Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants
Chapter XXIV. Means of Support
Chapter XXIV. Means of Support.
The New Zealanders have always been an agricultural people; their country not naturally affording the means of subsistence in sufficient abundance to support them, without the cultivation of the soil.
Their ancestors brought the kumara, or sweet potatoe—the taro—an arum—and the hue, or calabash, with them from Hawaiki: these were the only vegetables they possessed, and they carefully cultivated them in large quantities, until the arrival of Europeans, who gave them the potatoe, the value of which was so soon discovered, that now it may be said to be their staple article of food. It is far more universally cultivated than the kumara, from its taking less labour in planting, and yielding a more certain and larger return.— page 378 The kumara requires not only a warm aspect, but also, in general, an artificial soil; sand or gravel being laid on the ground to the depth of six inches. So also the taro, which needs the aid of bush screens and other expedients to make it flourish. These also soon exhaust the soil; three years' cropping with kumara being, in general, all that can be obtained from one spot. The place is then abandoned, and another selected; but this abandonment is only for a certain space of time. Instead of turning up the soil, and suffering it to lay in fallow a season, their method of renewing it is to allow it to remain unoccupied until it is covered with a certain growth of wood, if situated in wood land, or of fern, if situated in fern land, which requires a period of from seven to fourteen years, when the spot is again cleared and planted. Thus, many places, which appear never to have been touched by the hand of man, are pointed out as having been the farms of some ancestor, and, when the place is more closely regarded, it will be found destitute of all old timber. The kumara, taro, and even potatoe grounds, are generally selected on the sides of hills, having a northern aspect; by this declivity towards the sun, they gain an increased degree of heat.
The hue (or gourd) is everywhere raised, and it is, indeed, an excellent vegetable. It bears a white flower, and produces a calabash, which is sometimes of very large dimensions. When young, it is a delicious vegetable, sweet, juicy, and extremely savoury. When ripe, it is of the greatest use, supplying the place of crockery. In it, the New Zealander carries his water, his stores, potted birds, fish or flesh; he also uses it as a dish, and even as a lamp. It is often beautifully ornamented with tattooing. The natives have a very singular idea respecting the hue, that the seed can always be procured from the entrails of the sperm whale, which threy affirm they have frequently verified. They account for it by saying, that in Hawaiki the hue grows spontaneously, and hangs over the cliffs in great quantities, which, when ripe, fall into the sea, and are devoured by the whales, which frequent that part.
The melon and pumpkin are now also cultivated, as well as the cabbage and turnip, which grow wild, having been page 379 introduced by Cook; maize and wheat have been more recently raised, but are now grown in large quantities.
To a stranger, the natural means of support may appear few and insignificant; but, in early times, when wars raged, or unfruitful seasons destroyed the hopes of the kumara harvest, the New Zealanders had recourse to the indigenous productions of the land. Almost every spot produces some kind of food, the plains being covered with the pteris esculentis, or edible fern; although that which is selected for food only attains a proper size on rich land. The roots chosen for this purpose are found about a foot and a half or two feet deep, and are dug up with a long strong pole, sharpened at one end, with a rest for the foot, called a ko. The upper roots are stringy, hard, and harsh to the palate; but the lower ones contain more farinaceous matter. When dug up, they are either stacked to dry, on the spot for future use, or eaten fresh. The way of preparing it is to lay it on the embers for a short time, till it is sufficiently roasted; it is then scraped with a shell, to take off the blackened outside, and afterwards beaten with a wooden or stone mallet, to loosen the fibres. The natives sometimes pound it into masses, pulling out the fibres, and putting it into calabashes, containing the juice of the tupakihi. It is eaten immediately it is cooked, and is by no means unpalatable; neither is it an astringent, as is generally supposed, but rather the contrary. Even to the present day, it is an article much prized, especially by the sick, who often prefer it to other food; and it is always taken by persons going on a voyage, as the best antidote for sea-sickness.
Several species of the perei and maikaika (orchis) are likewise eaten; the tender shoot of the nikau (areca sapida), and of the ti tree also, as well as its tap root; as those also of the toi. These are baked in a native oven, and, when cooked, have a sweet and pleasant taste. The root of the raupo (bulrush), and the shoot of the pingao (a flag plant, growing by the sea side), often afford the hungry traveller a meal.
The chief article of food furnished by the forest is the mamaku (a tree fern). The stem is often twenty feet long, and is all eaten. When the outside is pared off, there is a page 380 medullary substance, sometimes six inches in diameter, with scarcely any fibre in it; this is really an agreeable article of food, slightly sweet. When cooked, it is called pitau. It is not improbable, that if it were dried it might be used as sago. This is an article of food still highly prized in winter.
The fruit of the rimu and kahikatea pines also is eaten. They produce a small red berry, about the size of a sweet pea, the stone being outside, and it is found in great abundance every other season. The berry of the hinau, though very astringent, after it has been steeped some time in water, is then made into a kind of bread, which is much relished.
Fungi growing on dead timber, the harori-tui, harori-atua, and several other kinds, although exactly like our English toadstools, are equal in flavor and nutrition to the mushroom.
But amongst all the indigenous fruits, there is none superior to the tawera or pirori (freysinesia), a species of the pandanus, which somewhat resembles a pine apple; both the flower and fruit are eaten. The juice of the tupakihi (coriaria samentosa) is expressed in large quantities, and drank; it is also boiled with sea-weed, and thus forms a jelly, which is very palatable. Several kinds of sea-weed are also eaten in large quantities.
The only terrestrial animal originally found in these islands was a small rat, scarcely more than one-third the size of the imported one. Though now nearly extinct and seldom seen, it was formerly so numerous as to form a considerable article of food. It was taken by an ingenious kind of trap, which somewhat resembles our common mole-trap. These were set on lines of road, which had been made expressly for this purpose in the forest; and they generally succeeded in taking sufficient at once to feed the whole pa.
The kiwi (apteryx Australis) was hunted at night with dogs. The natives can so closely imitate the cry of this bird, that they soon draw to them all which may be in that part of the forest. They generally carry a torch under their garments until the bird approaches; the light is then suddenly produced, which so terrifies the bird that it allows itself to be secured. The kiwi is still abundant in some places.
The kakapo, or ground parrot, is a gregarious bird, larger page 381 than the common fowl: it was hunted with dogs and torches at night; it is now all but extinct in the northern island, though it is said to be plentiful in the southern one.
The weka, or large rail, is still found in the interior of the north island. The natives imitate its cry so exactly that it readily approaches them. This bird is so pugnacious, that if a bit of red cloth, or other rag, be tied to a stick, it flies at it immediately, and is thus easily caught by a noose held in the other hand.
The kereru, or wood-pigeon, is a very fine bird, but very stupid. It is frequently taken by placing a pole near the water's edge, where it is accustomed to drink. When it has quenched its thirst, it alights upon this, which is completely covered with snares made of flax, where it soon gets its legs entangled, and is thus secured. The rimu and kahikatea pine trees, when in fruit, are also thickly set with snares, by which means numbers are taken. The natives have also a long bird-spear, often from twenty to thirty feet in length, armed with a sharp barb of bone. With this they silently approach the tree on which the bird has alighted, and it is, generally, so stupid as to stay and be speared, although it sees its enemy approach. If the tree be one to which the pigeon is accustomed to resort, on account of the abundance of fruit, the natives then construct a ladder by ingeniously binding two young trees together, which may be growing near, and use them for that purpose, by which means they can approach the bird with the greater facility. Great numbers of pigeons are thus captured. The natives frequently extract all their bones, and, when cooked, place them in a large papa—a vessel made of the totara bark; thus preserved in their own fat, they will keep many months. The tui, when in season, is very fat, and is also preserved in a similar way. It is a most lively bird, and can only be taken by snares.
The kaka, or great brown parrot, one of the largest of its family, is also eaten. It is generally caught by means of a tame parrot, which is used as a decoy. A pole is stuck in the ground, in an inclined position, in some shady part of the forest, on which the tame parrot is placed. The native forms page 382 a little arbor with a few large leaves of the fern-tree, in which he sits concealed with a small stick in his hand. The call of the tame bird soon attracts some of its wild companions, which, when they alight on the pole, are enticed still lower, until the fowler either seizes them with his hand, or knocks them down with his stick.
The kakariki, or small green parrot, is taken by snares; it is a delicious bird, and very abundant.
The titi, or mutton-bird, is a sea bird, which goes inland at night, just as the light wanes. It flies about in great numbers, and fills the air with its cries. To effect its capture, the natives select some spot on the edge of a lofty precipice, where they cut down all the trees which intercept the view, and there they build a little shed close to the verge. They then light a bright fire, behind which they sit, each armed with a long stick. The titi are attracted by the light, and fly close by in great numbers, so that they are easily knocked down as quick as possible; and thus, in one night, several hundreds are often killed, which, like the pigeon, they preserve in their own fat for future use.
These are the principal birds upon which the New Zealanders lived; and, though there were many smaller varieties which were also eaten, some of which are now extinct, it is not necessary here to enumerate them. The water-fowl, the wild duck, wio, pukeko, and several others—were more rarely captured, and can scarcely be said to have contributed much to their support.
Fishing may be considered as of two kinds;—fresh water and salt. New Zealand is not rich in its fresh water fish, yet, such as they are, they are generally taken in large quantities, and are all very good eating. The principal ones are the twna, (eel,) the pipiharau, (lamprey,) the kokopu, and inanga. The eel is shorter and thicker than the English one, although some measure nearly six feet in length, being as thick as an ordinary man's thigh, and extremely fat; still, the general size is much less. To take this fish, a weir is constructed in rivers; a strong fence is formed with poles, two of which are wide apart at one end, and approach nearer at the other, where the page 383 narrow outlet is covered with a large net, having a bag or basket at the end, in which they are captured. The small eels are often dried by being hung up in the sun, when it becomes like a bag of rancid oil; the larger ones are split open, and dried in the usual way.
The lamprey is taken in the same way as the eel. Properly speaking it is a salt-water fish, which enters the rivers in the spring to spawn. From its being very oily, it is highly prized. It ascends the rivers to their very source, and then the head grows to an unnatural size, when it is said to be unwholesome, and is not eaten. The head, to an European who is not accustomed to it, has a very disgusting appearance. So extremely fond are the natives of the lamprey, that deaths from over-eating it are far from being uncommon.
The inanga is a very diminutive fish, not at all larger than the English minnow, three inches being its usual size; it is however, the chief fish of the New Zealand lakes, and its small size is made up by its great abundance. This fish is driven into shoal water, where it is caught with a long shallow oval net. It is also taken in deep water, by a cone-shaped net, which is fastened to a frame, and thrust down with a long pole. When boiled, the water is drained from them, which the natives greedily drink,—they are pressed into a compact mass, and eaten entire; it is scaleless.
The kokopu is another fresh water fish, nearly ten inches long. One kind has scales, another is without. This is generally taken in the nets with other fish, but in no great quantity.
The papanoko is a scaleless fresh water fish, about five inches long. It is rather rare, but much prized; its roe being nearly as large as the fish itself. The pariri is the male of this fish.
The tikihemi corresponds with our trout; in shape and appearance it is much like an eel. The settlers have named it the eel trout. It is sometimes found of the length of fourteen inches, but is seldom taken in any quantity.
The upokororo is a fish about eight inches long, with scales; it is caught in the autumn; it bites at the hair of the legs, and is thus caught by the natives going into the water.page 384
The fresh water mussel, (kakahi,) and crayfish, (koura,) occasionally furnish a meal.
The principal salt water fish which was formerly eaten was the shark, (mango,) which was caught in great numbers with the hook. They were cut open, and then hung up in the sun and wind on high horizontal poles to dry; and before they were so, they generally became quite putrid. It was a winter food, a small quantity being cooked as a relish for their kumara, which, in flavour, nearly corresponded with our rich rotten cheese.
The tamure, (or snapper,) and the kahawai, (mackerel,) were taken with a hook attached to a piece of the haliotis shell; being deceived by its resemblance to a fish, they were easily caught. The hapuku, (or cod,) is the most prized of sea fish; it often attains a very large size, weighing fifty pounds or more. The conger eel is also eaten. Some fish are taken with the seine, which they make of great length.
Seals were formerly abundant, and much prized as food; in fact, all was fish which came to the net, even bats and owls were not despised; oysters, mussels, and other shell fish formed also a portion of their support.
Land is held in three ways by the natives: either by the entire tribe, by some family of it, or by a single individual. The common rights of a tribe are often very extensive. These generally apply to waste lands or forests, and convey to each individual of the tribe the right of hunting and fishing over those parts. By intermarriages, several tribes are sometimes thus entitled; but, if such land be sold, it is nominally said to belong to the principal Chief or Chiefs of the tribe; they are the parties with whom the treaty is made, and to them the payment is given, which is, however, a nominal honor, the money being equitably divided amongst all who are entitled to a portion, the seller rarely retaining anything for himself. The same may be said of that which is claimed by families. Private rights to land are very rare.
The eel cuts are held in the same way. These are drains made from lakes or swamps, with weirs at the outlet to catch page 385 the fish, which flow out in great quantities during the floods. Of these the natives are extremely jealous. They are the property of the first maker; but, in process of time, this right becomes dispersed amongst different members of the family, and thus occasions disputes. To show the value put upon their fisheries, in nearly every instance where land has been sold to the crown, these rights have been retained.
Whatever piece of ground an individual cultivates for the first time, it becomes his own private property, if he be a claimant of the land in which it is situated; and, when sold, he only would be entitled to receive the amount. Generally, however, these spots, which are of a small size, are handed down from sire to son; and, when sold, every member of the family who has been born since their first cultivation, is entitled to a share, and this is often claimed by individuals living amongst other tribes.
Sometimes the owners of a district are extinct, excepting two or three individuals; in which case, although other relatives may reside upon it, the true owners are always respected, and it rests with them to portion out cultivations, or sell it; nor can those who receive them sell without their permission.
Their cultivations are generally joined together, one being only separated from another by a few stones placed as land marks, to move one of which would be immediately attended with serious consequences.
Boundaries of uncultivated land were formerly known by rat runs, or the furthest extent to which their neighbours would allow them to carry their hunting. Stones, rocks, and trees, were also used to define their lines. The old hearth-stones, which are generally four, set upright so as to form a pit about a foot deep and broad, and a foot and a half long, were always left, and in time became land marks. The stones of ancient kumara grounds always remained. Those of Turi, the first person who came to the west coast, are said still to be seen. There is no part, however lonely and apparently unknown, of which the natives do not know the owners, and the different boundaries. In going through a large forest, a Chief who was my companion, said it belonged to him. I asked how he knew page 386 his boundaries, he said he would point them out when we reached them; at last he stopped at the foot of a very large tree, whose root ran across the road; he pointed out to a hollow in it, and asked me what it was. I said, it was like a man's foot. He replied, I was right; it was the impression cut by one of his forefathers, and put his foot into it to show it fitted. This, said he, is one of my boundaries, and now we are entering on the land of another.
In a similar way when travelling over the central plains, where apparently human beings had never resided, one of my natives suddenly stopped by a stream, and said, that land belonged to his family. I expressed my doubts, and asked him how he could tell. He went into some long grass, and kept feeling about with his feet for some time, then calling me to him, he pointed out four hearth-stones, and triumphantly said, here stood my father's house, and going thence to the stream, he pointed out a little hollow in the rocky side, over which an old gnarled branch sprung, and said, in this hollow of the stream, we used to suspend our eel baskets from the branch. In fact, they have many marks which, though they might pass unnoticed by Europeans, clearly indicate to them their respective rights.
The roads also generally bound their lands. The country is intersected with paths, which, though not more than a foot wide, and closely resembling sheep runs, still are the means of communication. All their roads have particular names, and are well known, just as in former days the British had their Watling, Ermin, and other roads, so the natives have theirs—Kainga roa, Taumatamahoe, Rangipo, &c.
It is remarkable, in speaking of rivers, the mouth, or embouchure is the beginning, and the fountain head the termination of it, which is just the reverse of our ideas. A river is compared to a tree, the pakiaka, or root, is the mouth; the tinana, or trunk, is the main course; the kauru, or head of the tree, is the source.
To an European traveller, who crawls into a native hut for the first time, there will be perceived nothing particularly page 387 interesting in it. He will, perhaps, only view it as being a dark smoky hovel; but when he becomes acquainted with native customs, and observes the order and arrangement displayed, the careful way it is constructed, and how perfectly the object aimed at is attained, he will not withhold its meed of praise.
The principal houses are called ware-puni, or warm houses; this name may be given either from the number of persons generally residing in them, or from their being so built as to exclude the external air. The ware-puni is generally sunk one or two feet in the earth, and nearly always fronts the sun. The sides (pou) are seldom more than four feet high, being formed of large broad slabs of totara, the most durable pine, having a small circular groove or opening cut into the top to receive the rafters, (heke.) These slabs are either adzed, and painted with red ochre; or, if it be a very superior house, each one is grotesquely carved to represent some ancestor of the family, in which case they become a kind of substitute for the nobleman's ancestral picture gallery. Between these posts there is generally a space of two feet, which is filled up with a kind of lattice-work, composed of slender laths, dyed black, white, or red, and bound together with narrow strips of the kiekie leaf, very tastefully disposed in a pattern, this is called arapaki. There is also a skirting board painted red; and the rafters, which are either carved or painted in various patterns with different colored ochres, rest on a ridge pole, (tahuhu,) in which a notch is cut to receive them. This ridge pole is always the entire length of the building, including that of the verandah as well, being generally of a triangular shape, and very heavy; it is supported by a post or pillar (pou-tahu), in the middle of the house, the bottom of which is carved in the form of a human figure, which represents the founder of the family—and is thus a kind of lares. Immediately before the face of this figure is the fire place, a small pit formed by four slab stones sunk into the ground. Perhaps there is some relic of ancient fire worship in the position of the fire, which, as a domestic altar, always burns before the face of the image of their deified ancestor.page 388
The entrance to the house is by a sliding door, (tatau,) which is formed of a solid slab of wood, about two feet and a half high, and a foot and a half wide. On the right side of this is a window, (matapihi,) which is generally about ten inches high and two feet wide; this also is furnished with a slide, which goes into the wall of the building.
On entering, there is a low slab of wood on either side, to partition off the sleeping places, leaving a path down the middle, that nearest the door being about eighteen inches high. In the space thus partitioned off, the inmates lay in rows, each with his feet towards the fire, and his head to the wall. The Chief or owner of the house invariably takes the side next to the window, that being the place of honor. The next in point of rank, occupy the places nearest to him, whilst the slaves, and persons of no consequence, go to the furthest end. Their bedding (wariki) seldom consists of anything more than one or more ground mats, (waikawa,) upon which sometimes a finer one (tihenga pora) is laid, and a round log, frequently that which forms the partition, serves as a pillow (urunga), which is covered with the clothes they usually wear. Formerly, they never ate in their houses, therefore verandahs (mahau) were required. The general length of a ware-puni is about twenty-six feet, and the breadth sixteen feet; the verandah is seldom more than six feet long, and is a continuation of the gable end of the house, having the entire width of the building. It has a broad slab in front, about two feet and a half high, which separates it from the road, from this a post rises to the ridge pole; this also is surmounted with a carved figure. The verandah is ornamented in the same way as the interior of the house. The wall plate of the verandah is often carved to represent the prostrate figures of slaves on whose bodies the pillars which support the house stand; this seems to refer to an extinct custom of killing human victims, and placing them in the holes made to receive the posts, that the house being founded in blood, might stand. This custom still prevails in Borneo. Over the door there is a board called maihi, which is elaborately carved, and adorned with bunches of pigeon feathers. The facings of the door-posts and window are similarly page 389 ornamented. The building is covered externally with raupo or sedge, and roofed with the same; then with grass, or a similar substance, to a considerable thickness. The earth is generally heaped up against the sides, so as almost to reach the eaves.
At sunset, a fire is made in the house, which is allowed to burn clear for some time, and fill the little pit with embers, when it ceases to smoke, the occupants enter; the door and window being closed, the heat soon becomes almost as great as that of an oven, and of such a stifling nature, from the fumes of the charcoal, that few Europeans can bear it, yet frequently twenty, thirty, or even more will sleep in this place huddled together, and generally almost in a state of nudity. Sometimes even they suffer, from the charcoal being too powerful. This was formerly attributed to the visits of an imaginary being, called patupaiarehe.
The native oven (umu hangi) is a circular hole of about two feet in diameter, and from six to twelve inches deep, which is generally scraped out with the end of a pointed stick. The process of cooking by it is very simple, and being generally adopted throughout the South Seas, it is interesting as marking the identity of the race. A fire is made in this hole, the wood being piled up nearly a foot above its level, and upon it is laid a layer of stones as large or larger than a man's fist. When the fire has completely heated the stones, the cook, generally a female, (sometimes two or more,) quickly and dexterously removes the hot stones, either with the fingers or two short sticks, and clears out all the embers. Then returning some of the stones to the oven, she covers them up with a layer of green leaves, (wata wata,) and sprinkles some water over them. Having thus lined the oven, the kumara and potatoes, which have been well scraped and washed, are then put into it and piled up. If meat is to be cooked, it is generally bound round with green leaves, to keep in the gravy: this is always done with large eels, when they are intended for any guests of distinction. To these a few leaves of wild cabbage, and a bundle of sow-thistle are added as a relish. The whole being likewise covered with green leaves, as well as the sides of the oven, water is then page 390 plentifully sprinkled over, and upon them is placed a layer of flax mats, tapora, or old kete, (baskets,) which have been previously soaked, and are carefully tucked in at the sides. The cook next, with her fingers or a stick, covers the whole with earth, so closely that the steam thus generated cannot escape. An hour or less is sufficient to cook a very large quantity of food, during which time the operator sits down and plaits a number of baskets with green flax, or ti leaves. When she opens the oven, she first carefully removes the earth in the same manner it was put on; then the mats are taken off with a little jerk outwards, so that not a particle of earth falls on the oven. The covering of leaves is next removed, and the food, deposited in the clean new baskets, is placed before the guests, each portion having some of the thistle or cabbage leaves laid upon them, with a piece of meat, if there be any.*
They generally leave a small portion of the food, which has been rather burnt by the stones at the bottom, and the ladies eat it while sitting round the oven. Etiquette does not allow any of the hosts to come near their guests when eating; and, if previously sitting with them, they remove to a distance. When the guests are many and distinguished, all the principal ladies, and even the Chiefs, bear the food; each one taking a kete, and walking in a long train one after the other, sets the food before the guests, and then retires. This is often a very pretty sight.
The process of making bread from the pua, or pollen of the raupo (typha angustifolia) is curious, both on account of the page 391 patience required to collect sufficient for the purpose, and for religious rites connected with it: showing, most clearly, how very much pinched for food the aborigines formerly were, and the great stress they laid upon religion in aiding their efforts to procure it. It is also remarkable for the number of words belonging to the process, which is a proof of the value put upon this article of food.
The first thing which was done, was the erection of a shed near the swamp, from which the pollen (pua) was to be collected. The process of gathering it always commenced at daybreak; for when the sun began to shine, the feathery seeds blew about, they had then to discontinue their work until the evening, when they recommenced the work. The gathering of the flower heads of the raupo was continued for several days, until a sufficient quantity of pollen was obtained. They then cut a quantity of flowers of the kakaho (arundo Australis), which being strewed on the floor of the shed, the pua was heaped upon them. It was daily carried into the sun to dry, and again returned in the evening to the shed, lest it should become damp with the dew. Parties of from fifty to sixty men, women, and children, often assembled for this work; each family having its own division (tuakoi) of the shed to attend to. When the process of collecting was finished, they went into the forest to procure the bark of the hinau (elœocarpus hinau), which they stripped off the trees in large pieces, twelve or fourteen feet long. These were doubled up so as to make a bag, one end being left open to form a mouth, while the sides were sewed with flax, leaving only a small hole at one of the lower corners. Being set on their ends, they formed long bags, almost as tall as a man, which were propped up by poles. They then took the mats (tapaki), which had been previously plaited by the women of split flax, and spread them on the ground by the side of the bag (pu), part of them stripped the flower from the stem: this process was called uhu. A quantity being shred, it was put into bags, which had been plaited with great care of finely split flax, so as to allow only the smallest particles to escape. Men only were allowed to sift the pua, which was done by shaking these bags over the page 392 mouth of the larger one, while the tohunga, or priest, repeated a karakia.
The principal person of each family had to sift it; but, if he had been guilty of any crime, the pua would fly up in his face, and he would be forced to give place to a better man. Whilst some were sifting, others were plaiting small baskets (rourou, kapukapu, paro) of green flax, which are lined with leaves of the rangiora or pukapuka (brachyglottis repanda), to place the sifted pua in; the siftings (tutae papapa), or down, being thrown away. The plug having been removed from the bottom corner of the bag, the pua flowed out, which was caught in the baskets, carefully avoiding to press it down, in which state it resembled small seeds. The baskets being filled, they were covered over with leaves as before, and then sewed up (runa), which being done, they were placed in the ovens (hangi), the number of which was proportioned to the quantity to be cooked. The ovens, having been covered over as usual, were left till the steam burst out at the top, which was a sign that they were done. When taken out, the substance still retained its resemblance to seeds; but the baking converted it into a solid mass.
The principal person of the party then divided them among the people. Some of the loaves thus made were from six to eight inches in diameter, and thick in proportion. The smaller ones were generally eaten at the time, the larger ones being reserved as presents, for state occasions, or for supplies during war. A loaf of seven inches in diameter was sufficient to satisfy two full-grown men.
Having been rendered sacred by the prayers of the tohunga, or priest, during the process of sifting, no one could eat of it until the first oven, containing only three or four baskets, had been cooked for the priest, who then took off the tapu.
It is remarkable, that when the down (hune) obtained from the raupo head is put into the baskets, it is invariably filled with a small kind of worm, or grub, in very large quantities. It is, therefore, generally baked, and it is at once fit for making beds and pillows, for which purpose it is commonly used, and forms a good substitute for feathers.page 393
To make bread of the hinau (elœocarpus hinau), the berries are steeped for nearly a year in running water, to get rid of their bitter and astringent quality, they are then put into a basket (pu) which has been plaited very close, and beaten upon a stone with a small wooden club. This being sufficiently done they are sifted through closely plaited baskets; the husks, thus separated from the pulp, are thrown away, and the latter, which resembles dark flour, is kneaded into cakes with a little water. These being wrapped up in leaves of the rangiora, are placed in a native oven. When cooked, they have much the appearance of very brown bread, and are highly esteemed by the natives, though too oily to suit the taste of most Europeans. Hence the proverb which is used by a man when he is waked out of his sleep to eat, “Kia wakaoho koe i taku moe, ko te Watutureiarua,”—“When you disturb my sleep, let it be on account of the arrival of te Watututreiarua,” the first person who made bread from the hinau.
The natives sometimes cooked it by pouring a quantity of the flour into water which had been heated by putting hot stones into it, the only way the natives previously had of heating water. In that state it was called rerepi.
* The natives of South Australia cook their food in a similar manner. A hole, (kangayappa,) is dug in the ground, and a fire kindled in it, upon which stones are laid to be heated. During the time these are being heated, they prepare the game or vegetables, and then remove the stones and larger remains of wood; and, if they stew a kangaroo, they first fill the inside with part of the hot stones, and leaves of the gum tree. The kangaroo is then put into the hole, and covered with leaves, the remaining stones, bark, and earth. It remains there for an hour and more, until steam escapes from different parts; when this takes place, the meat, or whatever is cooking, is sufficiently done.
J. P. Gill, Esq.,—Tasmanian Journal, vol. i, p. 112.