Te Whare Kai – the dining room

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Today I thought I would talk to you about the Whare Kai or dining room and the tikanga here.  The Whare kai or Kauta is the name for the dining room.  This is an essential part of the marae and of course any early childhood setting.  Here are 2 whaktauki or proverbs regards this.

Te tohu o te marae, ko te pataka.

Evidence of a good marae is the size of the pataka (food storehouse).

Kia tika mai a muri, ka nui te mana o mua.

If the back functions well, the front will gain prestige.


Often Maori will thank the ringa wera or hot hands in the kitchen.  These are the people working in the kitchen.  If the food is good and there is plenty the marae is often remembered with a good reputation.  Having a high level of hospitality is important.

The tables are always set before visitors enter the wharekai.  Visitors will have their meal served.  Sometimes there will be more than one sitting at bigger events.  If so remember as soon as you are finished leave so the next sitting can be set up and served.

Visitors will hear a karanga or call to come to the kitchen for  a meal.  You could practice this in your Early Childhood Centre.  ‘Haere mai ki te kai!”  Sometimes there will be singing of a happy song while people enter.  Tables are filled up from one end so follow the person in front of you and sit down.  Never sit on the tables at any time any where.  Tables are for eating off not for bottoms. 

Whakapaingia nga kai – the blessing of the food.

The meal will be blessed so do not start to eat until this is done.  Someone will usually bang on the table with a spoon or hand to get silence.  Then grace – prayer of thanks, will be said.  You may then enjoy your meal.  Talk to people beside you and make new friends or discover new relations-family.


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