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uNUSZual Foods

The title may need a little explaining so here it is: NZ + US = NUSZ. Let's call this a combination of NZ and US so it's something like Newnited Statezland. For short, we can call it 'Nusz' (pronounced Nuːʒ). It's a hybrid of the two countries in our lives but it's also a useful sound to creatively spell the word 'unusual'. This email is going to be pretty food heavy. If you don’t think you’d like to read weird about flavorless food via flavorless writing, then this may not be for you. If you DO like reading about that kind of thing, there’s still no guarantee that this is for you, but you know the saying, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. So why not venture a little? Talk About A Traffic Jelly Apparently, there is a substantial difference between jelly and jam. This could be obvious to you, but it was far from clear to me until I was about 30 years old. I was walking the globe thinking the words were interchangeable, just like the foods:

To clarify those that have been living under a veil of food-ignorance like I have been, jelly is made from the fruit’s juice and is usually quite smooth while jam is made from the fruit itself. This is a trifle difference but some nerds get really miffed if you don’t get it right. Grape jelly is smooth because it’s not made from the whole grape, while strawberry is typically jam, because the whole fruit is chucked in. How does it work 'down under' you ask? Well, ‘jelly’ takes on a new form. Here, jelly is more akin to Jell-o. It’s a jiggly substance that is a desert and eaten in cubes (and no, there isn’t a good reason for why it’s always cubed). Let’s pause and walk a mile (or kilometer) in a New Zealander’s shoes and view jelly the way they do. Now, think about the world’s most delicious sandwich in the world, which is factually (in my opinion) the peanut butter and jelly masterpiece. The population of new Zealand has been subject to hearing about PBJs their whole lives through movies, shows and media about the U.S. of A. and wondering, “what the hell are those people doing!?” PB & Js are something very near and dear to my heart. I’ve eaten 5 PB & Js in a single day before. I considered writing a dissertation in PBJology. Some say, PB & Js are the backbone of the American economy – is that what I’m saying? Yes, absolutely I am.

Imagine my disappointment when an entire country of people hasn’t ever tried a PB & J sandwich. If that’s not bad enough, even once I describe the genius of the sandwich, I’m usually met with looks of raised eyebrows like I’m crazy. I get the same expressions as Dr. Frankenstein trying to explain he’s going to bring the dead to life. The way NZ feels about PBJs, in a word, skeptical (but they would spell it ‘sceptical’). I have been working to promote PBJ eating my entire time here. People probably think I work for ‘Big PBJ’ or something, because I talk about them so much. Part of it comes from the confusion that some Kiwis

weren’t sure if we were making sandwiches out of Jell-o, but even after I explained that we were actually using jam, they weren't sold. It just reminds me how you can lead a horse to a PB & J, but you can’t make it eat.

Talk like the locals The native language of the Māori is called Te Reo Māori (pronounced like ‘today – o’) and is taught in primary school now as part of the standard curriculum. The language has been incorporated much more to the country’s culture over recent years, though not fully. There are many place names that have retained their original Māori names such as Otautahi (Christchurch), Akaroa, Kapiti, and Wellington (just kidding), but there’s one detail that can cause some confusion when it comes to how to pronounce some sounds, and I’m looking directly at the letters ‘w’ and ‘h’. When you see those letters together such as ‘wh’ it makes an ‘f’ sound. The region in the northern part of New Zealand known as Whangarei is pronounced Fawng-uh-ray. The redwood forests of Rotorua are Whakarewarewa (fawk-uh-ray-wuh-ray-wuh), and Whanganui is more like fawng-uh-noo-ee.

It’s not all that hard to get used to, but it does make for a surprise when you read a word and hear it pronounced with letters that don’t have anything to do with the sounds you read. It’s like reading Scottish or Irish Gaelic words, where they seem to have mistakenly dropped in about 8 extra letters to each word and forgot to take them out. Te Reo was not written down or preserved in writing until the last few hundred years. There were oral traditions but no one had created a written system. That being said, it’s about time I lodged my complaint on this matter. My complaint is not with the people who speak, formed, carry the tradition, or write Te Reo Māori. No, not at all. My issue is not that there is a phoneme in the language that sounds like what we call in English, the letter ‘f’. Nope. My issue is that when a written system was created for Te Reo, whoever oversaw this heard the sound and then thought “oh well, I’ll just write down that ‘f’ sound as a ‘wh’ – that’ll be perfect”. I mean, what the whuck were they thinking?! Not only did someone come up with this idea, but then, no one else stood in the way and questioned why they choose to combine two English letters to make a sound that has never been expressed with those two letters. In German, there is the ‘pf’ which makes an ‘f’ sound (think of Michelle Pfeiffer), and in Irish the name Siobhan is pronounced Shuh-vawn, but those are all languages that were using Roman/English style letters for hundreds of years. I have the same complaint with whoever developed Pinyin (that’s the transliterating of Chinese to English). Somebody at some point thought the letter ‘x’ should make the ’sh’ sound.


It’s like a committee of pseudo-linguists sat around a table and agreed to make it somewhat intuitive, but then they dropped in a couple of mental landmines just so they could say “gotcha!” to the rest of us.

If I was in charge of creating a language or alphabet, I’d have a few/phew changes. Here's what I'm thinking:

1. No ‘wh’ for ‘f’ or ‘x’ to sound like ‘sh’. That’s the obvious stuff. Next, I’m doing some budget cuts and eliminating wasteful letters. The first letter to go? That’s an easy one. X. The letter X is sooooo full of itself. It’s all smug. It thinks its amazing. But it’s more of a symbol than a letter. The other letters like ‘ks’ can pick up its slack easily when X no longer exists. X, you’re gone. You’ve been ‘ecksed’. 2. Next off the ranks is Q… I’m pretty sure this one doesn’t need any explanation. Any Kwestions? 3. After that I’m going to put up ‘c’ and ‘k’ to duel it out. I’m biased. My name starts with a ‘c’, but I can’t let that stand in the way, because the truth is, ‘c’ is kind of a leech of a letter. It either makes an ‘s’ sound or a ‘k’ sound. It’s just looking to mimic whatever it’s around and assume another letter’s identity. This has to stop. Not only is it an imposter letter, but sometimes it’s too weak to stand on its own. Why does it need the support of an ‘x’ like in the word ‘excise’ or how it leans on the ‘k’ in the word ‘speck’. It’s just a lazy letter, but I’m all for being democratic, so I say we let the letters ‘k’ and ‘c’ have a battle to see who stays. Sayonara succer/sukker. 4. Another issue I’m putting attention on is the weird love-triangle between ‘i’, ‘e’, and ‘y’. I’m not saying anyone is or isn’t getting cut, but those 3 weirdos must get their stuff straightened out. Who is making what sound? It’s like they are living some kind of quasi-commune life where they pick up each other’s slack and it’s not clear who is doing what or when. It could work for some people, but not in an alphabet. 5. ‘j’ is also on thin ice.

Sorry for getting so political/politikal.

All The Places Spaghetti Doesn’t Belong I eat spaghetti at least every couple of weeks. It’s a staple food for me at this point, and it’s precious to me. Not quite like Golem and the ring have a ‘precious’ thing going, I just really like spaghetti. Spaghetti in New Zealand is different, but I can manage that alright. Where I struggle is with canned spaghetti. Canned spaghetti is just like SpaghettiOs, but with slightly less ‘whlavour’ and preservatives. It’s not that I’m a total foodie and spaghetti snob, truly I’m not. I actually think that SpaghettiOs were really onto something by making a dish that you could eat with a spoon and you didn’t have to worry about flailing noodles whipping around, splashing red sauce all over someones clothes, face, hands, walls, windows, pets, ceiling, fans, etc. When I eat spaghetti, the house looks like a murder scene from Dexter, with red splattering on the white walls next me. Spaghetti seems like a ‘whood’ that is always doing a practical joke by having its noodles be both:

1. Too long and unmanageable, plus 2. Covered with projectile bullet sauce

Spaghetti is fraught with eating complications so SpaghettiOs, good for you for making an easier option. The problem for me is that SpaghettiOs has its place in history and is probably best enjoyed for humans under the age of 12. Put another way, you wouldn’t use SpaghettiOs as an ingredient in some other dish, would you?


Well, have I got news for you, my friend.

I’m introducing you to the spaghetti sandwich. What is a spaghetti sandwich, you ask? Right now you might be thinking to yourself, “per chance it’s a gourmet sandwich with artisanal Eastern European dark rye bread, over a bed of micro-greens, with an Italian buffalo mozzarella, meatballs from free-range pork and beef blend of the highest grade, with Cherokee purple tomato, and a dash of Kalamata extra virgin olive oil”. Sorry to say, but the answer is no. It’s pretty simple:

  • White bread

  • Canned spaghetti

  • Put it in a panini press (as if that helps at all)

Here’s an article that really dives into the zeitgeist behind the spaghetti sandwich. It’s important that you meet the world’s saddest sandwich and I am proud to bring you this opportunity. So here it is, in all its glory:

Now, while I want to judge, so badly. I really do. I want to be harsh, and swift and brutal in my judgment, maybe this is a learning moment for me. I am a foreigner in a land that has scorned my admiration and love for my sandwich affinity (the perfection that is the PB & J), so maybe I need to turn the other cheek and accept that this spaghetti sandwich food-trocity is just another perspective. Maybe it’s not actually a crime against humanity, but a quick meal. Maybe it isn’t a sin against mankind, but rather something that anyone can make. Who knows?

But I can tell you I am inexperienced in eating a spaghetti sandwich, so when the day comes that I sink my massive teeth into one of these, I’ll let you know.

One more experience that’s worth sharing is when I asked someone once what they were having at work, and they replied with “oh just spagball”. Spagball is a confusing term to hear so I cracked a smile because I thought they were joking. I had no clue what they were talking about, but whatever it was, it couldn’t be serious. So, I prodded, “what uh… what is a ‘spagball’?”. She explained quickly and easily that it's just ‘spaghetti bolognese’ and I immediately felt much better, because not only did I understand she wasn’t about to eat a spaghetti sandwich, but I also learned the word ‘spag bol’ and my world has never been the same.

I’ll let you know there are other recipes I’ve heard of that use spaghetti as an ingredient, but if I mention them right now, my head will explode. I have to cool off for a little bit. We’ll revisit this in the future.

The Kiwi Conundrum Kiwi can mean 3 different things (I’ve mentioned this before): a person, a flightless bird, or a fruit. Now, I think of Kiwi the fruit most often, but here, it’s called Kiwifruit. A small but subtle distinction. Kiwifruit is delicious and I love it. I mean, it’s no PB & J, but it’s great. There’s a hefty chance that next time you buy a kiwifruit in the store, it’s been grown in New Zealand. If that happens, just think of it as a fruit-postcard that we’ve sent your way to say hello. The US exports a good deal of citrus and grapes to New Zealand though, so next time I chew into a naval orange, I’ll think of it was home saying ‘hi’ back. I’ve considered some names that we can call our communication channel:

· ‘fruit-igrams’ · ‘produce-cards’ · ‘hello from pre-jell-o’ · ‘hi from the stuff that makes pie’

Getting back to the point, kiwifruit have nutrition such as potassium like the levels in bananas, Vitamins K & E, and boatload of Vitamin C. Here’s where things get weird, the skin of kiwifruit (I’m just gonna call them kiwis now if that’s ok), are edible. They are furry, but not so much more than peaches are, so I’ve gotten into the habit of eating the skin because it’s healthy but the main reason is because I’m supremely lazy and can’t be bothered to cut the skins off of each individual fruit. That’s nuts. I think people that have time to cut the skins off their fruit aren’t real people – they are myths that you only hear about - they must have died out with the Leisure Class of Victorian England when people sat around all day on fainting couches and talking about… I don’t know… ENGLISH BORING THINGS! If you haven’t tried the fruit with its skin on, I encourage it.

I do not encourage you telling people about it the same way I have. Let me set a scene for you:

On a cold wintery day, in the break room kitchen of a business in Christchurch, a toothy-American gets out the components of his lunch and a couple of kiwis. He bites into the kiwi and starts eating it as he prepares the rest of his lunch. A New Zealander walks in and sees this act of barbery, eating kiwi without peeling it and says something along the lines of “awr yuu ating thet weth the skeen on mate?” then another New Zealander walks into the breakroom just in time to hear me say, “ya, I always eat kiwis with the skin on”. Then, I receive yet another look of shock and horror.

So, here’s what I’ve learned from my experience: if people believe you are a cannibal, they treat you differently. It may be harsh. It may be cruel. But it’s true. For any cannibals out there reading this, just, ya know, keep that stuff private.

Little Experiences

  • New Zealanders tend to have a dry sense of humor. My feeling is, “fight drier with drier”. It can be helpful to match someone else’s motions, speech, cadences, etc – this is called ‘mirroring’. I tried this out once with a Kiwi when she was telling me that Americans often didn’t get Kiwis’ sense of humor. With a straight face I replied, “maybe you don’t have a sense of humor”. One of us found that quip really funny… it wasn’t her.

  • When did reading, writing and entertainment become ‘content’? This may not be a big deal at all, but put in another context it seems weird to think that Walter Cronkite, Shakespeare, and Lao Tzu were content creators.

  • Spag-bol

  • Apparently, as late as 1980s, if you worked in a bank, you needed to have a manager’s approval before you married your fiancé. That’s old-school dude.

Kiwinglish Translations

Until next time, The Yankiwi Trivial Things: · New Zealand’s biggest export is milk · NZ is the world’s 3rd oldest democracy · Auckland is the world’s 8th least affordable housing market (it’s between San Francisco and LA)

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