Monday, 14 April 2014

I Was a Heifer Once


In light of radio host, Rachel Smalley weight-ist gaffe on air last week, calling average  kiwi women ‘heifers’ and ‘lardos’. I’d like to explain what a heifer is. 

It’s a young cow, one that has not yet had a calf. A sweet, teenage pregnancy free innocent bovine animal. I’m a farm girl, I like heifers.

A ‘lardo’ on the other hand is a less pleasant turn of phrase and not to be confused with the French word lardon: a chunky piece of bacon which adds flavour and calories to many dishes. A lardo according to the urban dictionary, is an insult describing an extremely fat person who cannot wield their habit of overeating.


This on-air, but thought to be off-air, throw away remark arose when Smalley discovered the average kiwi woman weighed 72kg, indicating a popular morning after pill would be ineffective for them. She has since apologized profusely.

I feel bad for all the insulted healthy 72kg women in New Zealand (and the world). And for Smalley; it sounded all the worse coming from a slim woman. If this is our new norm we better get used to it. Just as soon as the heifer jokes stop, she’ll be right.

Over history improved diet has made nations heavier and taller. It's a feast or famine out there.

I lived in Singapore for a short time when I was six in 1970. My Dad worked for the New Zealand High Commission and we lived in a huge house with a cook named Chin Foo. Chin Foo was a diminutive man who nuggeted his white hair black and fed my sister and I like the princesses we thought we’d become. He also had a son. A son he’d raised on huge portions and vitamin supplements. And it showed. Francis towered over his proud father. He was a strapping lad. Plumped on prosperity. Giant size.

Every time I walk around the Arrowtown museum I am alarmed by how teeny the intrepid early settlers of Otago (and all of New Zealand) were. There are displays of women’s dresses and boned corsets with waists so minute it’s hard to imagine a full complement of internal organs fitting inside them. When Captain Cook arrived on our shores 1768-1770, Joseph Banks naturist and botanist travelling with him noted, 'maori women were rather smaller than European woman', who averagely measured 154-155 cm in height. Petite.

In 1976, I learnt to ride side saddle for the Takapau Centennial. I was quite thrilled with the lovely leather saddle I was loaned along with the Victorian black woollen riding habit, until I had to put it on. On my 12 year old girlish frame its 17inch, whale boned waist pinched. You can see below that I was quite thrilled to don the outfit again for this photo. I think it was due back and mum wanted a snap for the album. I must have been sucking-in big time. Crikey my head is even too small for the top hat. Not a body part governments seem to record statistics of. Heads.

I recently purchased these wine glasses from my new favourite antique shop in Milton. I gave a set of ten cut crystal gems to my little sister Poppy as part of her wedding present.

‘Are they sherry glasses?’ she asked, bemused. 

‘No they’re 70’s wine glasses,’ I replied.

Stood alongside this enormous naughties goblet taking on fish bowl proportions, they do look wee. I did the test.

The cut crystal on the left holds 100ml, your average standard drink. Actually, wine-timers I hate to tell you that if your fermented grape juice of choice is 13.5%, 750 mls equals 8 standard drinks or 93mls. That’s these little babies with the tide out. Quite a long way out.

I don’t believe my parent’s generation drank less wine. They just had to get up to fill their glasses more often. We all know size doesn't count and drinking out of quality crystal is divine especially with the added incentive of in-built exercise. 

In 1970 the average kiwi women weighed 57kg (9 Stone).

Strange things have been happening in my garden. My silverbeet has turned into a gunnera (that man at the top is under one). And take a look at this William Bon Cretian pear grown on a hearty diet of horse poo. I turned it into a pie with Pam’s sweet short crust pastry on Saturday night and downed it with lashings of vanilla ice cream and cream, shortly after a dinner of roast fillet, potatoes, kumara, broccoli and mushrooms. It was a wintry evening in autumn.

Talking of kumara. (You can do the small penis signal at me right now. Tips of thumb and little finger together flick up and down.) For the first time ever, here in Middle Shotover I tried to grow my own. I poked my sprouting tubers into my new no-dig-pure-horse-poo-over-turf garden. The turf beneath was impenetrable by fork. I didn’t lay the corrugated iron sheet one foot under my kumara patch as instructed. There was no way these babies were going to scuttle down to Peru. Their soft green oval shaped leaves emerged lush and healthy and I left them to it. Last week, I tentatively, yet eagerly pulled them up. Hoping for a horticultural miracle. Pathetic. I added my haul; two thumb width tubers to the spuds that night.

‘What are these?’ asked son 11, of my boiled grey-brown finger lumps.

‘The first kumara I’ve ever grown,’ I replied. ‘Want a bite? Butter?’

‘Nope,’ he said.

‘Not to worry,’ I said. ‘One thing's certain. They’ll be BIGGER next year.’

(Statistics thanks to: Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand


  1. Interesting post! I am in pound land over here in the US, so I had to do a little conversion to compare it to a 158 pound woman over here. Love the way you laid out this post!

    1. Thanks Susan! Next time I'll include metric and imperial measures. I still remember when we changed over at school, so I actually think in both kgs & stone (not so much pounds) and cms & ft.


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