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Wow Place #253: In Praise of New Zealand Pies

It’s a warm, sunny Christmas Day in Gisborne, New Zealand as Donica and I leave our hotel in search of a holiday dinner. We have been warned, of course, that everything might be closed on Christmas Day but we shrug that off as catastrophic thinking. “Surely something will be open!” Well, as it turns out, there isn’t. No markets, no cafes, no restaurants…unless you count the little fried-chicken, take-out joint down the street, which doesn’t really work for a couple of ardent vegans like us. What to do?

Donica: “What about getting some pies?”
Dave: “Pies?”
Donica: “Yeah, you know, those savory pies they sell at gas stations.”
Dave: “It’s worth a try.”

Pulling into the nearest “petrol” station (as they call them here), we discover that YES, the mini mart is open, and YES they do have pies – dozens and dozens of them — labeled and showcased in a long, glass case. Steak, mince meat, cheese, mushrooms, pork, lamb, eggplant…it’s a smorgasbord of hot, flaky, surprisingly-delicious pastries that one would expect to find at a high-end bakery, but NOT at a petrol station. Heck, where I come from, you’re lucky if a convenience store offers rotisserie hot dogs from the 1980s! Not so in New Zealand where, for $4 NZ or less, you can fill yourself up with a tasty pie that satisfies your taste buds and doesn’t send you to the ER afterwards.

Where do you find the best pies? That’s a matter of some debate. A woman I met outside one petrol station insisted that the BP petrol stations are the place to go.

“Oh yeah, I pretty much live on BP pies. They’re the best by far.”

Although I haven’t patronized all the petrol stations in New Zealand – a quest for another trip – I will say that the BP pies were pretty special. Warm, flaky, delicious. We wound up buying two vegan mushroom pies and a plant-based sausage roll, all of which we heated up in the microwave of our hotel room.

Was it the most elegant Christmas dinner we’ve ever had? Uh, no. But given the circumstances, it was quite a bit better than the alternatives, and a true celebration of resourcefulness. Add a few candles and some soft music and it would’ve a been darn romantic dinner!

(A dear friend of mine once reminded that “You are you wherever you go.” In other words, if you’re catastrophe-minded, chances are you’ll find a catastrophe. Now, no amount of positive thinking can manifest a perfect trip without mishap. Stuff happens—often beyond your control. However, what YOU can control is how you react to circumstances. How resourceful you are when life deals you a bad hand – like no Christmas dinner. To paraphrase an old song, “Into each life a little pie must fall.”)