Three Baskets of Memory

By Tim Hazell

Captain James Cook was met by Maori when he reached the island of Aotearoa, or New Zealand, in October 1796. Maori are one of the Polynesian cultures that colonized many island chains that form necklaces for thousands of miles across the South Pacific. Their sophisticated artistic traditions include elaborate carvings on magnificent seagoing canoes and meeting houses. As members of professional classes in the mixed populations of modern New Zealand, Maori have a reputation for intelligence, national pride, and refusal to yield their heritage to pressures of technological change.

The waiata, or song, has influenced Maori cultural development from its beginnings, serving as a conduit for oral traditions. Their history is preserved through forms of chant that contain the whakapapa, or genealogical table, and waiata oriori, portraying legends and customs. These narratives serve as entertainment and a record of specific events. The following waiata oriori is the story of how people gained their earthly and spiritual knowledge from the gods (te ira atua).

The Three Baskets of Memory
Tenei au, tenei au
Te hokai nei i taku tapuwae
Ko te hokai-nuku
Ko te hokai-rangi…
Here am I, here am I…
Swiftly moving by the power of my karakia
Swiftly moving over the earth
Tane-nui-a-rangi climbed up to the isolated realms of
The summit of Manono and there found Io-the-Parentless alone
He brought back down 3 Baskets of Memory;
The Basket called Tuauri
The Basket called Tuatea
The Basket called Aronui.
I sneeze, there is life!

Tauparapara Chant
Present-day Maori cuisine is a mixture of their heritage, old-fashioned English cookery, and contemporary influences. Ancient foods included whitebait fish, karengo seaweed, huhu grubs, pikopiko (fern shoots), karaka berries, and toroi, a dish of fresh mussels with puha (sow thistle) juice. When Pakeha (foreign) settlers arrived in New Zealand, Maori began cultivating wheat, potatoes, maize, carrots, cabbage, and other vegetables, as well as raising sheep, pigs, goats, and poultry. Maori ingredients have been prepared and presented in new ways to suit modern palates and continue to be enjoyed internationally.

This enticing spicy kumara (sweet potato) salad is delicious as is or dressed up with lime juice, olive oil, mustard, honey, and a little garlic!

Spicy Kumara and Orange Salad
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 oranges, peeled; pith and seeds removed and cubed
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
Juice of 1/2 lime
Handful of chopped coriander
1/4 cup sunflower seeds roasted with chili and lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil; add the sweet potato and pinch of salt. Boil 8-10 minutes until just tender; drain, put into a salad bowl, and leave to cool. Prepare oranges, spring onions, and red pepper and add to bowl. Toss with lime juice, coriander, and chili/lemon sunflower seeds just before serving and add additional dressing, if desired.

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