The French flag was flying again at PukeKaraka Marae in Otaki where guests assembled for Ruth Pretty’s “Casssoulet and Karaka Trees”, a Wellington on a Plate event.
Fr. Jean-Baptiste Comte, a French Roman Catholic Priest founded the mission at Pukekaraka 170 years ago in 1844 and brought with him a typical French passion for food.
Together with local Maori, Comte built a flourishing community with three flour mills, maize, wheat and food crops that supplied shops in villages from Otaki all the way to Wellington. Was this the first Wellington on a Plate?
After a formal welcome onto the marae by Ngāti Kapu and an appropriately crowing rooster, guests were invited into 'Hine Nui o te Ao Katoa' which translates into 'Mary, Great Woman of the Whole World, Woman of Light'.
Guests dined on baked potato and eel rillettes before the much anticipated cassoulet was served with a salad of pear, walnut and perennial greens
A walk up the 'Cavalry ' was needed after the wholesome lunch where Rawiri Rikihana gave a short history of the area.
St Mary’s Church provided a fascinating backdrop with both local custodian Irene Mackle and Mary McLeod (Martha’s Pantry) giving an intimate account of the beautiful interior. Restored lovingly in the early 1990's it was easy to see why this Church has the highest Historic Places rating. Built in 1859, St Mary's is the oldest Catholic Church that has been in constant use in New Zealand
Fr. Comte flew the French flag to signify feast days for special prayers. As champion of harmonious relations between Maori, Europeans and Priests I am sure he would have had no hesitation hoisting it once again for Ruth’s “Cassoulet and Karaka Trees”