Thai food and sushi have made a welcome return to my diet. Proper chips are also very welcome - not French fries but proper, steaming, chunky chips... And there is something about going to a market or food shop and not recognising the foods that makes me more excited than a kid in an icecream shop.
But instead of delighting in the choice, we've been nervously checking that our Italian staples - pasta, tomato passata, ricotta, parmesan and so forth - are actually available here. Thankfully, most are. We pay three times the price and don't have a choice of brands, but still. We've got very comfortable with our pasta-five-times-a-week diet.
Supermarkets in Auckland aren't quite the serve-your-every-need-from-cradle-to-crypt affairs that British supermarkets have become - and that's probably a good thing. They are on the pricey side, and we've found independent fruit and veg stores to be better value. There are also lots of Asian supermarkets of various creeds, which no doubt cover at least 101 kinds of seaweed etc. - fun for trying new things.
The crowds head out of the city for the weekend - probably to tend their olive groves
We enjoy shopping in open-air markets, but our one experience so far has been the Matakana Saturday morning market. It's a small town market that brings yuppies from far and wide. Merchants sell everything from fancy pastries to their own olive oil. There's more arts and crafts and artigianal produce than you can shake a stick at. I like the principle of small scale/organic/local production. Fresh off the boat from rural Italy, I was a bit overwhelmed by the crowds of sundress-wearing mums and toddlers, and put out at waiting 10 minutes for a substandard coffee. (Don't even get me started on coffee - I miss my Italian breakfast like crazy.) I can't help it - I just think of my Italian neighbours making their produce without the fuss, hand-decorated labels or hefty pricetags. I've become an Italo-snob. That said, it's the sort of thing I would have loved five years ago, and will probably go back to loving soon. I recommend it to anyone. www.matakanacoast.com
Still on the quest for a taste of home, we went for our first meal out together to a local Italian restaurant in Newmarket, Auckland.
It was BYOB (I love having BYOB again!) so I go a bottle from the nearest offies for $12 (about 6 euros). Wine here is fairly good quality, a bit heavier than I'm used to, but doesn't come cheaper than about $10, so it's not for everyday drinking. It's nice to have a choice of good white wines, which wasn't available in Abruzzo. That said, they don't go beyond Australia in sourcing their wines, so it's all local stuff - good for the carbon footprint, but less good if you just fancy some Montepulciano.
The restaurant was run by a lovely Iranian chap. Great service, enormous prices ($24 for a 12" margherita pizza), and, unfortunately, not spectacular authenticity. We'll keep hunting for the perfect Napoli flavour.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do
I've always found this principle serves me well when eating abroad. New Zealand is no exception. Kiwis go crazy for their savoury pies and their fish and chips. The quintessential pie is a traditional style pot pie, serving one, and available all over from bakeries. They're incredibly economical, starting at $2.80 for a fresh meat pie. Some bakeries even do vegetable pies, and I've throughly enjoyed the couple of pies I've had.
The next kiwi obsession I'm looking forward to trying is the eggs benedict breakfast. Mmmm.
New Zealand fish and chips, photo courtesy of www.nzataglance.com