Te Aitanga a Hauiti women providing healthy kai using the Kai Atua approach

Good options: Krystal Garrett in the Hauiti Marae kitchen where she and Ella Atkins have switched to a Kai Atua approach. Atua means "food from the gods" and is a philosophy harking back to times when diets came exclusively from what nature provided. Mrs Garrett and Ms Atkins have moved away from current hangi fare which often contains a lot of fat and sugar. Pictures supplied
Healthy kai: Fresh fruits and vegetables feature in Krystal Garrett (above) and Ella Atkins' move to create healthier meals in the marae kitchen.

TWO experienced cooks from Te Aitanga a Hauiti in Tolaga Bay are leading the way to lessen the dependence on sugar in marae cooking.

Marae kawa and tikanga are sacred: powhiri, karakia, waiata, koha, hariru and hongi.

For hundreds of years, Maori people have kept these traditions alive — out the front of the marae that is.

But in recent times, what happens next out the back, has been influenced by the modern era. Traditional food sources and gathering and cooking approaches are not what they once were. Kai-tangata (man-made and processed foods) often dominate the hakari table, along with plenty of sugar and fatty foods.

Hauiti cooks Krystal Garrett and Ella Atkins have made a conscious effort to create healthier meals in the marae kitchen.

Mrs Garrett has been a marae cook for 15 years now and credits her aunty for teaching her everything she knows, and for also influencing her recent decision to switch to a Kai Atua approach.

“She didn’t like to eat anything that felt heavy, so it was always nice light, healthy kai.”

Atua means ‘‘food from the gods’’ and is a philosophy harking back to times when diets came exclusively from what nature provided.

Kai Atua looks at stories and traditions around an iwi’s foods, as well as the whakapapa (connection) to kai.

Just water, no sugars and no fizzy drinks

“We’ve tried to bring it in as whanau, to bring in that whakaaro — just water, no sugars and no fizzy drinks,” said Mrs Garrett.

It depends on who the cooks are for each event that takes place on a marae, whether it’s a tangi (funeral), hui (meeting) or wananga (conference).

Various factors come into play — what the whanau can afford, the availability of oven space and cooks that can help prepare.

“We decide on what kai we’re doing, so in this case we’ve done cold kai, not hot, because of the weather.

“We look at what is in season, which at present is all the kai moana so we’ve made a seafood smorgasbord.

“It depends on your numbers too, for what you’re going to cook. Today, we catered for 200.”

The kai is all locally sourced from the Uawa/Tolaga Bay area.

“We get permits for the kai moana and meat from all the dads around here.

“When I was younger, my nanny was a gardener and had a big kumara garden.

“So that’s one thing that I’m trying to bring back into my work with mama and pepi.

'I’m trying to bring back learning how to grow kumara'

“I’m trying to bring back learning how to grow kumara.

“Kumara is expensive but you can grow it here in Uawa abundantly."

Mrs Garrett said they try to get hold of as much as possible from the area, including herbs.

“We use a lot of herbs from around here — we never buy herbs.”

It’s only been in the last few years that Garrett and Atkins have made healthy changes to their cooking style.

“Previously it would have been hangi food, complete with all the fats and prepared with more fats and sugars,” said Mrs Garrett.

When asked about the feedback on switching to a healthier approach, she said people weren’t fussed and have adapted to less sugar.

Mrs Garrett and Ms Atkins attribute their understanding of good nutrition to the importance of looking back to learn the way forward.

As descendants of Hauiti, the accomplished fisherman who fed his people well, they are mindful that much of the ancient knowledge remains to be revived and practiced.

TWO experienced cooks from Te Aitanga a Hauiti in Tolaga Bay are leading the way to lessen the dependence on sugar in marae cooking.

Marae kawa and tikanga are sacred: powhiri, karakia, waiata, koha, hariru and hongi.

For hundreds of years, Maori people have kept these traditions alive — out the front of the marae that is.

But in recent times, what happens next out the back, has been influenced by the modern era. Traditional food sources and gathering and cooking approaches are not what they once were. Kai-tangata (man-made and processed foods) often dominate the hakari table, along with plenty of sugar and fatty foods.

Hauiti cooks Krystal Garrett and Ella Atkins have made a conscious effort to create healthier meals in the marae kitchen.

Mrs Garrett has been a marae cook for 15 years now and credits her aunty for teaching her everything she knows, and for also influencing her recent decision to switch to a Kai Atua approach.

“She didn’t like to eat anything that felt heavy, so it was always nice light, healthy kai.”

Atua means ‘‘food from the gods’’ and is a philosophy harking back to times when diets came exclusively from what nature provided.

Kai Atua looks at stories and traditions around an iwi’s foods, as well as the whakapapa (connection) to kai.

Just water, no sugars and no fizzy drinks

“We’ve tried to bring it in as whanau, to bring in that whakaaro — just water, no sugars and no fizzy drinks,” said Mrs Garrett.

It depends on who the cooks are for each event that takes place on a marae, whether it’s a tangi (funeral), hui (meeting) or wananga (conference).

Various factors come into play — what the whanau can afford, the availability of oven space and cooks that can help prepare.

“We decide on what kai we’re doing, so in this case we’ve done cold kai, not hot, because of the weather.

“We look at what is in season, which at present is all the kai moana so we’ve made a seafood smorgasbord.

“It depends on your numbers too, for what you’re going to cook. Today, we catered for 200.”

The kai is all locally sourced from the Uawa/Tolaga Bay area.

“We get permits for the kai moana and meat from all the dads around here.

“When I was younger, my nanny was a gardener and had a big kumara garden.

“So that’s one thing that I’m trying to bring back into my work with mama and pepi.

'I’m trying to bring back learning how to grow kumara'

“I’m trying to bring back learning how to grow kumara.

“Kumara is expensive but you can grow it here in Uawa abundantly."

Mrs Garrett said they try to get hold of as much as possible from the area, including herbs.

“We use a lot of herbs from around here — we never buy herbs.”

It’s only been in the last few years that Garrett and Atkins have made healthy changes to their cooking style.

“Previously it would have been hangi food, complete with all the fats and prepared with more fats and sugars,” said Mrs Garrett.

When asked about the feedback on switching to a healthier approach, she said people weren’t fussed and have adapted to less sugar.

Mrs Garrett and Ms Atkins attribute their understanding of good nutrition to the importance of looking back to learn the way forward.

As descendants of Hauiti, the accomplished fisherman who fed his people well, they are mindful that much of the ancient knowledge remains to be revived and practiced.

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