Like many New Zealanders, I grew up eating Dame Alison Holst’s recipes that my mother made, watching her on TV, and then using her cookbooks myself.
She is a rare breed of cook in today’s world of reality chefs where it’s more about drama than food. Not for her, the art of fusion or artfully arranged tiny mouthfuls that take days to prepare using ingredients I’ve never heard of. She has always believed in good healthy food, being aware of budgets and using ingredients easily found in your pantry or local supermarket. She also helped us over the years to make sense of new equipment such as microwaves, food processors and slow cookers.
I am reading her 100th book; A Homegrown Cook, and the way she has lived her life, throwing herself into challenges with so much skill, endless energy and humility about her achievements she makes me wonder what I’m doing with my time. It’s simply and warmly written with no artifice, just like her cookbooks.
She’s written books and newspaper columns and appeared on television and radio. She has taught, given demonstrations raising money for charity and travelled the world promoting New Zealand produce. Her first books, Here’s How in 1966 and Meals with the Family in 1967, became absolute classics. (Christchurch City Libraries have copies in our Aotearoa New Zealand collection, perhaps they’ll be republished one day). Her books often ended up stained and dog-eared from use, just the way Alison says she likes them, it shows they are used not just looked at. My most used recipes are often hers and I gave my son her Very Easy Vegetarian Cookbook when he went flatting. Favourites in my collection would be The Food Processor Cookbook, Marvelous Muffins and her Bread Book.
The Library has over 65 of her titles to lend, do you have a favourite Alison Holst recipe, book or memory?