With my birthday pilgrimage back home in its twilight hours (under 24 hours to go until we’re back on a plane to the Northern Hemisphere), it’s time to reflect on a few things. In the time I’d been living in Canada, The distance between expectations and reality had widened to a chasm. Back in New Zealand x or y, or this would’ve been better back home. Comparisons became a part of everyday life, but with a decreasingly firm grip on how things in Aotearoa actually were. I hyped up a hell of a lot to my girlfriend, who’d developed a well practiced (and likely well deserved) eye roll. New Zealand has long held the nickname Godzone (God’s Own), but I’d given my rosy view a radiant aura. Making it all the way back home, however, allowed us to hold a magnifying glass up to read the small print of my bold claims. Let’s have a look see, then, at my ostentatious proclamations and see how they matched up:
- Chocolate: Without a doubt, much better. A lot of North American style of chocolate comes from the Hershey’s school of lowest common denominator. The rich dairy in NZ made for creamier, sweeter chocolate. Anything from Whittaker’s was top notch. Anything from their premium range was a step again above that.
- Cheese: Continuing with the dairy theme, NZ cheese beats the snot out of its Canadian counterpart, shits all over them and wipes the floor with their limp, stinky corpse for good measure. I’m not saying there’s no good Canadian cheese, I’m just saying there’s not remotely a contest between the basic supermarket brands.
- Coffee: Once again, no contest. Possibly because of its adherence to espresso as standard, the quality of NZ coffee is much higher than a Canadian cup. Brew coffee doesn’t have a strong foothold here, the closest things being cold brew or French press. Knowing that there are a few Toronto cafes I quite like, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that your average barista made NZ cup of coffee is better than 70% of all Toronto cafes. A good NZ cafe is better than 90% of Toronto cafes. This is only anecdotal, but I’ve got a pretty deep sample base.
- Apples: This might come down to taste, so it’s probably better to clarify. The things I like about a good apple are thus: Sweetness/tart balance (I prefer super sweet apples with maybe a slightly tart aftertaste). Crispness (nothing worse than biting into a mushy apple or having your bite leave tooth tracks. I want to bite and have a chunk snap off) and density. Macintosh apples can go fuck themselves and most apples I’ve tended to find in Toronto haven’t scratched that itch. The apples here in NZ, whether Pacific Rose or Jazz, even Braeburn have been the real deal. Yet again, if you have different apple metrics, I’m not gonna hold that against you.
- Cookie Time: My favourite cookie brand from NZ. Big chunky cookies with big chocolate chunks. I was apprehensive to try a Cookie Time, assuming they’d never hold up to the standards I’d set. I was wonderfully surprised. Biting into a Cookie Time cookie was like biting off a chunk of history. They tasted exactly the same as I always had. No disappointment to be had. Also visiting the Queenstown Cookie Bar (complete with merch) was a tiny slice of paradise.
- Lamb: No complaints. A big leg up from Canadian lamb. Shanks for the memories, NZ. Succulent and tasty. After the meat was gone, I grabbed the bone and pried every spec of flesh from that fucker Glorious, especially bundled with great roast veggies for accompaniment, which brings me to…
- Kumara Fries: The one big let down were Burger Fuel kumara fries. Maybe we got a bad batch, who knows? They were slightly undercooked and firm. Also kind of bland. I always remembered kumara fries to be bursting with flavour. What they’d lack in crispness they made up for with sweetness. These fries though didn’t make the cut. Sad times.
- Roasted Kumara: On the other side of the equation, kumara did live up to the pressure I’d placed on it. I like sweet potato/yam, but noxiously yellow kumara was all that I wanted. Flanked by pumpkin and potato they bolstered an already fantastic roast.
- Service: I actually hadn’t expected much from NZ service staff, considering they didn’t work for tips. Surprisingly though, they were mostly really pleasant and rarely was anything a big deal for them. Kindness felt natural, rather than artificially inflated due to their wages relying on them. Bonus!
- South Island scenery: Holy shit, was the South Island ever majestic! Even with shitty weather, it was unbelievable. Blowing the North Island right out of the water, the huge mountain passes and almost alien flora were breathtaking. Mental postcards and gorgeous landscapes everywhere. If you’re coming to NZ, I can’t recommend enough how worth it escaping the cities is. Treat yourself, make the trek.
- Friends and Family: The big one. I’d been apprehensive that time may have proven a barrier, that distance could’ve made things awful. Across the board this was proven absurd. Everyone was as warm, welcoming, witty and wicked as I’d remembered. I grew up around the best people and nothing has stopped that from remaining so. I know I said the same thing when I left NZ first time around, but out of everything I love here, I’ll miss the people the most. To hang about just talking shit has trumped everything else I’ve done on this holiday.
I may be leaving tomorrow, but part of my heart will always remain in New Zealand.
It’s a horcrux i case of my untimely death.