The Taste of Matariki
Updated: Aug 13
Matariki hunga nui,
Matariki ahunga nui,
Ka rewa a Matariki, ka maoka te hinu.
Ka rewa a Matariki, ka rere te kanakana.
𝑀𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑘𝑖 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑦 𝑠𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑜𝑛, 𝑀𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑘𝑖 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑟 𝑐𝑙𝑢𝑠𝑡𝑒𝑟, 𝑀𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑘𝑖 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑣𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑜𝑓 𝑓𝑜𝑜𝑑. 𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝑀𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑘𝑖 𝑖𝑠 𝑠𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑣𝑒, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑔𝑎𝑚𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑣𝑒𝑑. 𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑛 𝑀𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑘𝑖 𝑖𝑠 𝑠𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑣𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑘𝑎𝑛𝑎𝑘𝑎𝑛𝑎 𝑓𝑙𝑜𝑤.
Matariki (Pleiades) is a star cluster that heralds in the Māori New Year and resets our lunar calendar following the next full moon. For some tribes, it is instead Puanga (Rigel) which is easier to spot and rises about 10 or 11 days prior to Matariki, giving unique dates to each tribe in shaping their year ahead as dictated by Hina-Mārama (The moon) and her relationship with our environment here in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Matariki is not celebrated overnight like we would with January 1st but instead consists of a month of activities based on the nine different stars and the significance they hold in their respective parts of the environment. These stars are;
Matariki - Gathering and Reflecting.
Pōhutukawa - Remembering those who have passed away.
Waitī - All things to do with Fresh water bodies and their food sources.
Waitā - All things to do with the Ocean and their food sources.
Waipuna-ā-rangi - Associated with the rain.
Tupu-ā-nuku - Associated with the soil and food sources from the ground.
Tupu-ā-rangi - Associated with the trees, birds, and their food sources as well as medicinal plants and healing.
Ururangi - Associated with the wind, instruments and celebration.
Hiwa-i-te-rangi - Associated with goal setting and aspirations.
This month, I made it my mission to capture and articulate the taste of Matariki and I admit, it was pretty tricky but was an amazing journey! not only around Te Taitokerau, Northland but right across the North Island. With Matariki being a month long occurrence, no single dish or experience could begin to describe and do our Māori New Years justice, so I'd like to share a range of experiences throughout the month that collectively paint the picture of what Matariki tastes like to me.
𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐚𝐮𝐧𝐠𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐚 | 𝐶𝑜𝑛𝑛𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛
When Matariki became visible it saw a small intimate gathering of friends of whom we call our tribe, coming together at home here in Whangarei and sharing in some hot pure 100% Peruvian cacao with chili and coconut cream, karakia (prayer) and kōrero (conversation) till everyone drifted off to sleep beside each other early hours of the next morning. Matariki-hunga-nui, Matariki the gatherer of people.
- Pā and some of the tribe
𝐀𝐫𝐨𝐡𝐚 | 𝐿𝑜𝑣𝑒
The next week I took a trip out to one of my ancestral homes, to a little place called Pipiwai to visit some of our old people. I was greeted by one of my Grand-Aunts who had just started her famous lamb neckchop stew over the open fire. We sat around the fire with family of all generations, ukulele strumming, spoon tapping, singing, laughing and story-telling for hours until the stew was ready. It was body warming, tasty, tender and filling. I asked my Grand-Aunt what her secret was and she smiled, winked and said 'aroha'.
- World famous Pipiwai neckchop stew
𝐀𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐚 | 𝐶𝑢𝑙𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑒
The following weekend, I took a spontaneous trip down to Iramoko Marae, near Whakatāne with my cousin to celebrate the opening of a new school of Māori Astrology. Our day started at 5am upon a mountain behind the Marae with 360° views of all the stars in the Heavens. It was an icy cold, but beautiful ceremony filled with ancient chants, karakia and knowledge to call in Matariki, the Māori New Year.
After the sun had risen we were welcomed by the home people of Iramoko onto the Marae and then in to the dining hall, As we entered, the local youth were singing and performing waiata containing knowledge of one of their ancestors, Wairaka, the home people were serving cups of tea and dishing out hot bowls of porridge and there were strangers sitting together as one, forming new bonds.
If that wasn't enough, we headed to the Rotorua Polynesian Spa to get the cold out of us before being hosted by the Mitai family at Mitai Māori Village. We were treated to a tour of the lands and its rich history, a strong and authentic Kapa Haka performance and a beautiful Hāngi, which is a traditional meal cooked in an earth oven. Is it Matariki without a Hāngi?
- Hāngi buffet at Mitai Māori Village, Rotorua
𝗠𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗮𝗸𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗮 | 𝐻𝑜𝑠𝑝𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑙𝑖𝑡𝑦
After having all of these absolutely beautiful experiences with people, places and food, I returned back to the North with one week left to capture this "taste of Matariki".
I was invited to help Judge dishes using only ingredients sourced from our local farmers market with Matariki as an underlying theme. These dishes were produced by aspiring chefs and students at Northtecs cooking school. The dishes were stunning in presentation and absolutely delectable but they were missing something.
I spoke to some of the students and asked them "What was the one thing that could of enhanced the taste of their dishes by a hundred fold?"... the answers were "Salt & Pepper", "An organised kitchen" and "A great Chef" and some other fancy chef words that no one would understand. I nodded and agreed and said "that may be so, however, it is manaakitanga." You can have the most beautiful dish, tastiest ingredients or best skills in the kitchen, but it is lost without manaakitanga.
- Jess' winning Tamarillo Crumble & Sorbet.
The whanaungatanga (connection) felt when eating with those you hold dear, The aroha (love) put in to the preparation of food for your guests around a roaring fire, The display of ahurea (culture) to liven up the room with song and dance, That is what sweetens any meal, from a hot glass of cacao to a tender neckchop stew, from a humble bowl of porridge to a traditionally cooked hāngi, that is manaakitanga, that is the taste of Matariki.
- Pā and Ngā-Atawhainga at Iramoko Marae to celebrate the Māori New Year.
"Shaquille Shortland of Ngāti Hine is affectionately known as Pā Shaq. @pa_shaq
Pā is the Founder and Director of Tūāpapa Māori Language Academy & Consultancy @_tuapapa_ and has received several national awards for his mahi such as the NZ Impact Award 2019 and KiwiBank New Zealander of the Year Local Community Hero Award 2020. Pā is a kaitiaki of ancestral knowledge and has a passion for exploring creative ways of sharing that knowledge." - EatNewZealand