It was summer during our December visit, as New Zealand is south of the equator, and we filled our vacation with outdoor adventures, including ice caving, heli-touring glaciers, laying in geothermal beach pools, boating through infamous Milford Sound, white water rafting, wine tasting, and sky diving, to name a few. In this thread we opted to get a sleeper van equipped with a kitchen so we could drive and camp all over the north and south islands. Between our activities we made time to prep our own meals.
As an acupuncturist who specializes in Chinese diet therapy and has some personal dietary restrictions, I always find it a challenge to travel. However, since New Zealand is widely known to have the best lamb in the world and more sheep inhabitants than people, I was willing to let my digestive system take a hit and I did not hesitate to announce that I would be eating lamb every single day. I had yet to discover that New Zealand’s standard of high quality grass-fed meats and produce does not stop at lamb and that their food is enough to make any California Bay Area health nut or foodie’s mouth water.
My first visit to the grocery store was not so different than shopping at a Safeway or Save Mart, nothing special. I purchased marinated lamb, eggs and some rice pilaf. We found a small health food store afterward which had some lovely greens, which was such a relief, as well as avocados, avocado oil, and even gluten free bread, hurrah! At this point I was relieved to have food I could eat and be happy to cook with. The real surprise came when I began cooking. When I cracked open the eggs, again nothing special when purchased, I saw they had orange yolks!
Orange yokes is a sign of a very healthy egg and is typical of grass-fed chickens that feasted on bugs. These plain store-bought eggs had a caliber of orange yolks only acquired in the states if you raise your own grass fed chickens or have a good friend that does. Not even the eight-dollar eggs or farmers market eggs compare. Grass-fed pasture raised chickens or any livestock also means no crowding, which in turn means less to no antibiotics, hormones, and an all around happy animal.
It turns out that all livestock in New Zealand is, as a standard, grass fed and pasture raised. You can really taste the difference -- the lamb was tender, not gamey at all, and as our trip went forward we found the same was true of the beef, chicken, and, yes, venison. We drove past hundreds of miles of fields covered with happy four legged animals grazing lazily. Even their dairy milk, which I usually don’t drink much, just enough to make my coffee golden brown, is rich with real flavor, almost like a very mild cheese. In addition, all the restaurants had gluten-free, even vegetarian and vegan options, not just in New Zealand but in Fiji too.
It is very important to me to eat a healthy and balanced diet, especially for as long as three weeks of time. However, since I was going to some of the most beautiful places on earth and having the time of my life, I was willing to make a dietary compromise. Turns out I was ate just as well if not better than at home, putting even California Bay Area fresh meats and produces to shame. New Zealand and Fiji, I love you, and I will be back to feast on your bounty.
-- Angelica Campanale, L.Ac