Life in the 20th century

Page 7 – A land of plenty

Food and drink

New Zealanders are good eaters. Until the years after the Second World War, Kiwi food largely followed British origins, although Maori traditions were strong in rural Maori communities. Culinary multiculturalism changed the food scene in the last quarter of the century.  But good skills were needed in making the traditional roast meal or cake: 'plain fare' rarely meant 'easy peasy'.

New Zealand cuisine

Family eating roast

Roast meals involved many rituals. Women spent hours in the kitchen ensuring that meat, gravy, sauces, baked and roast vegetables all reached the peak of perfection at the same moment. To men fell the tasks of carving the joint and presiding over the table. The Saturday or Sunday roast that was for so long a fixture of New Zealand life began to disappear from the 1970s.

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Kai moana

Eating kina

Rivers and sea provided food for Maori living in rural areas. The kina or sea urchin shown in this photograph were reasonably plentiful for much of the 20th century. Like many other varieties of fish and shellfish that had been abundant around New Zealand's coasts, kina was in short supply by the end of the century.

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How to cite this page

'A land of plenty', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Jan-2016