OPINION: For a long time, New Zealand has been suffering from a sickness.
It started as a slow creep. A flare-up here and there, easily dismissed; nothing much to worry about. Over time the illness has spread across the country. It's in our supermarkets, dairies, eateries and even, God forbid, our own pantries.
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We're now in terminal decline, overrun by a rampant, seemingly unstoppable infection. Kiwiana fusion foods are now destroying this nation, and we need to eradicate this poison before it's too late.
It's hard to know where it began, but probably with L&P. There was L&P-flavoured chocolate. L&P sour lemon. L&P chilli and lime. Finally, L&P biscuits sent us spinning into a paroxysm of sugar-enhanced rage.
Stop, we said. But our food producers were just getting started. They scoured their minds and focus groups for more nostalgia-soaked Kiwiana dishes, severed those foods from their original contexts, sewed them together with other products in second-rate back alley surgeries, and slopped more culinary Frankenstein's monsters on our plates while singing the national anthem.
Their words were as untruthful as their creations. There was K Bar-flavoured chocolate.
Pineapple Lump Primo. Pavlova-flavoured vodka. Jaffa chocolate. Jaffa Lumps. Jelly Tip chocolate. Jelly Tip sauvignon blanc. Hokey pokey chocolate. Hāngī chips. Meat pie chips. Watties tomato sauce-flavoured chips. Meat pie and tomato sauce-flavoured chips.
All that I could live with. Then, a couple of days ago, at the Ponsonby Countdown, I saw something horrifying.
First of all Bluebird, how dare you? If there's one New Zealand food that should be sacrosanct, it's the culinary miracle engineered by a living saint. Second of all, how dare you create something so bad? The Kiwi Onion Dip-flavoured chips barely feint in the direction of the dip's actual taste. They taste like Bluebird removed some of the flavouring from its green onion chips, put them back in the bag, and wrote the word 'Kiwi' on the packet as many times as possible.
The Kiwi Onion Dip chips are a cynical attempt by international conglomeration PepsiCo to capitalise on Kiwi identity for the sake of meagre profits. Speaking of which, I recently made the TV show Get It to Te Papa, which follows my search for New Zealand's unheralded cultural treasures.One of the interesting things about the artefacts we tracked down was how many of them had been altered in some way. The Huntly DEKA Sign had been lit up with neon letters. Several sets of Big Fresh animatronic fruit and veges had been repainted and augmented. Auckland's Giant Santa had lost its original winking eye and beckoning finger in an expensive remodelling job.
Though the intentions behind these makeovers were nearly all good, every change to the treasures had reduced their value − tarnished them in some way.
It's time to stop tarnishing New Zealand's most beloved foods. Time to stop shoehorning them into tacky, badly executed bastardisations. The government must act to preserve the best of our traditions by regulating the worst of our food companies, before we lose sight of what's so special about a pure Pineapple Lump, or an unadulterated meat pie. Before we end up biting into a Pineapple Lump-flavoured cheese block or a Jaffa-flavoured chicken thigh. It's time for the government to ban Kiwiana fusion foods.
Except for those marmite-flavoured bagel crisps. I love those things.