150 Stories #5 – Centenary hangi by Past Commodore Don Brooke

In 1971, during the RNZYS Centenary, we held a week-long sailing regatta at Kawau. Part of the celebration included a hangi.

At the time I owned Rawhiti with a large and enthusiastic crew, including Kahu Houkamau, a work mate of mine. Kahu agreed to supervise the hangi with our help. The site we chose was just behind Ladys Bay, in a natural ampitheatre near the beach.

We woke around 4am to dig the pit, find some stones and firewood and get the heating started. Arthur Finn in Scott Colville arrived from Sandspit around 9am with a wonderful selection of meat and vegetables and to top that off the local fishing boat dropped of two baskets of fresh snapper.

Kahu checked the heat of the stones in the pit and supervised the placing of the food in metal cages. By midday everything was complete and backfilled and the steaming was underway.

When we repaired back to Rawhiti for lunch and a cleansing swim, I could see that Kahu was a bit nervous. He explained that the success of any hangi relied on the stones ability to retain heat. We had gathered stones from near the copper mine chimney so he was worried as they weren’t river stones that he would normally use.

Dinner was set for 5pm and when we arrived at 4.30pm both sides of the small valley was packed with hungry people, and lubrication had started.

Kahu, who directed us to open the pit, turned pale when an early piece of meat was half cooked. The ladies had set up serving tables and as we got to the deeper heat the food was just perfect!  There were around 300 people in the valley and absolutely all of the cooked food was eaten.  It was a great success and I still remember the crew of Ranger, led by Mack Redmond, singing in praise of Kahu.

The local Kawau park ranger helped us clean up all the debris, and I noticed that even the initial half cooked piece of meat had been eaten….a great day.

Looking back now at age 83, only four of us from Rawhiti are still alive. My great friend Kahu lies in his family plot at Hicks Bay…..

By Past Commodore Don Brooke

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