Māmā inspires wāhine to gather and cook own kai

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Kaelah James of Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Hineuru is a Wellington-based Māmā who regularly gathers and cooks her own kai, straight from the moana or ngāhere, to the dinner table. She's encouraging more wāhine to follow suit.

“It's basically combining my two passions, which is hunting/gathering, and cooking,” she says.

Her Instagram account 'Kaelahs Wild Kai Kitchen' has gained a bit of traction recently, documenting every part of the kai gathering process, serving not only kai but inspiration to her followers.

“I'm hoping to inspire more wāhine to get out there basically learning for themselves and teaching self-reliance and sustainability.”

Kaelah and her whānau. Source / Facebook 

Growing up on the whānau farm she watched her father hunt and fish. She claims she was never a fan of the lifestyle and refused to go diving or hunting with him. Her passion for collecting kai, on the other hand, began six years ago when her husband taught her how to spearfish.

“I've only learned it as an adult, being able to see the whole picture why I should be out there gathering kai. And I’m passing it on to my boys too – They come with us and they’ve got their full dive kit, and I also involve them in cooking as well.”

A few of Kaylah's creations. Source / Facebook 

James’s inspirational content doesn’t stop at the gathering part of the process, as she emphatically emphasises on her social media platforms the importance of utilising every part of the animal.

“For example when you take a fish, obviously you use the fillet but a lot of people don't realise there's so much meat and goodness in the head and frames of the fish. So you can roast them, boil it down for a stock as a base for chowders or Currys, freeze it for burley, or you can use it for compost."

“And it's always out of respect for the animal as well, if you're gonna take an animals life, you wanna use every bit of it.”

James says she is happy with the way her content is being received by wahine all over the motu and hopes to have her own wild kai cookbook published in the not too distant future.