Cheese Rolls: How a Humble Snack Became a Signature New Zealand Food

Ben Mack wrote . . . . . . . . .

A cheese roll may seem simple: it’s basically a slice of bread with cheese-based filling, rolled up and toasted until slightly crispy.

Yet these humble snacks hold a special place in the hearts of many people at the bottom of the South Island, the more southern of New Zealand’s two main islands — or “Deep South,” as the region closer to Antarctica than the Equator is sometimes called.

Margaret Peck remembers her first cheese roll. She was a teenager at the beach near Invercargill, almost at the end of the South Island and New Zealand’s southernmost city — it’s also home to the world’s southernmost Starbucks and McDonald’s outlets.

Her husband Mark Peck remembers his first, too. It came after arriving as a kid from Kentucky.

“I’d never had them before. And, ooohhh — they were good! I got hooked, well and truly!”

Decades later, there’s a reason their memories are so clear.

“The cheese roll means celebrations, events, gatherings, homecomings, fundraisers,” explains Donna Hamilton, who makes cheese rolls at The Batch in Invercargill, which she co-owns with husband Gareth.

“It means people, family and laughter. They’re the ultimate comfort food.”

Immigration and identity

Pastures full of grazing cows are a common sight among the rolling green hills of Southland, the southern part of the Deep South. Milk and cheese are plentiful. But cows are not native to New Zealand, and cheese rolls were developed mostly by European immigrants and their descendants.

According to emeritus professor Helen Leach, a specialist in food anthropology at the University of Otago in Dunedin (the Deep South’s largest city), the first recipes for a version of cheese rolls appeared in South Island cookbooks in the 1930s.
They gained popularity in the 1950s and 60s, as sliced bread became more common in New Zealand, becoming a staple at school fundraisers.

But cheese rolls are a distinctly regional cuisine. Leach’s research shows the first recipe for an “authentic” cheese roll with a pre-cooked cheese filling did not appear in a cookbook in the more populous North Island until 1979. Even now, it’s uncommon to find cheese rolls at North Island cafes.

Yet the Pecks wanted to offer them in the capital when they opened Little Peckish in Wellington — at the bottom of the North Island — in 2009, after Mark Peck finished a career in Parliament; his constituency was Invercargill.

“I’m a Southlander,” explains Margaret Peck, who grew up north of Invercargill near the town of Winton. “I wanted to have something that’s part of my identity.”

There was an adjustment, though: at first, patrons were eating cheese rolls with a knife and fork. She’s adamant cheese rolls are eaten with your hands.

West of Invercargill is Riverton, a small town along an estuary formed by the meandering Aparima and Pourakino rivers.
It’s here Cazna Gilder makes cheese rolls at The Crib. She says “southern sushi” — as cheese rolls are sometimes called, because they’re “as popular as sushi” — are synonymous with regional identity.

“A cheese roll’s honest,” she explains. “It’s not pretentious. I think it’s because we’re so down-to-earth.”

More than meets the eye

There are many variations of a cheese roll.

“Traditions are handed down from generation to generation,” Hamilton says. “Children living overseas have sent home for the correct recipe to make for flatmates in London to overcome homesickness.”

Mark Heffer, who makes cheese rolls at his café, Industry, in Invercargill, says a “proper” cheese roll needs a few things: “[The bread has] got to be rolled and not folded, lots of cheese and fresh red onion, some sort of mayo to give it that creamy flavor, and we like to add a little bit of sour cream and chopped parsley. Toasted but not too toasted, it must be golden brown and topped with lashings of butter.”

“You should need to wash your hands and face after eating a proper cheese roll,” he adds.

Some have a slightly different take, however.

One example is north of Southland, below the snowcapped peaks of The Remarkables, at Rātā. Their cheese rolls are garnished with locally-sourced preserved apricots, hazelnuts, truffle oil and honey from the southern rātā tree, found on the west coast of the South Island. Served as an entrée, founder Fleur Caulton says they’re a popular dish at the Queenstown restaurant.

“Everyone has their version of a roast. We have our version of a cheese roll.”

Rolling on

Bucolic as it may seem in an area where neighbors can leave doors unlocked and penguins visit beaches, life’s changing like everywhere else. For instance, the planned 2024 closure of the aluminum smelter south of Invercargill at Tiwai Point — Southland’s single-largest employer — could mean the loss of hundreds of jobs.

Other changes are also afoot. The shutting of New Zealand’s borders amid the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in domestic tourists, but there are concerns about what the absence of international visitors could mean for the future. Large parts of central Invercargill have also been demolished. Rising from the rubble will be a business and shopping complex that could cost NZ$165 million (about US$120 million).

But cheese rolls continue to play an important part in the story of the Deep South. Rātā’s Caulton says “1,800 dozen” cheese rolls were made for a fundraiser at Queenstown’s Wakatipu High School last year, for example.

The morning of our interview, The Crib’s Gilder said she’d made about 200 in anticipation of demand from visitors attending the Burt Munro Challenge motorcycle competition, one of Southland’s largest annual events.

“As long as there are people in Southland, the cheese roll will live on forever,” says Industry’s Heffer.

Adds Hamilton: “The gathering of people, the comradeship, the support — right now, I would say the world needs more cheese rolls.”

Source: CNN

Your Mask Might Also Shield You From Allergies

Here’s a silver lining to having to strap a mask across your face when you go out in public: That mask may also help guard against severe spring allergies, an expert says.

Many patients with spring allergies are doing well this season because they’re spending more time indoors and wearing a mask when they go outside, said Dr. Do-Yeon Cho, an associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“A study that came out in 2020 showed that allergic rhinitis [hay fever] symptoms among nurses had been significantly reduced with face mask usage during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cho said in a university news release.

Any type of face covering can significantly reduce the pollens and allergens that may enter your nose and mouth, he noted. However, it’s important not to touch the front side of your mask when removing it and to not flip the mask when reusing it.

Along with wearing a mask, there are other things you can do to reduce spring allergy symptoms.

Identify your allergens and if you’re allergic to spring pollens, limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are high.

“Most weather reports during allergy season give a pollen count,” Cho said. “Using high-efficiency particulate absorbance, or HEPA, air filters during allergy season can reduce exposure to allergens.”

Take allergy medication before pollen season begins to prevent your body from releasing histamines and other chemicals that cause allergic symptoms, he recommended.

Bathe and shampoo daily before going to bed, to wash off pollens.

“Change clothes and wash your nose with saline when you come inside the house,” Cho suggested. “Wash your bedding and clothes in hot, soapy water, and dry your clothes in a clothes dryer, not on an outdoor line.”

He explained that once “temperatures get warmer, dormant trees bounce back to life and release pollen into the air. Some common culprits include birch, cedar and walnut, and the season could last through mid-May.”

Spring showers can wash pollen away and keep it from drifting through the air, but humidity from the rain can cause similar symptoms for people with allergies to dust and mold, Cho said.

Source: HealthDay

Fruits and Vegetables: EWG’s 2021 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Lists

Source: EWG

Try These 7 Strategies to Avoid Eating Too Much Unhealthy Fast Food

Michael Precker wrote . . . . . . . . .

On nearly every corner, and along the roads in between, the familiar signs comfort and tempt us: burgers and fried chicken, ice cream and doughnuts, sweets and treats galore.

Welcome to the food swamp, where Americans get bogged down in a morass of cheap, convenient, alluring – and very often unhealthy – culinary choices.

“All these fast-food companies with all their marketing are competing for our stomach space and our dollars,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State University in University Park. “It’s hard to make healthy choices when there are so many odds against you.”

The term “food swamp” was coined about a decade ago to denote areas where fast-food chains and convenience stores abound, swamping healthier options such as grocery stores and restaurants with wider choices. They often coincide with food deserts, where a lack of convenient or low-cost supermarkets makes it harder to get fresh produce and nutritious food.

That combination all too often occurs in low-income and under-resourced neighborhoods, said Kristen Cooksey Stowers, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut who specializes in health equity and food-related public policy.

“It’s not that fast food or corner stores are inherently bad,” she said. “But when it becomes the majority of what a neighborhood can rely on, that’s a problem. We see areas inundated with unhealthy food.”

Cooksey Stowers’ research has shown a correlation between food swamps and obesity, and she led a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showing food swamps were a better predictor of obesity than food deserts.

Kris-Etherton was chief author of an article last year in the Journal of the American Heart Association linking food swamps and food deserts to poor diet quality, obesity and cardiovascular disease, all of which can be more prevalent among low-income people, many of whom are Black and Hispanic and other people of color. The authors called for policy changes to address the disparities.

In the long term, Cooksey Stowers said, solutions include better zoning to limit clusters of fast-food outlets, incentives to build grocery stores and farmers markets in disadvantaged areas, and even requiring convenience stores to stock a certain percentage of healthy food.

“People need to realize they are empowered to be part of the change in their communities,” she said.

In the meantime, if you’re hungry, keep this in mind:

Carry a healthy snack. An apple, carrot sticks or some nuts in the car might keep you from overdoing it at the drive-thru. “Take something with you so you don’t get really hungry,” Kris-Etherton said. “When you’re really hungry, you eat more.”

Be wary of bargains. “We’re all value-minded,” Kris-Etherton said. “You see supersizes, or buy one get one free. Maybe that makes sense if you’re with somebody, but not if you’re by yourself.”

Beware of beverages. Sugary sodas and coffee concoctions packed with flavors and cream can have more calories than an entrée. “People don’t think of it as something they’re eating,” she said. “They think, ‘It’s a drink. I don’t have to count it.’ They do.”

Pay attention to the extras. Mayonnaise on that burger or sub sandwich adds calories and fat. Ask for extra lettuce and tomato instead. So does the whipped cream stacked atop the coffee. “Doing without them is a small step, but a very good first step,” Kris-Etherton said.

So what if they’re open late? “There are brands trying to create the fourth meal of the day with all those late-night hours,” Cooksey Stowers said. “You know that’s terrible for the body. Stick with three meals a day.”

Make a plan and stick to it. “Check out the menu and choose healthy options, like salads and grilled chicken instead of fried,” Kris-Etherton said. “And if you can use the drive-thru, don’t go in, so you’re not tempted by seeing everybody eating burgers and fries with large sodas. Fries are OK on occasion but buy the small size or share an order with someone.”

Just say go. “If you can, keep driving or stay on that bus to get to the supermarket instead of stopping off for the fast food,” Cooksey Stowers said. “These are things that people know. We just have to eat less of the unhealthy stuff.”

Source: American Heart association



2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper stemmed, seeded, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish
6 large eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup crumbled feta
crusty bread or pita, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Heat the oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are tender and turning translucent, about 5 minutes
  3. Add the garlic, tomato paste, cumin, paprika and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes and cilantro; stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Off the heat, make six wells in the tomato sauce mixture using the back of a wooden spoon. Crack egg into each well. Season the eggs lightly with salt and pepper.
  6. Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your desired doneness. (the eggs will continue baking once the skillet is removed from the oven).
  7. Carefully transfer the skillet to a heat-safe surface. Top with the crumbled feta and fresh cilantro leaves. Divide among bowls and serve with crusty bread or pita bread.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Manitoba Egg Farmers

Today’s Comic