I thought the three food writers involved in More Than a Pavlova Paradise more than capable of organising a decent feed and I wasn’t disappointed.
The ladies who lunch were out to do just that but there were a few men in evidence as well at one of the first events of the festival. NZ Book Month co-sponsored – the theme this year is Taste so it was a good fit and the Whittakers peanut slabs were a nice touch.
Kate Fraser, who does such a great job with Zest in The Press, was responsible for the Prawn, Grapefruit and Cucumber Cocktail entree, which she had to admit she had tweaked somewhat from the Highlander salad-dressing and tomato sauce dressed tinned shrimp dish of less than fond memory.
David Veart topped the table’s recall of Prawn Cocktails past with his reminiscences of working in a restaurant in Auckland where the patrons were given plastic corks to sniff and where the mixing of the dressing for the Prawn Cocktails was done by hand, or rather by arm in huge drums.
Richard Till confessed to feeling a bit of a fraud at a book event because of his vow to never add to the plethora of picture cook books, until going around and talking to people in their kitchens proved so much more attractive than real work.
His contribution to the menu, Mutton Backstraps with Scalloped Potatoes, Aoli and Green Vegetables, took him back to the days when as a restaurateur he found a butcher who supplied him with bags of mutton backstraps marked lamb fillet. And you heard it here first – Aoli is the new Highlander salad-dressing.
David Veart began his fascination with New Zealand cook books when he was researching his M.A. thesis on Maori market gardening in Auckland. He now has a collection of 600, arranged by his daughter according to the colour of their covers.
He is often asked if New Zealand has a national cuisine and thinks that if we do it involves the use of new ingredients in unusual combinations, like tamarilloes with meat, the use of offal (a necessity when the good bits of the animal got exported) and baking. According to Veart offal is back, with the nose to tail movement, so I was thankful that he was in charge of dessert, Lemon Delicous Pudding.
Proustian moments (yes, old Marcel was mentioned) abounded as the lunchers remembered cooks and books and all the occasions when people gather together to enjoy food and company, just as we did today.