It was a radio item that put Alf off his breakfast, even though breakfast today comprised bacon, black pudding, fried eggs and tomatoes and a generous pile of chips, and these happen to be a big favourite in the Grumble household.
But the hoe-in was halted when Radio NZ started blatting the advice of a public health specialist who reckons Maori should go back to a pre-European diet to stop chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
Fair to say, this advice is disputed by a Maori health organisation.
According to Radio NZ:
Auckland University of Technology Professor of Public Health Grant Schofield believes Maori should revert to a diet that debunks a founding pillar of modern nutrition: that a healthy diet is low in fat.
“What Maori ate before Pakeha turned up was most likely a diet that was highish in fat, moderate in protein and relatively low in carbohydrate, and that’s true across the whole Pacific region. And you can go and study people who are still eating that way, who are more or less disease free.”
The way Alf understands it, your pre-European indigenous person was also apt to tuck into the flesh of a fellow indigenous person.
According to one account (here), a chief named Touai was brought to London in 1818 and resided there for a long time. He is reported to have
… confessed in his moments of nostalgia that what he most regretted in the country from which he was absent was the feast of human flesh, the feast of victory.
He was weary of eating English beef; he claimed that there was a great analogy between the flesh of the pig and that of man. This last declaration he made before a sumptuously served table.
The flesh of women and children was to him and his fellow-countrymen the most delicious, while certain Maories prefer that of a man of fifty, and that of a black rather than that of a white.
His countrymen, Touai said, never ate the flesh raw, and preserved the fat of the rump for the purpose of dressing their sweet potatoes…
A more recent report at Stuff tells us Maori cannibalism was widespread throughout New Zealand until the mid 1800s but has largely been ignored in history books, according to the author of a new book released at that time.
Paul Moon said his new book, This Horrid Practice, looked at the Maori tradition of eating each other in what was a particularly violent society before Europeans arrived in New Zealand.
Cannibalism lasted for several hundred years until the 1830s although there were a few isolated cases after that, said Professor Moon, a Pakeha history professor at Te Ara Poutama, the Maori Development Unit at the Auckland University of Technology.
So instead of eating Colonel Sanders finger-lickin’ good fried chicken, it seems Maori are being advised to go back to a time when they just might consider tossing the colonel himself into the hangi pit.
But Prof Schofield’s diet plan has been met with a warning from Toi Tangata, a national Maori health provider, which says there’s insufficient research to support it and goes on to call the suggestion “faddish and strange”.
The health provider’s nutritionist, Mason Ngawhika, says Maori could get dangerous mixed messages and think it’s okay to eat large quantities of fatty foods without the required balance of fruit and vegetables.
He says the diet plan is too expensive for low-income Maori and such a large diet overhaul would result in too much willpower being required, ending with what nutritionists call the “what-the-hell-effect”.
Despite its concerns, Toi Tangata says the diet could have benefits for people who have, or could develop, diabetes.
Alf trusts the professor’s advice is ignored.
The only comfort he can take is from Touai’s suggestion that black tucker is better than white. At least, with some consumers.