Traditional kai back on menu for 10th festival

Fried bread, fermented mussels with watercress and shark liver pate are back on the menu at this year's annual Kawhia Kai Festival.

In truth, they never left, and as far as the organisers are concerned they never will.

Today's festival is the 10th annual outing - a chance for traditional Maori foods to tempt the tastebuds of a new generation.

One festival organiser, Hinga Whiu, said the art of preparing old-time Maori kai had almost been lost to their community.

This provided the original impetus to launch the festival.

"My generation needed to learn how my grandmother's generation prepared their traditional kai," she said.

"We wanted to revive those old teachings and revive that old kai for us to learn, to pass on to future generations so that traditional kai will stay on forever."

Whanau from around the region have been busy preparing their favourite delicacies, including kanga wai (rotten corn), koki (shark liver pate) and toroi (fermented mussels and greens) and it's growing on the young ones.

"I'm lucky my tamariki all love the seafood," she said.

"They are not too keen on the kanga wai, I must admit, but that's okay. More importantly they are learning how to prepare the kai and how to gather the kai."

Kawhia was bracing for a line of cars to weave its way along the road, with thousands of visitors expected to head to the seaside community for the day.

"You never see traffic jams in Kawhia but you know it's a busy day in Kawhia when you can't get a park anywhere."

Festival goers were set to browse the arts and crafts stalls, listen to live bands and be entertained by television personality and comedian Pio Terei.

"He's a laugh anyway, eh? Just looking at him."

It takes a year to organise the one-day event and after 10 years the organising team has become experienced event promoters whom other communities have looked to for advice.

The organisers have volunteered their services and reached the 10-year milestone on the back of a passion for their community.

"It's a great milestone, especially when you are working with a little community like Kawhia and it's a wonderful event to bring the whanau back to, have our holidaymakers come back, to have tourists from all over the world come back to try this Maori experience.

"It's a community that we are passionate about and it's the community that drives us.

"We love doing it for the community of Kawhia."

The festival is today from 9am to 5pm. Cost: $10 for adults, $2 for under 12s. 

Waikato Times