With New Zealand Book month now behind us, it behooves us to read something Kiwi, and what could be better than reading about food and how our ancestors cooked back in the day.
At the Central Auckland Research Centre we have a selection of books that are a delightful blast from our culinary past; some more recent, and others harking back to the 19th century.
Ladies, A Plate is one of the most recently well known (there is also second volume.) The author Alexa Johnson has searched for recipes in the collections of friends and family and it is a, pardon the expression, ‘who’s who’ of Kiwi baking.
Delights like Neenish Tarts from
Mosgiel Methodist Church’s Home on the Range cookbook; Louise cake from the St Paul’s Presbyterian church in Pahiatua cookbook; a “pound ginger cake” from Marianne Williams, who arrived in the in 1823 with her missionary husband, Henry. It really makes you want to rush home and bake something now. Bay of Islands
A different book to browse is Cooking Times by Kate Fraser, described as a “culinary journey through Kiwi kitchens from the 1930s to the present day.” It includes not only recipes but memories from the kitchens of folk from the 20th century, starting with the depression years up to the 1980s. As the 1950s chapter recalls “No one bought recipe books or kitchen gadgets, but, as most girls cooked the food their mother’s did, recipes were learnt, not read. There was only Whitcombe’s Everyday Cookery or the
Cookbook to buy anyway.” Edmonds
Tony Simpson’s A Distant Feast heads back further in our past to chart the origins of our cuisine and how our migrant forebears adapted their recipes to this new antipodean environment. As Simpson says, “Over a period of about 150 years from 1820,
was the subject of a major cultural invasion.” There is even a recipe for herb beer made with thyme, parsley and the likes. The photos and illustrations are a fascinating journey through our foodie and even social history. New Zealand
There are plenty more such books on our cooking history – but make sure you eat before you visit or you will be seriously salivating. And as an aside, did you know that the third (1914) edition of the
cookbook has been digitised so you can read it for free, on line at the Electronic Text Centre . . . Edmonds