. Here I quote Temple Gradin, a mildly autistic animal behavioural scientist whose special talent is her ability to see the world from the point of view of the animals she studies. Her work has revolutionised the design of slaughterhouses, making them more “compassionate” toward the beast walking towards it demise.

She says: “I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we’ve got to do it right. We’ve got to give those animals a decent life and we’ve got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.”

I will leave the last word to Tommy Lee, drummer with Motley Crue and occasional meat eater, who said in a recent interview with me: “We do some pretty shitty things to animals and it isn’t right.”

Animals slaughtered worldwide 2011:

Chickens: 58 trillion

Cattle: 300 million

Ducks: 2 trillion

Pigs: 13 trillion

Goats: 430 million

Turkeys: 3 trillion

Sheep: 517 million

Biggest meat Consuming Countries:

1. Luxembourg 136 kilograms per capita.

2. United States 125 kilograms of meat per capita.

3. Australia 121 kilograms per capita.

4. New Zealand 115 kilograms per capita.

5. Spain 110 kilograms per capita.