Tuesday, November 25, 2008
If we could do New Zealand over again, we would concentrate our time on one island, rather than trying to traverse both. This country is much bigger than we could have imagined, which has meant a lot of time in the car driving. But the upshot is that we’ve basically been on an extended roadtrip for the past two and a half weeks, and in that time things have happened that we’ll be talking about for years, a curious inside joke that only the three of us will ever understand. Namely, Scroggin and stoats.
Stoats: We first became aware of stoats back on the Milford Track, where Ranger Ross introduced us to these weaselly creatures who were originally brought to New Zealand to kill rabbits. But they’ve taken on a life of their own and are wreaking havoc on all sorts of native wildlife species. In our time here, we’ve become a little obsessed with stoats, especially Tim. They are almost always taxidermied in any museum we visit, and the first person to spot one will yell, “Stoat!” Then, Tim will snap a photo of said stoat. He has considered purchasing stoat.com or, if that’s taken, stoatattack.com. We’ve dreamed up a few movie plots concerning stoats – don’t you think A Fistful of Stoats would be a blockbuster hit? At least once a day, Tim will remark, “I was reading something interesting about stoats this morning.” Since his hermit crab died, I think he should consider getting a pet stoat when he returns home. It’s certainly more interesting than a conventional dog or cat.
Scroggin: Maikael, Tim, and I took what had to be the world’s most bizarre tour of a candy factory when we were in Dunedin. After buying out a defunct biscuit company, Cadbury manufactures their candy out this location, their trademark purple silos dotting the town’s landscape. The Lonely Planet promised us Cadbury’s “version of a chocolate waterfall,” and I was pumped. I imagined Gene Wilder skimming through a chocolate lake in a colorful boat, as Oompa Loompas threw candy to us from the sweet shores. Instead, an industrial shovel, not unlike that of a dumptruck, lowered a gushing stream of chocolate to a darkened pit below, as we observed from a railing in a nearly pitch-black silo. It was weird.
After shelling over ten dollars, we donned hairnets and embarked on a tour with the world’s meanest tour guide. She was an overgrown toddler, wearing purple overalls and a Playskool microphone speaker strapped around her middle. “Don’t be afraid, I won’t bite,” she repeatedly admonished us, beckoning the group closer. But she was scary, and we didn’t doubt her ability to snap our head off at any moment, like a chocolate Easter bunny. She made us dance like monkeys and answer tour-related questions with the promise of delicious Cadbury chocolates. Instead, we were pawned off Crunchies, which Tim accurately described as sweetened floral foam covered in chocolate.
But during the introductory film, which must have been produced in the 1980s on a budget of $24, we became acquainted with Energy Scroggin, a uniquely New Zealand product whose name makes us giggle. Earlier in the day I had heard a guy in the gift shop talking about scroggin, and I was therefore an expert. “Do you remember when we used to make scroggin for camping?” he had asked his buddy. I was intrigued. The guy called it scraw-gin, but Tim insists on calling it scrow-gin. He vowed to buy a Scroggin – however you choose to pronounce it — at our next grocery store stop, and it was love at first bite. “It’s got blueberries and nuts,” he says, when we doubt its magical properties. We munch on it continuously, which is probably why we’re not feeling so hot these days. “Gimme a Scroggin,” Tim calls from the front seat, and I oblige, snapping off a square of the half pound block. Tim became panicked when he saw me throwing away the Scroggin wrapper yesterday, the telltale scarlet paper flashing through my hands, mistaking it for the candy itself.
Scroggin and stoats come up in conversation at least once per hour. So when Tim returns home in a few weeks, you’ll know what he’s talking about.2 comments