Migrants have contributed to the development
and expansion of small businesses which are the foundation of the New Zealand
economy. Many of these businesses are cuisine related. Europeans migrated to New Zealand in growing numbers from 1855 bringing with
them their own languages, foods and cultural traditions.
1947 and 1975, a total of 77,000 women, children and men arrived from Great
Britain under the assisted immigration scheme. Smaller numbers came from the
Netherlands and some other European countries. Assisted migration had a
significant role in shaping New Zealand.
immigrants in particular introduced new customs, foods, ideas and practices,
and together with later arrivals helped form modern New Zealand society which
gradually filtered down into everyday Kiwi life.
Caroline Ryan, notes that New Zealand cuisine has been inspired by the foods of immigrants, expectations of global tourists and the new ideas of New Zealanders returning from overseas travel who have sampled the foods and dining styles of Britain, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. They created a demand for better quality food and more variety.
To Dutch immigrants, who brought us cheeses, wines, delicatessen small goods and Vogel bread, and were used to dining in cosy restaurants or outdoor courtyards with tables arranged on footpaths, the dining scene seemed bizarre. They set out to bring in new ideas around the ideas of dining out and producing food. Restaurants began taking on a new look and the variety of foods produced began to expand to feed this demand for new dining. The number of cheese types New Zealand produced leapt from 15 to over 70, as small craft cheese makers such as Kapiti, and large factories have revived ancient techniques.
Other Europeans were influential as well. Italians brought their language, food and customs to New Zealanders who have been influenced by and attracted to the health benefits of pasta and pesto as part of a Mediterranean-style diet. New Zealanders began to realise how suitable our climate was for growing Mediterranean foods, and our home cooking began to reflect this. Many farmers diversified into growing olives and avocados. Other ‘exotic’ foods like French pate and ratatouille have been popular now for decades. The Middle Eastern cuisine also became fashionable, introducing new foods such as hummus, halloumi and tabouleh and, in more recent years, chickpeas which are now mainstays of our diet.
Food in New Zealand is now is more imaginative, sophisticated and multicultural, and there are many restaurants, gastro pubs and cafés in the major cities and towns that present a variety of classic and ethnic menus. The stylized, expensive restaurants reminiscent of the eighties have lost some ground though as there is huge competition from café-style ethnic restaurants – Indian, Turkish, Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian to name a few.
Many New Zealanders travel frequently to Australia, where in the last few decades food habits have
changed to eating dishes
influenced by the Mediterranean and Southeast Asian styles of cooking, which subsequently has influenced the way New Zealanders cook and eat.
Now New Zealanders expect to be able to buy a choice
of culturally distinct ingredients to prepare a selection of culturally diverse
recipes. Detailed information is available on the internet regarding preparation,
cooking, service, and eating of food and drink of other cultures. Ingredients for
many ethnic dishes have become much easier to source in major cities, mostly
through specialty or ethnic food stores started by many of the post-1987
migrants to New Zealand, but now also through New Zealand supermarket chains.
However, in spite of all the international influences, our
New Zealand cuisine is still largely driven by local ingredients, seasonal
variations, our agricultural industry and historical Maori culture, meaning our
traditional kiwiana cuisine is still alive and well and sits comfortably
alongside international foods.
Home baking is perhaps the only preserve which on the whole has
remained ingrained in ‘Kiwi’ cooking and consequently, many a home baker is
still fixated on producing the perfect pavlova, a favourite iconic New Zealand