Food, Glorious Food

Is there anything quite as comforting to read about than food? Be it the biography of a chef or food critic, a history of a particular food, or just a really good cook book, books about food have been a favourite for generations. Here are some books in our collection that you might like to sink your teeth into:

Scoff : a history of food and class in Britain / Vogler, Pen
“Avocado or beans on toast? Gin or claret? Nut roast or game pie? Milk in first or milk in last? And do you have tea, dinner or supper in the evening? In this fascinating social history of food in Britain, Pen Vogler examines the origins of our eating habits and reveals how they are loaded with centuries of class prejudice. Bringing together evidence from cookbooks, literature, artworks and social records from 1066 to the present, Vogler traces the changing fortunes of the food we encounter today, and unpicks the aspirations and prejudices of the people who have shaped our cuisine for better or worse.” (adapted from catalogue)

A cook’s tour : in search of the perfect meal / Bourdain, Anthony
“Inspired by the question, ‘What would be the perfect meal?’, Anthony sets out on a quest for his culinary holy grail. Our adventurous chef starts out in Japan, where he eats traditional Fugu, a poisonous blowfish which can be prepared only by specially licensed chefs. He then travels to Cambodia, up the mine-studded road to Pailin into autonomous Khmer Rouge territory and to Phnom Penh’s Gun Club, where local fare is served up alongside a menu of available firearms. In Saigon, he’s treated to a sustaining meal of live Cobra heart before moving on to savor a snack with the Viet Cong in the Mecong Delta. A Cook’s Tour recounts, in Bourdain’s inimitable style, the adventures and misadventures of America’s favorite chef.” (adapted from catalogue)

Hungry : a memoir of wanting more / Dent, Grace
“From an early age, Grace Dent was hungry. As a little girl growing up in Currock, Carlisle, she yearned to be something bigger, to go somewhere better. Hungry traces Grace’s story from growing up eating beige food to becoming one of the much-loved voices on the British food scene. It’s also everyone’s story – from treats with your nan, to cheese and pineapple hedgehogs, to the exquisite joy of cheaply-made apple crumble with custard. Warm, funny and joyous, Hungry is also about love and loss, the central role that food plays in all our lives, and how a Cadbury’s Fruit ‘n’ Nut in a hospital vending machine can brighten the toughest situation.” (adapted from catalogue)

In the devil’s garden : a sinful history of forbidden food / Allen, Stewart Lee
“Among the foods thought to encourage Lust, the love apple (now known as the tomato), has become the world’s most popular vegetable. But until the nineteenth century the love apple was considered Satanic by many because of its similarity to the mandrake, a plant believed to be possessed by demonic spirits. Filled with Incredible history and the author’s travels to many exotic locales, In the Devil’s Garden also features recipes like the Matzoh-ball stews outlawed by the Spanish Inquisition and the forbidden “chocolate champagnes” of the Aztecs. This is truly a delectable book that will be consumed by food lovers, culinary historians, amateur anthropologists, and armchair travellers alike.” (adapted from catalogue)

Toast / Slater, Nigel
“TOAST is top food writer Nigel Slater’s eat-and-tell autobiography. Detailing all the food, recipes and cooking that have marked his passage from greedy schoolboy to great food writer, this is also a catalogue of how the British have eaten over the last three decades.” (Catalogue)



Ultimate food journeys : the world’s best dishes & where to eat them
“[A] book for food-lovers with an interest in travel–and ardent travelers with a passion for food. … [also] has helpful sightseeing itineraries, hotel recommendations, and hundreds of restaurant choices.” (Catalogue)


Plenty : a memoir of food & family / Howard, Hannah
“A moving reflection on motherhood, friendship, and women making their mark on the world of food from the author of Feast” (Catalogue)




Chocolate wars : from Cadbury to Kraft : 200 years of sweet success and bitter rivalry / Cadbury, Deborah
“Beginning with an account of John Cadbury, who founded the first Cadbury’s coffee and chocolate shop in Birmingham in 1824, ‘Chocolate Wars’ goes on to chart the astonishing transformation of the company’s fortunes under his grandson George. But while the Cadbury dynasty is the fulcrum of the narrative, this is also the story of their Quaker rivals, the Frys and Rowntrees, and their European competitors, the Nestles, Suchards and Lindts. These rivalries drove the formation of the huge chocolate conglomorates that still straddle the corporate world today, and have first call on our collective sweet tooth.” (adapted from catalogue)

Bread & butter : history, culture, recipes / Snapes, Richard
“A celebration of bread and butter’s divine partnership, covering history, culture and recipes.” (Catalogue)




Special bonus read:

Food isn’t medicine : challenge nutribollocks & escape the diet trap / Wolrich, Joshua
“The first NHS doctor to take a public stand against diet culture and empower you to do the same. Losing weight is not your life’s purpose. Do carbs make you fat? Could the keto diet cure mental health disorders? Are eggs as bad for you as smoking? No, no and absolutely not. It’s all what Dr Joshua Wolrich defines as ‘nutribollocks’ and he is on a mission to set the record straight. As an NHS doctor with personal experience of how damaging diets can be, he believes every one of us deserves to have a happy, healthy relationship with food and with our bodies. His message is clear- we need to fight weight stigma, call out the lies of diet culture and give ourselves permission to eat all foods. Food Isn’t Medicine wades through nutritional science (both good and bad) to demystify the common diet myths that many of us believe without questioning. If you have ever wondered whether you should stop eating sugar, try fasting, juicing or ‘alkaline water’, or struggled through diet after diet (none of which seem to work), this book will be a powerful wake-up call. Drawing on the latest research and delivered with a dose of humour, it not only liberates us from the destructive belief that weight defines health but also explains how to spot the misinformation we are bombarded with every day. Dr Joshua Wolrich will empower you to escape the diet trap and call out the bad health advice for what it really is: complete nutribollocks.” (Catalogue)

Socks & Plum Pudding for Christmas

In 1912, Lord Liverpool became governor of New Zealand. Alongside him, stood his wife, Annette Louise Foljambe, Countess of Liverpool. As soon as the War started in 1914, Lady Liverpool became an active supporter and fundraiser for the New Zealand troops sent to fight overseas.

Her Excellency's Knitting Book coverHer Excellency’s knitting book , compiled under the personal supervision of Her Excellency the Countess of Liverpool was published in 1915.  It was intended to encourage the women of New Zealand, as well as children (boys and girls!), to take up knitting as a valuable skill and turn it into a mass war effort by crafting useful items that would be sent to soldiers fighting for the Empire. Socks in particular were in high demand, a pair only lasting a couple of weeks. Often, the knitter would add a little hand-sewn personal note inside the garment for its recipient. The initiative became hugely popular and contributed to making soldiers feel that they weren’t forgotten back home.
One of these little books has been a treasure in our Rare Books room at the Central Library. It contains a hand-written introduction by Lady Liverpool herself, encouraging “the women of New Zealand” to take their part in the war effort by using the patterns in the book to produce some much needed comfort for the troops.


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The book despite its very modest dimensions as it was designed to be carried in a knitting bag, contains a myriad patterns and knitting instructions to guide the novice (“To wind wool so that you work from the inside of the ball, p.41) as much as the accomplished knitters . It is also dotted with quaint advertising from businesses all over New Zealand such as this Harringtons ad:


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The patterns not only cover garments of use to soldiers such as cholera belts, but items for women, children and babies. In case you always wanted to knit a cholera belt, here are instructions:

Cholera belt

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Christmas in the trenches Dominion articleThis clipping from The Dominion’s 16 July 1917 issue is a testimony of the extent of the contributions from the civilians back home. You can access the full article in the Paperspast database. Published in July, it was calling for “funds of gifts of various kinds” to ensure that soldiers on the front would receive comforting parcels from home, in time for Christmas. Plum puddings were highly prized for their capacity to travel well and their festive significance: “This year, owing to the shortage of certain classes of foodstuffs in the Motherland, these gifts, particularly plum puddings and fancy articles of food, should be more welcome than ever to the men in the fighting lines.”


Syndetics book coverOne of the most likely sources of the time for recipes of plum pudding would have been Mrs Beeton’s Every-day Cookery and Housekeeping Book as suggested in A Distant Feast : the origins of New Zealand’s cuisine by Tony Simpson (recipe p. 66).

Here are images of our own original copy of Mrs Beeton’s 1893 edition, available from our stacks on the second floor of the central library. It includes several versions of the Plum Pudding recipe (p. 379-381, pictured).

Mrs BeetonMrs Beeton Plum Pudding

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Syndetics book coverMrs Beeton was an incredibly popular influence in the  kitchens of the time and has remained a seminal influence in the art of cookery, as our collection bears testimony.
However, “her reputation as an innovator is unjustified“, according to Tony Simpson, author of A Distant Feast, who believes that Eliza Action should have claimed the title.
And indeed, Simon Hopkinson’s (British former chef and critic, considered to be one of the best cookery writers) quote on the cover of Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery for private Families stands as more than a stamp of approval: “The Author’s Christmas Pudding is as perfect as any festive pudding can be. I would not cook, nor eat I wish to eat, any other than Acton’s.” You will find her recipe p. 416 of this edition.

To read more about Eliza Acton refer to Syndetics book coverThe real Mrs Beeton : the story of Eliza Acton  by Sheila M. Hardy with foreword by Delia Smith.
For her own recipes, read Modern Cookery for private families : reduced to a system of easy practice in a series of carefully tested receipts in which the principles of Baron Liebig and other eminent writers have been as much as possible applied and explained  with an introduction by Jill Norman.

And finally, another source of recipes that has withstood the test of time is Auguste Escoffier’s A Guide to Modern Cookery. Published in English in 1907, it became a Bible for many generations of chefs and amateurs cooks. Hailed as one of the greatest chefs and food writers of all times, Escoffier redefined French cuisine and propelled it into the 20th Century, influencing cookery internationally.  Here is a photo of the 1951 reprint we hold in the stacks with Escoffier’s version of the very British Plum Pudding.

Mrs Beeton Auguste EscoffierEscoffier3

For more contemporary publications regarding “The King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings”, Escoffier’s nickname, check our catalogue here.

A very interesting documentary about Lady Liverpool and her war efforts, screened on TV3 News last August can be watched on this New Zealand History page with an accompanying article.

And for the francophiles out there, a recent episode of the highly entertaining food programme “On va déguster” produced by the French national radio station France Inter has a very informative piece on Auguste Escoffier. You can read and listen here! Bon Appétit et Joyeux Noël!

Nāku te rourou: Rēwena Starter Diary: Or, a Bewildered Beginning

Nāku te rourou is a fortnightly food blog focussing on Māori food and recipes. Don’t think Julie and Julia. Think kihini chaos, kānga pirau, and kai for the soul. Nau mai ki tāku kihini… Welcome to my kitchen.

4.24 pm Monday afternoon: I am not entirely calm about this week’s kai blog. Having volunteered (foolishly!) to get this food blogging ball rolling, I’m confronted with the sad fact I haven’t so much as seen a proper, hole-in-the-ground hangi in years, my kitchen is the size of a cupboard and, since moving to urban Pōneke five years ago, I’ve no idea where or from whom to get pūha, gather kaimoana, or find a decent eel. I’m not starting with much know-how, is what I’m saying.

But hei aha! I hate to pass up a challenge, and I’ve the great advantage of working in the whare pukapuka. This manu has an easier job ki te kai mātauranga when it’s all searchable via our catalogue. Our kai Māori books here at the library are diverse and there are some real taonga in the mix – I could (and will, at some later date!) write a whole blog just about them.

For starters, I decide to try a rēwena mix. This potato bread uses a fermented potato water mix as a rising agent rather than yeast, and the mix is called a ‘bug’. The bugs can live forever (it seems) and recipes and bug cultures are passed down families. Since my whanau’s not big on bread, I’ll be starting from scratch, and after some research, I’ve chosen two separate tohutao paraoa from our Māori cookbook collection at the library, calmed down a bit, and I’m underway.

Tuesday night, at home in my Aro Valley eyrie: I’ve equipped myself with a bag of rīwai from the dairy and I’m ready to try my first recipe. Recipe #1 is from David Fuller’s 1978 Maori Food and Cookery, which is full of delightful, archaic line drawings.

Fuller’s recipe calls for much more flour than potato, and a small amount of sugar, and needs to be mashed to a ‘fairly firm texture’ after the potatoes boil, then left in a warm place ‘to prove’. Oh no, I thought, here comes the wild yeast. Anyway, I duly follow the recipe, leave the starter on a warm shelf to ‘prove’ (read: ferment), and come back to check it a day later. It looks like a sludgy lump of dough and doesn’t seem to be rising. I don’t know what I did wrong. Aaaaaaargh! There will be no picture of this; it’s too humiliating. Also, too sticky. Time for plan B.

Cooking with Charles Royal (2010) is one of the latest heirs to the (rather small) genre of published Māori cookery books David Fuller pioneered. It’s a much more modern volume, and the rēwena starter recipe is quite different. After boiling, you remove the potatoes and only use the water they were boiled in (perhaps this was my mistake in the first recipe?), adding enough flour to make a ‘thin batter’. Then you prove it by leaving it for, according to Charles, up to two hours. I don’t have a hot water cupboard, so I put the covered bowl on the deck under the BBQ for shade before I left for work. I’m a bit dubious about leaving my baby bug to develop on its own while I toddle off to the wharepukapuka, but needs must.

Thursday evening: When I get home there’s a lovely surprise waiting for me. The bug has grown, and smells lovely and yeasty. It’s not super bubbly yet, which worries me a bit, but there are bubbles on the surface, and it’s early days yet.

The Bug
I hope you can see the bubbles. There are bubbles there, honest.

I’m just happy to have made something vaguely ferment-y! The bug is meant to be fed with sugar (again, for the recipe, see the book here) the night before it’s used. I’m hoping to get started on step two, making the bread, tonight or tomorrow night, so I wake up early on Friday morning to check on the starter. The whānau all arrived last night from the Coromandel and they’re keen to try anything that might have food value, but their stuff fills the entire house and I have a heart-stopping few moments when I can’t find my starter bowl! After a couple of minutes of screeching, I mean searching, I locate it perched on top of the heater after someone’s re-arrangement of the lounge. I feed it with a spoonful of sugar, get my teina to take some photos, and settle the bug on the window sill for the day.

Bug on Window Sill
Are you quite comfortable, my little bug?

Come tonight, I hope it’ll be bubbling and ready for the next step – the step in which I get to make delicious bread! I have to admit to some nervousness. I’ve never made rēwena before and neither has my Mum, so I’m flying blind here. But there are as many rēwena recipes, it seems, as there are cookbooks or rēwena cooks, so I’m by no means out of options! Next blog, instalment two of rēwena in which, fear not, photos of bready goodness and success will come.

Rārangi kupu:
“Nāku te rourou” – part of a well-known proverb (whakatauki) reading “Mau te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi”/ “with my food basket and your food basket, the iwi will thrive”. This emphasises cooperation between individuals for the wellbeing of the group.
Kihini – kitchen
Kānga pirau – sour corn
Kai – food
“nau mai ki taku kihini” – welcome to my kitchen
Hangi – a Māori earth steamer oven
Pōneke – Wellington
Pūha – sow nettles, boiled leaves used in Māori cooking
Kaimoana – seafood
“hei aha!” – whatever!
Whare pukapuka – library
Manu – bird
“ki te kai mātauranga” – “to consume knowledge” – references a well-known proverb, “Ko te manu kai i te miro, nōna te ngahere, ko te manu kai i te mātauranga, nōna te ao” – “the bird that eats the miro berry has the forest, the bird that eats of knowledge has the whole world.” (see also ‘manu’).
Taonga – treasure(s)
Paraoa – bread
Hinengaro – mind
Kōhanga – Māori language pre-school education
Pīpī manu – baby bird
Rēwena bread – potato-yeast bread
Paraoa poke – fried bread
Whānau – family
Tohutao – recipe
Teina – younger sibling of same gender