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.
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.bigcartel.com; $3 from every book sold will go towards rejuvenating the Clarence community.