Thursday, April 26, 2012

Telling Lies - By Tricia Glensor - HarperCollins

I can't resist a good historical fiction novel, especially when it's based on real people. This is because you get a real a sense of immediacy when you open a book like this, you jump right in - or perhaps it’s simply the hurdle of believability swept away at the start. However, what if the reader doesn't know anything of the time and place of the novel - we'' written well this still is no hurdle. If the story buckets along like this one does, then it shouldn't really be an issue.

And a good storyline it has - a young kiwi WWII airman shot down over France and the brave family who help him escape the Germans.

This is a real story that chronicles the everyday lives of a farming family in German-occupied France. It’s 1942 when the wounded airman’s plane crashes into rural farmland and a French-family decide to help him get back to England.

The book looks into complex family/village relationships as each tries to cope with the German-occupancy on their own terms. Soldiers have a sinister presence, always appearing at the farmhouse unannounced, stopping people randomly in the streets for papers and creating a shadowing menace. You're left with a strong picture of how lift during wartime really was! Individuals’ actions and cooperation with the Germans are risky, but each villager makes their choices about who and how to support the warring sides.

Emotional at the close, almost any child over the age of 10 could read and enjoy this - but older readers will appreciate the deeper social context as well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hank The Wrestling Shark - By Gerry Paul and Tom Armstrong

Imagine wrestling the fiercest, fastest, most frightening creature of the sea. . . and then, with some nifty thinking, outsmart him to win the coveted title of 'Ocean Wrestling Champ'! That's exactly what cartoon hero Gerry does in Hank the Wrestling Shark - the hilarious, rhyming tale about a pint-sized boy who takes on the strangest, most fearsome creature of the ocean deep, and defeats him.

For more information go to

Recipes from 'Grace & Flavour' Scotch Broth

This is one of the world's great soups and one of Scotland's many fine contributions to gastronomy. It's a magical combination of a few modest ingredients that transform into a delicious and sustaining broth.
The remains of a roast leg or shoulder of mutton or hogget will do very well in place of the chops and will cook more quickly - just put everything in together, and cook for about 35 minutes. The meat should then come away easily from the bone and can be chopped up, returned to the soup and heated through before seasoning and serving.
1kg mutton neck or leg chops
1200ml water
3 Tbsp pearl barley
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 small turnip
salt and white pepper
chopped parsley for garnish

• Cut the meat off the bones and into small pieces. Put meat and bones into a large saucepan with the water.
• Bring to the boil and skim off any foam from the surface.
• Wash the barley, add it to the soup and simmer gently for 45 minutes.
• Peel the vegetables, dice into cubes of between 1cm and 2cm and add to soup. Simmer for a further 30-45 minutes till everything is tender.
• Remove the bones from the soup, take off any remaining meat and add it to the soup.
• Add salt and pepper to taste, garnish generously with parsley and serve.

Walnut bread
Margaret Mollison was the first matron of Knox College in Dunedin, from 1900-1915. Her walnut loaf is very nice for afternoon tea, as she says, and it's pretty good for breakfast and brunch too. Simple loaves like this were designed to be thinly sliced and buttered, but they are also good with sharp cheeses, or spread with sour cream. This is one of five recipes for walnut bread in the cookbook, so they must have been popular.

I make half a recipe, more or less, which is enough for one medium loaf. Getting the proportions right is easy; just use the same cup for all the ingredients, except the baking powder of course. A breakfast cup is a big one, about 1 standard cups.
2 cups flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup walnuts, preferably halves and large pieces

• Preheat the oven to 180degC.
• Prepare a medium-sized loaf tin by brushing the inside with oil or melted butter, or lining with baking paper. (I use a tin that holds about 1200ml.)
• Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar together in a bowl.
• Add the walnut pieces and distribute evenly. (Check for stray bits of tooth-breaking shell before adding.)
• Whisk egg and milk together. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the liquid and mix well.
• Spoon into the loaf tin, pushing into the corners and smoothing the top. Put on a rack in the bottom half of the oven and bake for about 50 minutes. When done, the top will be firm but springy.

Grace and Flavour: Old New Zealand recipes for modern cooks by Barbara Keen (Hodder Moa) is published on April 10.

From the ODT 14 April 2012

The idea that New Zealand food was terrible until we were rescued by Asian, Italian and French flavours, is something Barbara Keen has no truck with. She talks to Charmian Smith about Grace and Flavour, her book celebrating traditional Anglo-Kiwi food of the early 20th century.
Some years ago Barbara Keen kept hearing how terrible Kiwi food used to be and it irritated her.
"There seemed to be an assumption that we all thought that earlier New Zealand food was complete rubbish and it was all overcooked mutton and boiled cabbage and there wasn't anything else. The attitude was so dismissive," the Port Chalmers food writer says.
"I bridled at that and once you get a bee in your bonnet, you see evidence of this attitude everywhere. I thought that's just not how I remembered food being when I was a kid in the 1950s."
A few years later her aunt gave her her grandmother's recipe book, and she found recipes for a lot of the things she remembered eating as a child. Then, through Wellington food writer and restaurateur Lois Daish, she came across The Golden Bay Cookery Book, a fundraiser her grandmother, Mrs T. Baignet, had edited.
"I'd never heard of the book, which is kind of spooky in a family that recounted a lot of its history. Then Mum gave me a whole lot of other old cookbooks and my aunt lent me another one of a great-aunt's."
That's when the idea to do something with old recipes began to crystallise. A freelance food writer at the time, she could not persuade magazine food editors to publish a story.
"They said 'nobody's interested in that', and 'we like to concentrate on healthy food' - there's a strong negative implication there."
In 2003 she helped curate "Lost Food", an exhibition at the Otago Settlers Museum celebrating food of the past, and now her book, Grace and Flavour: Old New Zealand recipes for modern cooks (Hodder Moa) will be published next week. She has selected recipes from some of the old books and rewritten them for today's conditions while remaining faithful to the originals.
Since she first got a bee in her bonnet about it, the cultural cringe about traditional food has begun to change and other books, particularly by Alexa Johnston, have celebrated traditional New Zealand baking and puddings, which pleases her.
The things we admire in foreign cuisines, such as French or Italian, such as eating with the seasons, simple country food that makes good use of what is available, and using up leftovers, are all in our old recipes, she says.
"I was quite stunned by the variety of things I found. There wasn't much garlic but anchovies were very popular as a flavour. It's essentially British food and British food has always had a bad rap."
However, writers such as Jane Grigson, Michael Smith and most recently Jamie Oliver have rehabilitated good British food.
Keen points out dishes such as Scotch broth, a hearty soup made from a cheap cut of meat, a grain and a few vegetables are similar to Italian or French peasant soups, and boiled mutton with vegetables is the equivalent of the celebrated French pot au feu.
Ham and chicken loaf made with jellied stock is basically a terrine.
Blancmange is essentially the same as the fashionable Italian dessert panna cotta, but those who remember the packet blancmange mixes of their childhood, still think of it as a bit like wallpaper paste.
Some dishes used to take a long time to cook, such as boiled mutton - essentially a poached joint cooked in the same way as corned beef, but now, with slow cookers these are no longer a problem. Steamed puddings, which took hours to cook, used to be common, but they can now be cooked in a microwave in a few minutes.
Many old recipes were designed to use up leftovers, a big feature of almost all cuisines in the past.
Fish pudding, despite its unappetising name, is subtle and delicious, using leftover fish and rice, herbs, seasonings and white sauce, Keen says.
White sauce, also known by the French name b├ęchamel, was used widely and was what she calls "a stretcher" that helped make a little food go further.
Leftover bread was another stretcher, used as breadcrumbs, and in sweet and savoury bread puddings and as a thickener for bread sauce.
"People in the country always had to be ready for visitors arriving unexpectedly - you couldn't just text and say I'm outside your house! People might arrive quite unexpectedly after quite a long journey and needed to be fed."
They also ate a lot more offal, using up all the parts of the animal, especially when it was farm-killed.
"One of my favourites, a recipe in one of the books is called "to re-serve stewed tripe". I love that. No marketing department has ever been near that! You don't get tripe much any more. I put it in anyway and called it "baked tripe" as it's quite a nice dish, a gratin type of thing," she says.
Spanish cream was a favourite in her family, and always served at Christmas. It was fluffy on the top, mousse-like in the middle and jelly on the bottom.
Although some people say the jelly is a flaw, she thinks it is one of its chief attractions.
In searching through the recipe books and trying out recipes, she came across some unusual ones.
"There was a pea and strawberry salad which I thought was incredibly advanced, from the Women's Division of Federated Farmers book. It had shredded lettuce, silverbeet tips, also shredded and raw which is somewhat unusual, and shelled peas - everyone had a garden and peas, which is a whole different thing from frozen - and a tablespoon of shredded nasturtium leaves.
Then you made a dressing by mashing up some strawberries and some lemon juice and you also added some cut-up strawberries too. It seemed to me terribly nouvelle cuisine. It was from the 1950s so it was probably part of a health movement. It's a very nice salad I must say."
Another unusual recipe that caught her imagination was a fig recipe contributed by Mrs E.M. Arthur, of Timaru.
"I'd like to know more about the woman who put it in. I've done a bit of a search. I thought she might be related to Basil Arthur but it turns out she wasn't, and I've drawn a blank."
The fig cake is simply finely chopped, dried figs soaked in wine, and split almonds. The figs are pressed into an oiled tin, layered with almonds and then topped with the rest of the figs. It is not cooked but pressed then iced with a vienna icing - a vanilla icing with a lot of butter and wine or brandy, Keen says.
"It's quite lovely and not like anything else I've come across in any of the books I've looked through. It would have been quite pricey because everything in 1914 or whenever would have been imported."
There were other luxurious dishes, such as port wine jelly, which has an Edwardian feel about it, she says.
An unusual but refreshing summer drink was lemon whey from the Rangimarie Croquet Club's Cookery Book.
"It's lemon juice, lemon rind and milk. You combine them and it separates into curds and whey. You drink the whey - they say it's excellent when feverish, and the curds are good on toast or biscuits," she says.
"Cakes were the jewel in the crown. New Zealanders were great bakers. You didn't have a caterer down the road so you got the 'ladies, a plate' thing. And my memory of that is that it was somewhat competitive in a nice way. So that's why people got used to taking food to public events. So baking is the public face, you might say, of traditional New Zealand cooking, whereas the other stuff was family food."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This Week On the Adventures of the CoffeeBar Kid: Black - By Doris Du Pont - Interview

this week we have an interview with curator of the NZ Fashion Museum and the exhibition 'Black' - Which is also a book published by Penguin (BLACK: The history of black in fashion, society and culture in New Zealand).

Scroll down to see photos from the exhibition held in March at Brandon St. Pop up Gallery (in association with the Welllington City to Sea Museum)

Link to NZ Fashion Museum
Link to the Wellington City To Sea Museum

Here's some background reading - from Otago Daily Mail (17 Mar 2012)
Black can be the colour of the rebel or outsider, of power and authority, of the fashionista and of mourning. But New Zealanders have also embraced it as their colour, from the shearer's singlet, gang members' patches, the All Blacks and other sports uniforms, to classic and cutting-edge fashion and art.

This book of essays exploring this idea is linked with the New Zealand Fashion Museum's Wellington exhibition of the same name, curated by Doris de Pont, who has also edited this book. There are contributions by Chanel Clarke on a Maori perspective on the wearing of black, and Jane Malthus on black in the Victorian era.   There follow essays on black in New Zealand sport by Ron Palenski, black clothing and imagery associated with New Zealand musicians by Andre Clifford and with New Zealand cinema by Helen Martin, the workman and farmer's black singlet by Stephanie Gibson, the cultural politics of wearing black as a colour of authority or of protest by Prudence Stone, and essays by Elaine Webster and Natalie Smith on black in fashion in the 20th century, and by Claire Regnault on black in New Zealand fashion. All are illustrated with numerous photographs, mostly in black and white.  Du Pont introduces the question why "in God's own country are we so enamoured with wearing the devil's own colour: Black?".  Our sports teams dress in black - Olympic teams All Blacks, Black Caps, Tall Blacks, Black Sticks and Black Magic the boat, our films are said to be "dark, brooding and uneasy", and our fashion has been described as "edgy, dark and intellectual," particularly garments by Dunedin designer Margarita Robinson of NOM*d, her sister Elisabeth Findlay of Zambesi, World and Karen Walker shown at in London in 1999. 
Such statements help create myths, especially as they are continually repeated and we come to believe our own promotional hype.  According to Palenski, the first instance of black and silver being associated with sport on a national basis was the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association caps in 1887.   Although the first New Zealand rugby team to tour England in 1884 wore blue, for the 1888 tour it was decided black was the "most suitable colour to withstand the wet and sloppy playing fields likely to be experienced in England." Serviceability, too, was the reason for the dark shades, blue and black, of the working men's singlets, and for many black skirts, dresses, blouses or suits worn by women or men through the years.  That New Zealand should identify with black clothing is an interesting concept, and we appear to be fast adopting the idea. However, I suspect some of the essays, particularly about the importance of black to pre-contact Maori, may be a little strained to fit the argument. Other important uses of black in the visual arts by some of our most celebrated artists such as Colin McCahon and Ralph Hotere have been only mentioned in passing.
Nevertheless, it's a smartly produced book, and another link in exploring - and developing - New Zealand culture.

This Week On the Adventures of the CoffeeBar Kid: Black - By Doris Du Pont - PT2 Photos From the Exhibition