Interesting things about Wellington, No. 4; Ginger Crunch.

Ginger Crunch

Ginger Crunch

No, it’s not New Zealand’s Next Top Exotic Dancer. Quite the opposite in fact, as a serious Ginger Crunch habit can turn a young woman into the human equivalent of a badly swollen, velour lounge suite. Two years people, that’s all it takes. Make Good Choices. 

Ginger Crunch is a slice, comprised of a layer of too-dry, biscuitty dough, tar-sealed with a slightly thicker layer of ‘ginger’….stuff. I’m not even really sure what this layer is, it’s sort of like a cross between caramel and icing, flavoured with slightly bitter powdered ginger yielding the cheeky aftertaste of a joinery factory.

However, In a young and hungry country, Ginger Crunch has taken on cult status as an incontrovertibly ‘Kiwi’ dish. Unlike pavlova, it has so far remained free from nefarious Australian attempts to claim its heritage; It seems there’s not a lot of competition for a weeping, mid-brown slice not unlike chewing on a wincingly sweet sheet of asbestos.

Ginger Crunch (I looked this up) comes by its iconic status honestly. It is one of the stars of the New Zealand’s baking bible the “Edmonds Cookbook”. Established in 1908 this popular cook-book formed the backbone of a parochial, colonial cuisine. The Edmonds cookbook is brimming with recipes, covering everything and anything that can be whipped up out of three cups of sugar and a fern-root.

Baking is extremely important in New Zealand culture, which is something I never realised until I returned after a long spell overseas. Cafes, yes, even inner city smarty-pants ones, feature their cakes and slices front and centre. A cafe without a good selection of slices no smaller than your average bathroom tile will simply fail to hold the public attention. And bakeries (yes, even wanky sourdough ones) often market themselves as cakes and slices first, bread second.

Last week I watched a group of women at the counter of an inner city cafe in Wellington grind to a halt when one of them claimed that she would only have a gourmet pork and beef roll (sausage roll), for lunch without a slice. All was not lost though, as each savoury dish is served with half a cup of syrupy tomato sauce. Yum.

I have to say that even though this isn’t my choice of food, I LOVE the joy and satisfaction of those for whom it is. New Zealanders, like Australians, are constantly chastised by governments fretting about them being too fat, but surely there’s some measurable public health benefit to being; A) happy, and B) a bit bloody warmer.

Having lived in Sydney’s shiny-belt (eastern suburbs) where tiny blond women race up and down footpaths shrink-wrapped in glistening black sportsgear delicately slurping soy-trim-mocca-uppa-downer-whiteys there’s something very heartening about watching people tuck into a slice that represents the daily caloric intake of Somalia.

PS. If you want some really good food in Wellington – Gypsy Kitchen in Strathmore. That is all.

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