This is the beginning of Gram’s Women and Food series. We’re looking to find out more about some of the fantastic women leaders in our community, the experiences that have made them who they are, and the food that has been important to them throughout their lives.
Moana Hope is an AFL Women’s League superstar. Growing up with 14 siblings, Moana lost her father to cancer at 13. While her loving and selfless mother did all she could for her kids and her many foster children, times were often tough.
A young woman in her late 20s, Hope is no stranger to challenging circumstances. Her mother is now quite ill, and Hope is balancing the responsibility of being full-time carer to her sister who is living with a disability with being a manager at a traffic management company and of course, playing in the Women’s League.
We spoke to Hope about how she has met these challenges, why family is so important to her and the traditional Kiwi dish that brings back happy memories for Hope and her siblings.
With the Women’s League, you’re pioneering a path for young women in a sport they haven’t yet had access to at an elite level. How does it feel to be an AFL female role model?
I think growing up and being told you’d never be able to play AFL… well, it sucked, to be honest. It was horrible. And when we got told it was gonna be possible, I felt like a teenager again. So I sort of get to feel what these young girls are feeling for the first time as well, because it is the first time for all of us. Now that [young women know] that it is possible, all they have to do is keep pushing towards it. So I think that’s exciting and I’m excited to see the talent that comes [through the ranks] because of it.
You haven’t had an easy life. How did you push through the difficult stuff to get to where you are now, making such a positive impact?
I’ve never had it easy in life. I don’t think any of us have. But at the same time, [my family] have the richest love in the world and I think that’s more important – to have a family that love and support you and that you love and support. People might say, man, you’ve had the hardest life ever, but I have an amazing family.
I think growing up the way I did, I didn’t get everything on a platter, and I experienced massive challenges at a young age and I had to become an adult quite quickly. You know, everyone sees life from a different perspective and I didn’t get to see life from the top; I was right at the bottom. So I think that’s where my family’s real strength comes from.
Your mother must be a very strong woman then?
She is. An extremely strong woman. She is the strongest person I know in this world. I’ll give you an example of what my mum is like: at one stage, mum was fostering 19 children. I remember one day, helping her pay her bills, and she’d have five dollars left, and she would probably split that all up to make sure we could all buy an icy pole at the shop. So she would give the top off her back before she thought about herself. She’s my inspiration in life.
So what was it like growing up with 14 other siblings? Did you feel the pressure to stand out?
Growing up with 14 other siblings was crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think if I could go back I would definitely somehow tell my parents to make sure they have all 14 again! You know, you grow up with so many people and with so much love and we’re all still as close as ever. It was amazing.
There was definitely no pressure, growing up. We’re not about that, and I’m still not about that. I just love playing football, and my family loves that I play football – but they all still think they’re better at it than me! [Laughs]
I’ve always played football because I love it, not because I feel pressure to do something. Even if I wasn’t a footballer, I’m sure my family would be just as happy for me.
Were mealtimes hectic? Were there arguments?
Nah, it was really well structured in terms of age groups. So what happened was, mealtimes started with the smaller kids. You’d have the littlest ones come and sit at the table, and then we would work our way up [the age brackets]. We normally did it in three or four lots. So there was always a routine; we all had jobs to do [at mealtimes]. Mum had a big roster board for that. It was good.
So whereabouts in the sibling chain are you?
I’m right in the middle.
Ah, so even more of a challenge – middle child syndrome!
I’m the best one though! [Laughs]
Hah! Very good.
I keep telling them this every day. And they keep telling me I’m wrong, so…
It’s just a daily struggle.
Was food a substantial part of your family’s life? I mean, obviously, it would’ve had to have been purely out of necessity, given there were so many of you!
Haha! Growing up, we all had our chores, and one of my chores was working in the kitchen. That included food prep. So in the morning, we’d have to get up at 6am to prep veggies for dinner. Imagine peeling 25 potatoes.
Yep, I’ve done it and I know it’s awful!
Yep! So we would do that every morning, just for our family… 25 to 30 potatoes; then we would cut around two bunches of silverside, then prep a bag of mixed vegetables and three boxes of hamburgers or fish fingers or meat pies; whatever was for dinner. There would be boxes of food and we would prep all of it that morning.
So essentially you’ve had enough experience to be able to get a job in a kitchen!
If I was feeding half of the world, yes! Haha.
So would you say it’s important to share food and meals with family and friends? Were mealtimes an enjoyable experience?
Yes! We all loved food growing up and mealtimes were definitely enjoyable. We couldn’t wait for mealtimes. When I talk to some of my friends about growing up and they talk about their mealtimes, they are completely different [compared to mine]. But that’s okay. We love that food. I still eat that sort of food every day – It’s super basic, and it’s not something you’d get out of a cookbook. But we loved it. That kind of food is honestly our favourite food… fish fingers, mashed potato, veggies, steamed dim sims, baked beans, spaghetti on toast. We loved it; we still love it.
Is there a special dish in your family that you like to cook, or a recipe that means something to you and your family?
One of the dishes I love most that my mum cooks is called a “boil up”. It’s a Kiwi food. I can’t tell you exactly how mum cooks it, but whenever she makes it, I run [towards it]! It’s cooked in a massive pot with pork bones and is layered with cabbage, potatoes, carrot and doughboys (dumplings) which go into the stew. And when mum cooks it, she cooks it for hours. It’s insanely amazing; it’s delicious.
Rosemary Hope’s Boil Up with Doughboys Recipe
1kg pork bones (the more fatty and meaty, the better for flavour!)
2 bunches watercress
½ small pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 small cabbage, chopped
6 potatoes, skin scrubbed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
Salt, to taste
For the doughboys
1 cup self-raising flour
1 tsp salt
¼ cup water
Make doughboys by sifting flour and 1 teaspoon of salt together then add water to make a sticky dough. Set aside.
In a large stockpot, cover pork bones with water, season with salt and boil for one hour.
Add potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato and cook for another 30 mins.
Add cabbage and watercress and cook for a further 30 mins.
Add the doughboy mixture into the pot in spoonfuls and cook for a further 20 mins until doughboys are done. Serve in soup bowls.