Fresh fish and bread makes a fine feast

It doesn’t get much bet­ter than shar­ing a feast of fresh fish and home baked bread on Easter Sun­day. Amanda Sax­ton re­ports.

Central Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE -

Ev­ery Easter an Auck­land church feeds the mul­ti­tude with loaves and fishes - a` la Je­sus - at a mas­sive feast held on an indoor bas­ket­ball court.

Men of One­hunga’s Co­op­er­a­tive Par­ish headed out fish­ing at dawn on Satur­day, while women baked bread in their home kitchens.

Then on the eve of Easter Sun­day more than 100 parish­ioners flock in flo­ral fin­ery - for this is a mainly Pa­cific Is­lan­der con­gre­ga­tion - to share the sim­ple two-food meal and each oth­ers’ com­pany.

‘‘Get­ting all these Cook Is­landers, Samoans, Ni­ueans, Ton­gans work­ing to­gether is at the heart of the event,’’ said Rev­erend Fakaofa Kaio, ini­tia­tor of the church’s ‘‘min­istry of fish­ing’’.

At 3pm the fish­er­men rolled up to the church with their hauls; over 120 fat snap­per, long sil­ver ka­hawai, and flat trevally in bar­rels.

Grip­ping scaly tails, a team of men speak­ing is­land di­alects and bro­ken English be­gan slic­ing thick chunks of fish flesh to fling on the grill.

The only condi­ments used were oil and salt.

‘‘We try to get the meal as close to what Je­sus’ passover meal would have been - that’s when he per­formed the loaves and fishes mir­a­cle,’’ Kaio said.

‘‘Fish and bread is a very ba­sic food but it’s a won­der­ful meal to have.’’

Leleimua Kamira, 60, was one of Satur­day morn­ing’s fish­er­men and, with his boat, was a bas­tion of par­ish fish­ing trips.

He had fished the Manukau Har­bour, while an­other boat­ful of men tried their luck in the Waitem­ata Har­bour.

Kamira’s child­hood dream was to be ’’the man with the good big boat’’, as he had grown up pad­dling his fish­er­man father’s ca­noe around the Cook Is­lands.

‘‘I al­ways looked at the men with the mo­tors and told my­self ‘one day that will be me, tak­ing all my fam­ily out fish­ing’,’’ he said.

Kamira loved the on-board at­mo­sphere of the Easter trips.

‘‘Once those fish start bit­ing, it’s all about jokes and good com­pe­ti­tion.’’

The jok­ing con­tin­ued around the fish chop­ping sta­tions and grill.

Lis­ten­ing to the multi-lin­gual ban­ter was Rev­erend Kaio’s favourite part of the event.

‘‘See? They are usu­ally sep­a­rate com­mu­ni­ties, but to­day they are united by fish­ing and woe be­tide the man who catches the small­est fish,’’ he said.

A keen fish­er­man him­self, Toke­lau-born Kaio started the fish­ing min­istry when he took over the roughly 300 mem­ber par­ish 12 years ago.

‘‘The con­cept is from Toke­lau ... our word ‘ inati‘ means when folks go out fish­ing then dis­trib­ute the catch amongst ev­ery­one,’’ he said.

The event had pulled a crowd of both feast­ers and helpers an­nu­ally.

This year how­ever, fear­ing the per­ils of Cy­clone Cook, Kaio had sug­gested buy­ing fish from the mar­ket.

‘‘But they said, ‘Rev, we’ve al­ways had a fine week­end’ - and look how well it turned out.’’

Women started ar­riv­ing af­ter 4pm, adding the aroma of freshly baked bread to the grilled fish smell per­me­at­ing the church.

Made from tra­di­tional is­land recipes, their fare ranged from dense, un­leav­ened co­conut bread to springy brown loaves.

A glo­ri­ous clash of colours and pat­terns ac­com­pa­nied them - trop­i­cal shirts and lavalava were worn in force, and one lady matched a sparkly fake flower crown with her green flo­ral dress and leop­ard skin hand­bag.

In con­trast, one of the church’s or­gan play­ers was a lady from Switzer­land with long white hair, draped in a black cloak.

‘‘I am one of the few palagi here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,’’ she said in her Swis­sGer­man ac­cent, not want­ing to be named.

‘‘They al­ways say ‘you are one of us’ - but I say I’m not, be­cause I can’t dance.

‘‘I just love to watch them dance.’’

She said she en­joyed the ‘‘flam­boy­ance and glam­our’’ of a Pasi­fika par­ish, and the fact they filled the church with fam­i­lies and song.

‘‘That’s not usual here in New Zealand these days,’’ she added.

The par­ish sat down to eat their loaves and fishes around a long line-up of ta­bles at 6pm; a bright swathe through the vast pale blue painted gym­na­sium.

Kaio made a speech about the bib­li­cal ori­gin of the event, and its his­tory within his par­ish.

More ta­bles and chairs were sourced, as more and more peo­ple filed in to pile plas­tic plates with food.

‘‘We never know how many will ar­rive as we’re not about RSVPing,’’ he said.

‘‘But we al­ways have more than enough to feed the mul­ti­tude - it’s sort of our Easter mir­a­cle.’’

JA­SON DORDAY/FAIR­FAX NZ

Snap­per heads get fried on the bar­be­cue for the feast.

JA­SON DORDAY/FAIR­FAX NZ

Rev­erend Fakaofa Kaio ini­ti­ated One­hunga Co-op­er­a­tive Par­ish’s so-called min­istry of fish­ing when he took over 12 years ago.

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