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Letter from the Country

Food Lifestyle Voices

Mary Kippenberger04 February 2017

BB33

Food … I can’t promise you mouthwatering recipes. I can’t promise glossy photographic evidence of my culinary prowess.

That my son Matthew is a stunning chef will ever be a mystery to me. 52 years ago I learned to stuff a potato. I don’t stuff now but I could and that’s about it … oh, and meringues.

What I am very, very good at is buying food in bulk. I am good at buying everything in bulk. It is my super power. I blame it on growing up in the cold war in Canada. I store like a squirrel ever ready for the day the sirens sing out again.

It’s been some years since I was the proud owner of a Wattie’s staff sales card. I yearn for the days when I would drive into that asphalted, hole-pitted parking area. In those days there were no trolleys. I needed trolleys, no namby pamby handful of cans for me. So I bought a truck trolley. My best day was $2 day … every tray of 15 cans was $2.00.

In those days we had four dogs, Tahi, Rua, Toru and Scott, and four cats, White cat, Black cat, Loose cat and Felix. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. You can imagine my joy when along the back wall, where the dog food sat, were rows and rows of unmarked cans. My heart rate elevated. Tray after tray balanced on an ever-growing tower. Back and back I went. The people stared, envy I’m sure.

In the end 64 trays of dog food weighed my little car down. I couldn’t believe it. I was now the proud owner of 962 cans of dog food at a cost of 13 cents a can, giving me an all over saving of $832 dollars. What a woman I turned out to be. Such an economic asset to my family. I was so full of myself I could hardly squeeze into the car.

I arrived home and, with ‘devil may care’ abandon, I cracked a can for the excited canines. It was baked beans, 962 cans of baked beans. Perhaps this is an appropriate time to mention my stockpile of toilet paper.

These days I’m more interested in growing food rather than buying food. Our world is spinning precariously on its axis and it seems to me that we need to go forward in a backwards sort of a way.

I have worked at CHB College as a part-time counselor for 14 years and am often humbled by the kids, their stories and their families. It is my favourite job and everyday I learn. I learn about courage, resilience, forgiveness and hope.

This week I needed to take an ill pupil home. We pulled up outside of a humble house, a small house that sheltered several generations. The father greeted me and welcomed me in. A quick glance told me that abundance and wealth were not guests in this household.

Toys lay scattered and a cheerful four-year-old played loudly … his Koro, with an “I love you” asked his moko to play outside. The little boy left but was soon peeping through the door again. Three times he was told to play outside and each time the request was gentle and each time the little boy was told he was loved.

We finished our conversation and, as I was leaving, I noted the broken concrete that formed an flowerbed edging. He told me of his love of landscaping and that he helped many a pensioner in the village. I told him I loved vegetable gardening and with that I was taken to the backyard.

I exclaimed with delight as I took in the immaculate vege garden. A young man in odd socks and ragged shirt beamed at me. Father of the dancing preschooler, he explained that the whenua, the land, was sacred to Māori, that he grew to honour his whakapapa. He told me he grew flowers for the bees, he explained how the old people grew kumara, he pointed out the bed his son had planted.

I stayed for an hour, soaking up the knowledge, soaking up the love this family brought to each other and the community. No, wealth and abundance were not guests in this household; wealth and abundance were fully paid up members of this beautiful whānau. Providing for ourselves, looking out for others, sharing our resources … not a bad template for the world to come.

Mary Kippenberger04 February 2017

BB33

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