I’ve recently read or re-read three books that deal with new aspects of familar subjects: Ancient Egypt, the Discovery of America and Pompeii.
Mary Beard’s Pompeii : the life of a Roman town, follows a book that I thought was the definitive work on the subject released only in 2005. That book was readable and informative. However, true to form Beard’s managed to make one reassess preconceptions of an overworked topic. She critically reassesses the casualty rate (many of the bodies were those of people returning after the eruption), the location of bodies (cynically noting how the discovery of corpses seemed to coincide with the arrival of prominent visitors in the eighteenth century), makes one think twice about the alleged bawdiness of the city (not every other house was a brothel) and points out that the life of the place was not fixed: the buildings were a confused melange of several centuries rather than a town whose buildings all date from the same decade. Her main success is in bringing the place and its people alive and making one think twice before accepting the conclusions drawn by archaeologists.
A similar achievement is performed by my other two authors:
It may not be common knowledge amongst the general populace but librarians love a nice morning tea and what could be more fitting in preparation for celebrating our national day, than indulging in a little food nostalgia?
- Home made : stories and recipes from New Zealand stove tops – A collection of New Zealanders’ family recipes and stories behind them as passed down through the generations. Includes historic photos and images of the recipes. They have thought of everything, including a pocket at the back for you to add your own favourite family specialties.
- Ladies a plate : traditional home baking – Johnston is a dedicated home baker herself, and has searched through hundreds of manuscripts and community cookbooks from the early to mid twentieth century. She tested the recipes herself to find the best version of some of our well known favourites. This is a pretty good looking book, with lots of recipes and historical material.
- The Edmonds cookery book – Keep it “old school” with this 1914 edition of the beloved cookbook which is now available online. The cinnamon scones sound nice but I might pass on the tongue omelet, just quietly.
- First catch your weka : A story of New Zealand cooking – In which author David Veart investigates just how our Kiwi “style” of cuisine came into existence (no wekas were harmed in the production of the book).
And if all that isn’t enough to have you dreaming of lamingtons over the long weekend then check out our page on iconic Kiwi foods. Dig in!