It might be a bit after the date but I don’t think it’s too late to offer my congratulations on hearing the news that New Zealand’s Cuisine magazine has been judged Best Food Magazine in the World at the Gourmet Voice Festival in Cannes at the end of January.
When I arrived in New Zealand I was at first bemused by the range of food magazines on sale. It didn’t take me long, though, to realise that Cuisine was head-and-shoulders above the rest. I loved the mix of features, information on local producers and things in season, evocative photography and, most of all, their attitude to FOOD. It introduced me to writers like Ray McVinnie, Genevieve McGough, Julie Le Clerc and Lauraine Jacobs, many of whom also cropped up at Savour New Zealand. One of the first things I did when I arrived back in Ireland was to fork out for a subscription to the magazine and I regularly reference the Cuisine website. Just as well – all my last year’s Cuisines are packed away in a box somewhere in Christchurch!
The Gourmet Voice Awards, which aim to reward and promote professionals involved in food and drink communication across all media, awarded Cuisine a gold Gourmet Voice trophy – one of just four golds awarded overall. It’s undoubtedly a great publication but which came first? The quality magazine or the nationwide interest in food? And where have we in Ireland gone wrong? New Zealand is a country which constantly gets compared to Ireland. It has a similar population and, in places, a similar climate. Not too similar, however. There’s a decided lack of vines in the midlands and the people at Athena Olives in Waipara, where I spent a day olive picking, were very surprised that we don’t have olive trees in Ireland. Perhaps it is our reliance on imported fruit and vegetables that strips us of the interest and pride in cooking? After being able to buy such a range of local produce in Christchurch I was amazed to see how much of the organic fruit and vegetables on sale at the Temple Bar Market was imported. For a small country, New Zealand does punch far above its weight in the food world, both in producing and in consuming creatively. We’re not doing too badly – I am always encouraged when I read Darina Allen’s weekly letter in The Examiner – but we’ve a long way to go before we’ve the kind of food culture which would support a publication like Cuisine.