Real Pacific Inspired

Me planting at PERA community garden

The previous weekend was pretty miserable here in Auckland. However a short break in the wind and rain on Sunday provided a moment to plant a small crop of taro kindly donated by our neighbour, at the community garden. Now that we are eating more ancestral foods, taro is regularly on our menu.  Taro is fairly affordable and readily available where we live, but the leaves are a bit pricey so we decided to grow our own.

In the New Zealand climate generally the corm does not grow to a size that is suitable for eating however the leaves can be harvested and eaten. Taro leaves must be cooked for a long time, if you haven’t cooked them long enough you will experience an itchy burning sensation in your throat which Tongans call fifisi (literally spicy) from the calcium oxalate crystals.

Here is one way we eat taro and taro leaves, it is based on Vanuatu’s national dish lap lap, which we first read about in Robert Oliver’s cookbook Me’a Kai.

Grated taro and plantain with taro leaves, spinach and mullet

A grated cake of starchy carbohydrate (one or a combination of plantain, taro, or cassava), leafy greens, meat or seafood and coconut cream is baked wrapped in lap lap leaves (banana leaves in our case).

The next taro dish we will try is poi, a Hawaiian dish of fermented mashed taro, that covers both our love of ancestral and fermented foods.


Real Meal Overhaul

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I made some produce bags from an old mosquito net

Re-evaluating our understanding of sustainability has coincided with a financially difficult period that has forced us to rethink our weekly meals. Our meals now feature less meat – only beef mince and free range chicken which the butchery at Pak n Save puts into containers we provide. We are yet to do a complete zero waste grocery shop but we are getting closer to our goal, finding alternatives each time.

To see where we could eliminate packaging I typed up a weekly meal planner which clearly lays out the ingredients and utilises our garden produce. The planner may seem a little overboard, but as societies’ consumption norms are often stacked against sustainability, a planner has become a vital tool to help us work towards cutting out packaging completely. We also learnt that leaving a ‘free day’ often leads to eating out or impulse shopping choices that inflate the food budget and/or lead to extra waste. We will eat this menu until we feel the need for a change, adapting with seasonal availability and when we tire of certain components.

Weekly Meals

Useful condiments:

Homemade sauerkraut

Homemade fermented tomato sauce

Apple Cider Vinegar

Chilli Sauce


Olive Oil (Our favourite is the Palestinian olive oil from Trade Aid)

If you decide to attempt a zero waste home your kitchen is a good place to start. I suggest going through a week’s worth of rubbish to see what forms the bulk of it, which is often food packaging. Items like rice, pasta and flour can easily be bought in bulk with re-usable bags and stored in glass jars that you have saved. Reducing your waste by finding a non packaged alternative not only benefits the environment but has a flow on effect to other areas of your life such as good health and reducing your living costs.

To quote Valter, one of the catadores from the movie Waste Land  “99 is not 100” – one less piece of packaging does count.

*My partner has IBS so our  meals are FODMAP friendly .