A place I love: Food writer Lauraine Jacobs on her beloved Omaha hometown

Omaha dishes up food writer Lauraine Jacobs’ favourite pleasures – some of the country’s best produce, her husband’s freshly caught kahawai, and swimming – even when it’s freezing.

What’s your connection to this place?

We’ve had a house at Omaha for 20 years now. I love the beach and I love swimming, and I try to swim from Labour Weekend to Queen’s Birthday. If you keep going, you can do it! I love the fact that I can swim for that lengthy period.

What do you love about it?

I enjoy the walks along the beach, and I’m a member of the golf club. It’s in the top 25 golf courses now in New Zealand. That’s pretty remarkable, and that’s due to the wonderful community spirit, with a huge number of members who’ve become volunteers and do work on the course.

What are some of your food highlights?

I love the Omaha Flats, and the amazing fresh food that I can buy there, which will start with strawberries very soon. There’s always something in season to buy, which is fantastic. And the climate is so mild that vegetables grow all year round.

One of the best things of all is when my husband goes fishing and brings back some kahawai, which you don’t see so often any more, and I can freshly smoke them. I don’t think there’s anything better. One of my other loves of the wider area is definitely the oysters. At the market there’s Lynette and Trevor from Orata Oysters; there’s the wonderful Tom with his oyster shed with freshly-shucked oysters. And then there’s Mahurangi Oysters. I feel a sense of pride when I go to restaurants right around the country and see those on the menu.

Gathering local edible seaweed.
What impact has the Matakana farmers’ market had?

The market has been quite pivotal for a lot of people. Some of the people who had businesses there at the beginning have moved on and grown their businesses. For example, Shannon and Rob who had Omaha Organic Blueberries have grown that into Oob, which is now an international organic food company. And lots of others have done similar things. It’s been an incubator. And it’s one of the few markets that has a certified kitchen that people can develop products in.

Produce and flowers at the Matakana farmers’ market.
What would you recommend for a first-time visitor to the area?

I think it’s absolutely a must to make sure that you are there on a Saturday when you can go to the market. And make sure you go for one of the recommended walks in the regional parks. Tāwharanui might be one of the best beaches in New Zealand. And one of the things I love at Omaha is that there’s a walk along this path through the southern end where there are these wonderful pou whenua – they are all the guardians of the land, but all in many different ways. There’s Matariki, and Omaha himself stands at the entrance, and Tangaroa, of course. I think that’s something very special; not to be missed.

Lauraine Jacobs is a renowned food writer and the author of It Takes a Village: A guide to Matakana and its surrounding districts (Massey University Press, $45).

IMAGES: GETTY & SUPPLIED, IT TAKES A VILLAGE


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