Cook­ing up on the banks of the Clarence River. Good Times

A 7.8 earth­quake didn’t stop Genevieve King pub­lish­ing her Val­ley Gath­er­ings cook­book – or re­turn­ing to raft the river she loves.

North & South - - Columns -

For some chefs, lo­cal­ity and sea­son­al­ity dic­tate the type of food they’ll in­clude on the menu. For Clarence River raft­ing guide Genevieve King, it also comes down to the type of wood avail­able.

“When we’re fur­ther down the river in na­tive bush, when we can find plenty of manuka and kanuka – that’s where I’ll at­tempt to bake a cake. I’d never do it in the first few days with wil­low and po­plar, be­cause they don’t work as well.”

King con­cocts cakes on a cast-iron camp oven by load­ing hot coals on the lid. “It’s quite im­pres­sive, as peo­ple don’t ex­pect it when you’re out camp­ing.”

Cook­ing with fire means keep­ing an eye on your wood sup­ply, “and you can’t just turn down the dial when things get too hot”.

King’s kin­ship with the Clarence – which coils a 230km course from the St James Range, be­tween the Seaward and In­land Kaik­oura Ranges, to the Pa­cific – be­gan from day dot: her fa­ther and grand­fa­ther were deer-farm­ing pioneers on their high- coun­try sta­tion; her mother was the lo­cal school teacher. Even though Kaik­oura was only a half-hour drive away, bar­ter­ing be­tween neigh­bours and self-suf­fi­ciency was a way of life, with King mer­rily “sneak­ing be­hind Mum’s back to make cook­ies, cakes, desserts…”.

Since leav­ing school, the 30-year- old has been a Jill of all trades, work­ing in the ski in­dus­try (from in­struct­ing to mar­ket­ing); com­plet­ing a de­gree in graphic de­sign; work­ing as a chef in ski chalets in Aus­tria and on su­pery­achts in the South of France.

Dur­ing King’s five years of guid­ing on the Clarence, she and her col­leagues often fielded re­quests from well-sated clients for a cook­book. Last year, she made it hap­pen, cre­at­ing and col­lat­ing recipes, tak­ing pho­tos and in­ter­view­ing the lo­cals – many of whom she knew from child­hood.

Val­ley Gath­er­ings fea­tures a cor­nu­copia of lo­cally pro­duced kai: honey, wine, cof­fee, lamb, veni­son, paua, lemons, wal­nuts, av­o­cado, quince, even kom­bucha cock­tails. Last Novem­ber’s 7.8-mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck just as the book was go­ing to print. King was on a raft­ing trip at the time.

“The guides don’t sleep in tents; we were tucked un­der a bluff that was sud­denly crum­bling down. We were running away from that be­fore I even knew I was awake. It was pretty scary… the liq­ue­fac­tion start­ing below us, be­ing sur­rounded by trees creak­ing and sway­ing.”

The raft­ing group watched as mas­sive rock shelves tum­bled down cliffs on the banks op­po­site; they scram­bled to safety from the river­banks up to a pad­dock where they rode out the night – and the af­ter­shocks – hud­dling on a tarp in their sleep­ing bags.

The cot­tage King lived in on her par­ents’ farm was red-stick­ered; the fam­ily home­stead was lifted eight me­tres by the move­ment of the ground. Four months later, the main route to Kaik­oura via State High­way One re­mains closed and kaimoana is off lim­its. The sil­ver lin­ing? Sev­eral new rapids.

De­spite the dev­as­ta­tion, King re­mains up­beat, al­ready cook­ing up her next project. “Some kind of food cart,” she says. “I’ve cho­sen wheels to suit my in­de­ci­sive­ness about where I want to live.” STACEY ANYAN

Above left: Genevieve King on the steps of her cot­tage, which was red-stick­ered af­ter the Kaik­oura earth­quake. Above right: This ae­rial photo was taken on Novem­ber 14 last year. It shows dust, cre­ated by a strong af­ter­shock, hang­ing above the Clarence River.

Recipes from Val­ley Gath­er­ings by Genevieve King, $45. Or­der from www. some­thing be­gin­ning withg.big­car­; $3 from ev­ery book sold will go to­wards re­ju­ve­nat­ing the Clarence com­mu­nity.

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