When Associate Professor Tracy Berno was asked by Chef Monique Fiso to help write Hiakai she was “absolutely blown away” and jumped at the opportunity.
Fiso’s new book on modern Māori cuisine has since received high accolades, with food writer Lauraine Jacobs saying that it “may be the singularly most important food book ever published in New Zealand”.
The AUT academic says she was “a huge fan” of Monique Fiso, and had got to know her over recent years.
“We knew right from the beginning that it wasn’t going to be just a recipe book. The Hiakai story is much much bigger than that,” Associate Professor Berno says.
“It starts in almost an ontological understanding of the origins of Māori kai and cuisine. There was a big narrative to be told before even the ingredients could be discussed or the recipes could be presented.”
It is that narrative that is Tracy Berno’s contribution to Monique Fiso’s book Hiakai, put together with the help of food writer Lucy Corry and with photography by Manja Wachsmuth and Amber-Jayne Bain.
“One of the challenges is that there is a reasonable amount written about Maori food and cuisine, but it is spread across a very large range of resources,” Associate Professor Berno says.
“So it was a matter of sourcing those resources and collating the information in a way that would give an overview, rather than being specific to a particular region or to a specific iwi.”
Associate Professor Berno says Hiakai was three years in the making, and fits in with other things that are currently happening in New Zealand – such as Eat New Zealand’s idea of a National Food Strategy.
“There is increasing interest in Māori cuisine and where it sits in the foodscape of Aotearoa. I’m hoping that this is the beginning of a deeper understanding and a bit of a movement, and a growing sense of pride around the uniqueness and the specialness of what we have to offer in New Zealand.”
Hiakai is also the name of Monique Fiso’s restaurant in Wellington, on Time magazine’s 100 Greatest Places 2019 in the world.