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09 Jun 2022
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Pictured above: Kay Storrie

It’s all about sharing

When Kay Storrie first moved to Mangere there was “nothing but pigs, sheep, cows and paddocks.” Luckily she found a group of young mums who shared what little they had and bonded over one of the few treats available to them – a homemade fruit cake.

By Alexia Santamaria

Kay Storrie remembers clearly when the famous fruit cake first appeared. “My husband Iain and I had moved into the Mangere area in 1964 – it was farmland back then – and there was a group of us girls who had babies and young children. We were like a league of nations – a Norwegian girl, some Māori ladies, some English and me – the country bumpkin from Taumarunui. I’m pretty sure it was our Norwegian friend who first made it. We used to meet up, us ladies, and crochet and drink tea and this was a cake you could make from easy-to-get ingredients, so we’d have a slice of that with our tea. I’m not sure I knew back then I’d still be making it 56 years later!”

Back in 1964, Mangere wasn’t the conveniently located area it is now. “It’s great now, so close to the motorway, Manukau, the hospital, but back then there was nothing – pigs, sheep, cows and paddocks. We would walk from where we lived to Foodtown in Great South Road. It took forever, especially when pushing a baby in a pram. Back in those days a car was a huge luxury. We’d all had to scrimp and save just to afford the hundred-pound deposit on our house package. Believe it or not, that was a lot of money back then!”

The fruit cake continued to be served through the ages, and as the recipe got handed around different people would add things and make it their own. “It was all about sharing, we shared everything back then as it was the only way to get by. We really didn’t have much. I remember the huge excitement when we got a phone box in the area. We’d all line up to make calls – I remember a magazine, a kind of catalogue, and you could ring up and order things like mops and groceries and they would deliver them. No one had their own phone or any way to transport items, so this was amazing. These were times of community – we looked after each other’s kids, shared food and resources. I still remember the first of us getting a car – it was like they were royalty. And if we needed things we’d all jump in the car together.”

The cake also became part of school life. “Jean Batten School was a community effort. We collected bottles, fundraised and all pulled together to build this amazing place. I worked there for 13 years, and I still think it’s the best school in the country. The fruit cake would appear for morning tea and at fundraising occasions. Those were some great years.”

And the cake is still going strong in 2022. Kay makes it at least once a month and friends regularly get them as gifts – recently even local labourers working on the new developments. “It’s a fun recipe, and beautifully moist. You can add whatever you fancy – ginger powder, cinnamon, almond essence – even Chinese five spice. As I said, it’s always been about sharing. Back then it was about sharing what we had in the cupboards, but we went on to share so much more in this community over a half century. I really believe that when you share, you can build mountains.”

Do you have a favourite recipe you’d like to share? Drop us an email at info@mangeredevelopment.co.nz or call us on 09 952 8585.

Accentuate the PositiveBoiled Fruit Cake

1 C brown sugar
1 lb mixed fruit
1 tsp mixed spice powder
5 oz butter
1 C water (or you can use a small tin of crushed pineapple)
2 eggs
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder

1. Boil brown sugar, mixed fruit, spice powder, butter and water together for 10 mins then put aside to cool.
2. Beat the eggs, add the golden syrup, then sifted flour and baking powder.
3. Mix everything together with the boiled fruit mixture and bake at 180 degrees celsius for 1.5 hours.
4. Cool before icing. Great with butter when cold.

You can read more about what is happening in Mangere in the latest issue of Home Base here.