New Zealand road trips

It’s A Road Trip: Day Eight

Opunaki  to Te Kuiti: The story of a remarkable sales pitch and how there is always room for one more custard square.

The small town of Piopio is about twenty-seven kilometres from Te Kuiti. What Piopio lacks in population (Wikipedia says 468 people lived there in 2001) it makes up for in pizzazz. You have to admire a town that displays art work like this on the main street.

Piopio Public Art

Piopio also has The Fat Pigeon Cafe. And the Fat Pigeon Cafe has the barista with the best sales pitch ever heard between Napier and Te  Kuiti.

I was in need of a perk up. The warm, sunny drive, the undulating hills and the green of the country-side was growing soporific, in the most contented sort of way. Don’t worry, I wasn’t driving. What I didn’t need was food. I’d eaten several pieces of sushi for lunch. I was full, in an holier-than-thou kind of way. No fat in sushi, no sugar, or not much; so healthy, I told myself. A good thing after yesterday’s fish and chips, and so filling. Nope, there was no way I was hungry. But yes, I agreed, a cup of tea would be nice.

Looking back, I can see that my mistake, if it can be called that, was to glance into the food cabinet. It was filled with the yummiest delights I have seen in a long time; all strategically placed at my eye level. There were almond croissants, persian apple cake, chocolate brownie, mini banana caramel loaf, and one lonely looking custard square. There once was a time when I had a weakness for custard squares. It’s the egginess of the custard, the slightly soggy pastry, and the sharp lemony icing – oooh yuuuum. It wasn’t a custard square a day, or the world would end, kind of affliction but I did eat them rather frequently.

Perhaps the barista noticed that moment’s hesitation as I glanced in the food cabinet. Perhaps he saw a glint in my eye; the sort people get as they approach the pokies, choose their Lotto numbers, select their bottle of wine, or are confronted by sugary, sweet delights. I’m sure I didn’t lick my lips or salivate – no, no, I didn’t, not at thaaaat stage.

“Have you tried our world-famous in New Zealand custard squares?” he asked.

“No,” I confessed.

“What?” He sounded truly shocked. “Madame,” (I’m still surprised when people apply that honorific to me) “you have not lived.” He laughed, and then out came the line that reeled me in. He said, “They must be world-famous, they come all the way from Timaru.”

Confronted with logic like that, full stomach or not, what alternative was there?

I wasn’t the only one who succumbed. John has a weakness for things caramelly. He ordered this gooey delight. He ate it all and then finished the few morsels of custard square I couldn’t manage. It’s a good thing this road trip is coming to an end – many more days like this and I’ll need to shop for new jeans.


12 replies »

  1. Small town NZ has so much to offer when you slow down to take it in, and you took it in big time with the custard squares, a real weakness of mine too. Wow and all the way from Timaru, got to be good…


    • Thanks Claudette! Like syrup, huh? Perfectly sweet descriptor, I’ll happily accept. I’m very glad you enjoyed the post. It’s a measure of how unhungry I was that I didn’t even taste the caramel loaf. It did look scrummy, though, and it disappeared very fast off John’s plate.


  2. Jill – I never expected the second half to be about food – and it was truly a delight. Your writing flowed so week as you described a piece of you – then the universal feel we all have for certain desserts – and then your perfect description of the custards – I love your writing! and as the post flowed into the pictures of the desserts – I felt like I was there. and it was a very wise employee you encountered – I love when workers have that zest for their products – makes the world a better place.

    anyhow, I kind of thought his post would be about the art -because you are correct with your opening thoughts – – “You have to admire a town that displays art work like this on the main street.” – anyhow, such a yummy post on many levels – day 8 was tasty in many ways. have a great weekend. ~yvette


    • Hi Yvette, Thank-you for encouragement! I thought you might be interested in some more information about the artist, Jo Gallagher. Here’s a link to her website. She’s won several awards and been exhibiting for the last nine years. The public art work is sponsored by a community arts scheme, and other small businesses in the town. I think it’s a great initiative – her work certainly caught my eye!


      • well Jill – thanks for this info – you rock.

        Now it also made my day because I had to miss an art reception yesterday (Sunday) – not a big deal, but I tired to make it and just could not go – and so getting some artist info from you in this reply made up for part of what I was missing – so thanks for a nice dose of fresh art!!
        have a good day – TTYL 🙂


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