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It’s a Frequently Asked Question as we get to the end of our time in Switzerland: “What are you looking forward to when you get back to New Zealand?”   And my mind leaps the distance and the seasons… asparagus, whitebait, and grapefruit!

Grading at Tendertips. It's a big enterprise in season - about 40 people in the shed, another 40 in the fields... we can't get fresher then this!

Grading at Tendertips in Horowhenua. It’s a big enterprise in season – about 40 people in the shed, another 40 in the fields… we can’t get fresher then this!

Asparagus – that translates easily.  There, as here, Spring means asparagus eating –  though in Europe there’s as much white asparagus on offer as green. To me, the white is the more retiring flavour, still a little earthy. Given the choice I go green, the flavour bursting forth as the stems emerge into the light.

Over there, the restaurant menus are full of asparagus, generally served traditionally, steamed, with hollandaise.

And expensive! I remember ordering a large dish, in my early ignorance  –  and only later realising the menu price was per 100gms.   The after-taste went momentarily bitter – but… it was a beautiful spring day… on a river-side terrace… and it had been delicious … and the first of the season… equanimity and pleasure returned.  However thereafter, asparagus is a domestic dining treat.

So – here’s to Horowhenua asparagus!  Great fat green spears, steamed, sautéed, baked, microwaved.. everywhichway! And here’s to Helen, who passes the farms more often than we do, and always delivers a farm-fresh bag to supplement what we get from the market.

Double-happy. Asparagus AND whitebait

Double-happy. Asparagus AND whitebait

But white-bait … that’s much harder to explain to the land-locked Swiss, many of whom still treat all sea-food with suspicion.

I can’t explain how whitebait run in our veins, and how we’ll pay so much for a taste, when we can’t go to catch it ourselves or have blessed friends and rellies who can and do.  Thank  you Denis and Ali.

I’ve been wondering whether I can claim any ancestral rights to Pop’s possie on the Waitarere River.  It’s not that far away from home here now, if only I could just

simple traditional perfection - whitebait caught and cooked by bro'-In-law Denis.
simple traditional perfection – whitebait caught and cooked by bro’-In-law Denis.

remember just where…..

And then grape-fruit.

Again – almost beyond translation. Not because the fruit is unknown in Switzerland. The bigger supermarkets will have grapefruit in their “special fruit” section, but they’re from Israel, or California, and their taste does nothing to explain the wondrous flavour explosion of a real, ripe New Zealand grapefruit.

Grapefruit to make your heart sing -  as long as you're not on heart pills!

Grapefruit to make your heart sing – as long as you’re not on heart pills!

So, joy! We’d not been back long when we went up to Te Puke, and stayed at Croeso I Hafod, a B & B set in a glorious garden.  A quick exploration before the threatening rain… and a grove of grapefruit, dropping golden globes onto the ground. I asked host and garden-creater Maureen if I could have one for breakfast.   “Yes, and take as many as you want” was her generous response.

"Take as many as you want" said Maureen, wheeling out the barrow.

“Take as many as you want” said Maureen, wheeling out the barrow.

That breakfast grapefruit came with a mint-leaf – the complementary colour matching the complementary flavour.  IMG_8269

So – asparagus- tick. Whitebait – tick. Grapefruit – tick.   We’re home!

And just to be certain we’re really home….. the crayfish clincher.  Should we go out to celebrate my birthday?   Why, when we could have crayfish at home? Case closed. Shell opened. We’re definitely home.