Today I attended my first meeting of the Country Women's Institute. My only ideas about what this might be like had been formed by the film Calender Girls, but there was no suggestion of topless photography today. I don't think I've ever sat with a group of people so unambivently delighted at days of rain, competitively comparing how many millimeters had fallen on their respective farms.
I had agonised for weeks about what to take for my 'plate'. I'm glad I went to the trouble of making my grandma's Devil's Food Cake and smothering it in glossy dark icing. I'm less glad that I transported it in such a shallow tin because the icing stuck to the top of the tin and the cake had to be forced out, leaving a shallow crater in the centre of its formerly pristine surface. Despite this handicap (or perhaps because I made such a fuss of trying to fix it up with a hot knife) I was awarded second prize in the baking competition! I hadn't known there was going to be a competition, nor that this month's requirement was baking for the Hospice, so it was sheer good luck that I had made something so suitable. (If I was in a Hospice I would definitely want rich dark chocolate cake as often as possible).
It was a very jolly afternoon, where I was made to feel not only welcome, but quite at home. Today we met in town (instead of at the Purua Hall- I have to wait another month before I can satisfy that curiosity) at the home of Joan Alison, one of the long time members who has now retired into Whangarei. I was pleased to meet her as she is the author of a book I've read about the early families of Purua. I was full of questions which I didn't have a chance to ask in the busy meeting, so she has kindly invited me back to visit another time.
Later I dropped in on Ash who is preparing to open a new cafe in a Whangarei suburb. I arrived at the moment of a glitter paint crisis, but was invited home for roast dinner with the whanau, who are great fun. Mother Molly keeps (and shares) a wonderful dream journal and has a penchant for housie and pokies (I'd quite like to go along to housie with her sometime, having never done that). Camp Ash is adopting the persona of a suburban housewife for Cafe Narnia (LaQuisha watch out!). Brother Lindsay (cafe partner with Ash) has a very dry sense of humour and wants me to share recipes for the cafe menu (but reckons winning second at the Institute is not a good enough recommendation for my cake). When I confessed why I wasn't going to be able to eat any of the pork roast we had a lively conversation about kosher laws and Jewish culture and I was very well fed on veges and my suggestion to put guava jelly on the ice cream (this was very successful so I suspect some variation on this theme may appear on Cafe Narnia's menu eventually).