Rēwena and Rabbit Stew: The Rural Kitchen in Aotearoa, 1800–1940

Katie Cooper

Author: Katie Cooper
Format: Paperback
Pages: 344
Published: 8 August 2024
Specs: 24.0cm x 18.5cm
ISBN: 9781776711116
Expected release date is 8th Aug 2024

A look through the kitchen window into early rural life in Aotearoa.

Cookhouses and wharekai, hāngī pits and coal ranges, boil-ups and mutton – this book tells the hearty story of sustenance and manaakitanga in rural New Zealand.

The rhythms and routines of country life are at the heart of this compelling account of the rural kitchen in Aotearoa. Historian Katie Cooper explores how cooking and food practices shaped the daily lives, homes and communities of rural Pākehā and Māori throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Delving into cooking technologies, provisions, gender roles and hospitality, the story of New Zealand’s rural kitchen highlights more than just the practicalities of putting food on the table.

Thoroughly researched and richly illustrated, Rēwena and Rabbit Stew reveals the fascinating social and cultural milieu in which rural people produced, cooked and shared food in Aotearoa.



Katie Cooper grew up on a small sheep farm just out of Gore and is the daughter of an agriculture teacher and a history teacher. She completed her PhD in history at the University of Otago, and since 2016 has been a curator at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Katie’s research focus is the social and material history of nineteenth-century New Zealand, and she has been working to highlight women’s histories in Te Papa’s collections.



‘This book is a fantastic addition to rural history, with a compelling perspective and a fresh set of concerns about place, dwelling, and movement in and around rural spaces. The book brings both an intimacy and a vulnerability to rural life plus a strong sense of rural robustness. Visually, this is an extraordinary collection. The images themselves tell a compelling story.’ — Jane McCabe, author of Race, Tea and Colonial Resettlement

‘In this beautifully illustrated book, Katie Cooper offers a fascinating and evocative account of rural history in this country told through the production, harvesting, cooking and sharing of food. Gender and labour relations are enacted in the kitchen, as is sociability, and these are underpinned by stories of rural Māori and Pākehā women labouring in support of their whānau and the family economy. Cooper shows how the kitchen was truly the heart of the rural home.’ — Angela Wanhalla, author of He Reo Wāhine

‘Rural life has long been pivotal to New Zealand social identities, but the daily experience of it has been a neglected area of enquiry in recent times. The attention to ordinary life in the countryside is important, important too is the bicultural analysis which promises to identify differences and similarities between how Pākehā and Māori produced and consumed food in rural environments. The writing is lucid and polished.’ — Ben Schrader, author of The Big Smoke