Excluding that first hostel I stayed at in Auckland, New World was basically the first place I went in New Zealand. That first evening after I’d arrived I walked about a half an hour to the nearest store to pick up dinner and traveling snacks, listening to the unfamiliar trilling of the pedestrian signals, navigating the backwards traffic and looking five different ways every time I crossed the street. I must have spent an hour there that first time, and I was so proud of myself when I successfully walked out with a chicken salad and some yogurt and a bag of Cadbury’s caramels. I haven’t traveled very much, you see, and though I’ve been to parts of the world like Grenada and Mexico and the Dominican Republic, I’ve never had to buy groceries in any of those places, so simple things like the unrefrigerated eggs were really pretty novel. Whatever. I come of simple folk, and I have been easing into this whole expat lifestyle pretty slowly, you know?
So I haven’t been to the Sky Tower, but I’ve been to New World. I haven’t been to the Waitomo Caves or to the Remarkables, but I’ve been to New World. I haven’t traveled on the East Coast or been to the Bay Of Islands, nor to the Milford Track or Invercargill, but shave me bald and call me drafty, people, one thing I have done, and done well, not to mention with boring regularity, is gone to New World. In fact, if you ask me in ten years what I remember most about New Zealand, I imagine I will say something about how they only had the good fruit leathers at the big store in Mt. Vic and that they inexplicably stopped carrying my favorite fresh soup about three weeks after I arrived in the country, right when I’d decided that I really liked kumara.
Since I’m just about at the end of the time, at almost four months here, where I can get away with a golly-gee-ain’t-New-Zealand-a-hoot entry like this, and we finally have internet in the flat and I’ve been able to download some pictures, I thought I’d give you a tour of my own personal most-visited site in the South Pacific.
Here’s the first thing you see when you walk into the Newtown New World, which is right on your way home from work and to which you go easily four times a week as you have no car and can only shop for what you can physically carry in your little green pack and your dingy pink Supre bag.
This seems to be a Newtown thing only, as there isn’t one at either the Mt. Vic or Island Bay store. This particular day when I took the pictures the video was playing some unholy marriage of, I think, Peter Frampton and Led Zeppelin, but sometimes I get lucky and they’ll be showing old David Bowie or Stevie Wonder as I go for the bulk dried fruit. One time they played a whole shopping trip’s worth of live Billy Joel and that was a very hard day.
Over in the bulk area, we have the vaunted pink-and-white marshmallows that always come with hot chocolate in New Zealand, instead of whipped cream. You always get one pink and one white. Sometimes the café person will mix it up a little and give you two pinks and a white, or two whites and a pink, but the other day when I was at Fidel’s I got two pinks and felt a little uneasy. I don’t know if you can see it in the picture (probably not, knowing my suck photo-taking skills) but up close these marshmallows are much flatter and rounder and…shorter…than fluffy American s’mores-making marshmallows. And way sweeter, too. Pink’s sweeter than white. You feel like you know enough about marshmallows now?
Here are some more marshmallows in a different formation, which I’d never seen before. These marshmallows…and follow me closely, those of you who aren’t so bright…are in the shape of mushrooms.
I hate that you can see the individual whorls of my fingerprints really well here but that the mushmallow is still pretty blurry. Sigh. Anyway, it’s dipped in chocolate and then in coconut and obviously if I took it out of the bulk bin I had to buy it, and since I bought it I thought I might as well eat it, and it turned out to be very yummy. Except for the stem. I don’t know what the stem was, but the stem sucked.
As, apparently, do Starburst lollipops.
Let’s look at some real food. Here’s some trim (pronounced “trum”) milk and I hate to have to tell you that I would never dare to buy that much at a time because I only drink it intea and it would turn to cheese in our recalcitrant refrigerator before I could get through it. A. told me the other night that she was “sick of that fridge’s drama.” She has this terrible story about how another (clearly inferior) housemate of hers one time left a (cooked) chicken carcass in there for weeks and weeks and how, she, A., was out of town for a while and then the neighbor came knocking on the door when she got home because he thought A. was possibly dead, due to the stench coming out from the fridge all the way underneath the front door, and then she had to throw everything out and clean the whole kitchen with vinegar and bleach and how it’s never been the same since and that old (clearly, clearly inferior) housemate still owes her money and also left a bunch of her crap in the shed. I’m sick of the fridge’s drama too but I love A’s stories.
Continuing on in the dairy section, we see a couple of very Kiwi things all in a very neat package: passionfruit, feijoa, and pourable yogurt, which I have not tried yet, mainly because I like to be able to stick a spoon upright in my yogurt (sob, miss you, FAGE 0% with honey) and I’m also not sure if you just drink pourable yogurt or what. I am not so fond of passionfruit (too much with the seeds) and for some reason I have not had a feijoa smoothie yet. Don’t tell Rob and Anna, but I plan to wait and try it when they come to visit in March by pouring a cartonful on their heads as they’re trying to get over their jet lag.
Here is another very Kiwi dairy product, namely Hokey Pokey ice cream, which is really really really good. It’s hard to explain what the hokey pokey bits are; someone told me they were like smushed-up Crunchie bars, which won’t be helpful to any Americans who happen to be reading this. It’s sort of..nougatty, I guess, and all sorts of yum. I’d also just like to say that I find this ice cream model to be very wholesome looking, somehow, with her nice clean teeth and very tan skin. She looks very friendly, don’t you think?
I was totally not kidding about “sweet as” and derivations thereof, was I.
Let’s get away from the sweets for a minute, here, as this little entry is starting to depressingly resemble my shopping basket, and go on to some wholesome basics like delicious Vogel’s bread, which I and my silly purple octopus (remember her?) find stupendous in its whole-grain goodness.
Oh, and here we have a rather blurry (why? Not like they were moving) shot of an actual vegetable, which I thought were funny tiny heirloom carrots but which turn out to be yams, although obviously not the kind of yams you have at Thanksgiving. I have only had these once or twice and I really should have got a shot of some kumara, which are also super yummy and which I have once a week, roasted in the oven with salt and pepper and olive oil.
Here we have some lovely manuka honey, which is very fancy even though it comes in a little plastic bucket. Very New Zealand.
Okay, here are the famous Wattie’s Baked Beans, of the beans-on-toast debate of my first weeks in Wellington. Note the little bits of toast sticking up in the corner there. I still haven’t eaten these, being firmly convinced that baked beans are a side dish eaten at a summer barbecue and that they don’t belong on toast, of all things.
Neither does canned spaghetti, I don’t care what the picture shows.
Here is some sea urchin roe, which I have never seen at my local QFC, nor, indeed, in any supermarket anywhere, ever.
Although I’d never seen (but, to be fair, had heard stories) about meat-flavored potato chips, either.
I’m getting pretty tired now (it’s past eleven on a school night!) so I will have to cut this entry short, merely waving you past New Zealand’s two favorite sports, rugby and netball, as represented on a packet of hot chocolate mix.
And I can’t forget to remind you that smoking kills, regardless if you speak English or te reo.
And I think I’ll just end here with something I try not to buy every time I go to New World, the place in New Zealand I know best.