Alison Holst – cooking saviour to the nation

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?

8 thoughts on “Alison Holst – cooking saviour to the nation

    • Laraine 7 March 2012 / 11:47 am

      That lasagna recipe is a right winner. I used to make the microwave version when I had a microwave, but it works just as well in an oven; just takes longer. It should be nominated for the status of “classic”. 🙂

  1. Robyn 7 March 2012 / 10:00 am

    I hold Dame Alison in the highest possible esteem and bought a ticket to see her when she was here talking about A Homegrown Cook but then couldn’t go. V. bitter, but love the books she has written with her son Simon.

  2. Marion 7 March 2012 / 10:25 am

    I checked the bookshelf and sure enough Alison Holst Cooks (as seen on television) was sitting there, Haven’t opened it in years. The contents were revealing – Creamy soups, other fish to fry, but what do you do with the forequarter, bread and cheese, bringing home the bacon, favourite apple puddings, creamy custards, bake a batch of biscuits…

    I can see it making a comeback!

  3. Claire 'Word by Word' 7 March 2012 / 10:32 am

    Wow, I live in the south of France and have two cookbooks from NZ, my trusty Edmonds and Alison Holst’s ‘Family Favourites’ but I remember having one of her books as a child as well. 100th book, that’s a lot of cooking, wonderful.

  4. Laraine 7 March 2012 / 11:51 am

    Alas, Dame Alison and her recipes weren’t around when I was a kid. I think the only cookbook my mother had was the Edmonds. What I love about Dame Alison’s recipes is their no-nonsense qualities–no having to buy expensive ingredients just so I can make them. Most of the ingredients would already be in my cupboard. I love her bread book (the one written with her son for both bread machines and making by hand) and Marvellous Muffin series too.

    • Michael A 8 March 2012 / 3:20 pm

      Her Bread Book is fantastic and the pages of mine are crusted together from use. I am not so fond of her meal cooking – find it all a bit bland. However, she remains a NZ icon and seems as humble as Sir Edmond was; just the sort of icon that NZers like best.

  5. Marion H 8 March 2012 / 11:30 am

    I have two cookbooks that are invaluable – 100 great wasys to use slow cookers and crockpots (with Simon) and Healthy and delicious muffins – and they are both – no butter (yoghurt and oil instead) and extremely delicious.

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