Cookbookery and Sauntering Gourmets

I’m no great shakes as a gourmet, but I do like to eat – so I cook. My essential guide is a 1997 permutation of the Edmonds (pages most decorated with food – Afghans). Here are my favourite cookbooks – even an ungifted amateur like me can conjure up yumminess galore with these stalwarts:

  • Fast vegies Australian Women’s Weekly – the cauliflower soup recipe is helping me use up old vegies in the fridge, getting the vegetable intake up and what is winter without soup?
  • The Moosewood Cookbook Mollie Katzen – originally bought for a poppyseed poundcake recipe but lots more to love in this classic which is focussed on natural foods
  • The Crabtree Bakery Cupcake Book Jennifer Graham – gastroporn at its most pretty
  • The Best of Alison Holst – the Mummy of them all, hearty menu mainstays to the fore.

I’m also looking forward to exploring Miss Dahl’s voluptuous delights – Sophie Dahl is possibly the only woman who could out ‘volupt’ Nigella Lawson.  And I have Bake by Allyson Gofton out of the library, but I think I need to get one on my bookshelf. Sheer damn baking genius.

How about some of you more gifted in the culinary arts reveal your faves?

Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a god!

While wandering through a bookshop several years ago, a book happened to jump out at me (as they do on frequent occasions).  After reading the blurb my immediate thought was this book was going to be amazing and I wasn’t disappointed.  The book was called The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a Spanish author whose work had just been translated into English.  It was one of those books that just blew me away and as soon as I opened it I was transported into post-Spanish civil war Barcelona.  The story is centred around a boy, Daniel, whose father takes him to a magical place called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  It is here that forgotten books come to rest and he has to choose a book to release back into the world.  He gets completely engrossed in the book and decides he must find out more about the author and so the book follows his journey of discovery with plenty of mystery, passion, books, and murder set in the misty streets of gothic Barcelona.

I got slightly obsessed with this book and when I heard he had written a prequel I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.  This prequel, which was just released this month is called The Angel’s Game.  I have once again found myself enthralled with the magic of Barcelona and the people and place familiar to me from Shadow of the Wind.

I can’t recommend these books enough and I know I’ll be haunted by the characters  when I come to the end of The Angel’s Game.  If you want to find out more about Carlos Ruiz Zafon or The Angel’s Game have a look at the author’s website.

Congratulations Anthony Browne!

Every two years I eagerly wait to find out who will become the next Children’s Laureate.  This prestigious title ‘is awarded once every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children’s books to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field.’  The idea for the Children’s Laureate came from a meeting between poet, Ted Hughes, and giant of children’s literature, Michael Morpurgo, and was first awarded to Quentin Blake in 1999. 

This year’s recipient is Anthony Browne, who hugely deserves the award for his contribution to children’s literature over the years.  For those of you who don’t know Anthony Browne, he is an internationally acclaimed author and illustrator of such picture books as Willy the WimpPiggybook, Silly Billy, and most recently (and one of my favourites) Little Beauty.  The detail of his illustrations is amazing and I always seem to find something different in them every time I pick up one of his books.  If you haven’t already, I suggest you pick up one of his books and delve into his world of wimpy chimps, soft-hearted gorillas, and lazy pigs.

You could also check out some other fantastic books by past Children’s Laureates:

More fun with Findus


This is another gem from the author and illustrator who brought us The Fox Hunt and Pancakes for Findus.  When Findus was Little and Disappeared by Sven Nordqvist features the characters we have come to know and love, the quirky and forgetful Farmer Pettson and his curious talking cat, Findus.
The story opens with Findus asking Pettson to tell him the story about how he disappeared. We are told of how Farmer Pettson was a lonely old man who lived in his quiet farm house all by himself, but one day, his neighbour Bertha comes for a chat and suggests that he needs some company. She suggests that he needs a wife and I just love his reaction:

I’m used to looking after myself. I’m too old now. A whole wife would be too much.

Pettson decides that he would quite like a cat to keep him company and so Bertha delivers a cat to him, which he calls Findus after the ‘Findus Green Peas’ box that he is delivered in.

The book follows the capers of Pettson and his curious new friend Findus, who ends up getting trapped in the garden after he spies a badger.

Both the text and the illustrations are superb and there is so much to discover in each. The illustrations are so detailed that there are so many things to find for curious children who like more than to just hear the story.

A great read for parents and children to enjoy again and again as I’m sure you will find different things in the illustrations every time.

Crocus Hour or Ladies, A Plate?

Voting in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards is one of my favourite civic duties, but this year, my mouse is hovering between two boxes :

The Crocus Hour by Charlotte Randall
A treasure box of ex-pat angst, taut family relationships and a mystery.

Ladies A Plate:Traditional Home Baking by Alexa Johnston

Any recipe book that has the recipes that I have failed to pry out of my Mother’s hands must be a potential award winner for me, and the rich historical detail makes this the Te Papa of cookbooks.

My vote is wavering between the domestic arts and the literary arts; my heart vs.  my stomach.

Recent necrology, 11-26 June 2009

Necrology – a list of notable people who have died recently. Now a regular feature on our blog.

  • Charles Arnold-Baker, 1918-2009 German aristocrat and intelligence officer who wrote a richly eccentric guide to British history
  • Cyril John Freezer, 1924-2009 Engineer and editor who inspired thousands of postwar schoolboys to become model railway enthusiasts
  • Michael Jackson, 1958-2009 American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman
  • Steve Race, 1921-2009 Musician and broadcaster who chaired all 520 episodes of My Music and devised Telegraph crosswords

RIP the King of Pop? – reports of the death of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson has reportedly died at the age of 50 and the World Wide Web is a-Twitter.

You may have debated his relevance in the current music scene but the online frenzy, information and mis-information show the King of Pop is a still a figure of major public interest –  locally Stuff’s article Michael Jackson’s dead had 96 comments as at 11:21am today. See also:

Visit Christchurch City Libraries for:

Music (and pancakes) makes the world go round

Although picture books are mainly aimed at children, there are some that come along from time to time that appeal more to adults and the new book by the illustrator of The Story of the Little Mole who Knew it was None of His Business is one of those. The book’s publisher, Gecko Press, describes Wolf Erlbruch’s new picture book, The Fearsome Five as ‘the story of five misfits who discover that what you look like doesn’t matter as much as what you do, and that being happy is a matter of attitude.’

Toad, Bat, Spider and Rat all believe that nobody likes them because they are ‘ugly’ and are feeling rather gloomy when Hyena comes along and tells them that it doesn’t matter what others think and that it is more important what you do. They all discover that they have hidden talents, including singing, whistling and making pancakes, and it is these skills that lead them to open a pancake palace. The music and the smell of the pancakes attract the other animals and they make some new friends.

The story and the style of the illustrations will appeal more to older children and adults, but the message of the story is universal.

Image of the Week

Administration building and portal on the Heathcote side of the Christchurch-Lyttelton Road Tunnel. Note toll booths [1964].

Administration building and portal on the Heathcote side of the Christchurch-Lyttelton Road Tunnel.

With even more changes planned for our beloved tunnel building, I thought I would post an image of this unique Christchurch feature as it was in 1964.

Like what you see? Complete this form to order an image. If you have any further information on any of the images, or if you would like to donate images to our collection please contact us. Want to see more? You can browse our collection here.

The time for ukulele is upon us

There's a uke to suit everyone
There’s a uke to suit everyone

If cupcakes are the hot trend in culinary circles then surely the ukulele is its musical equivalent. A diminutive version of the standard item and somehow cuter and more gleeful.  If you can listen to the upbeat tinkle of a jauntily strummed ukulele and not feel happier, or possibly even slightly warmer at the prospect of warm island summers then you may well be made of stone or something similarly cold and unfeeling.

Christchurch City Council’s Matariki programme which has been ongoing throughout June saw me attending a two day ukulele workshop at Ngā Hau e Wha Marae last week.  Led by local legend Pos Mavaega of Pacific Underground we newbies (several of whom had bought their ukes the day before) miraculously found some chords and strums and managed to cobble them together into some songs.

We did so well that somehow Pos has managed to talk our small band of uke-wannabes into performing during Pacific Underground’s set at Matariki at the Marae on Thursday night.  There will be other exciting things on offer at the marae as well including star-gazing with telescopes (I saw Saturn last night!), star-weaving, guest speakers and possibly the best pumpkin soup ever (do take them up on having a squirt of sour cream in it, it’s really good).

If you really can’t bear to leave the cosy warmth of your living room on Thursday to see our triumphant ukelele debut you can still get yourself uked-up.  Perhaps you prefer to go to a performance where the musicians have been playing their instruments for more than a week?  If so you might be interested to know that the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra will be performing as part of the Christchurch Arts Festival in August (but be quick, one of three performances is already sold out!).  And of course the library has a ton of ukulele inspiration to get you strumming –