Trash or treasure? Allyson Gofton’s Country Calendar Cookbook

I’m guessing that you wouldn’t expect to find a cookery book in the Trash or treasure list, but this one is something special. Allyson Gofton’s Country Calendar Cookbook celebrating Country Calendar’s 45th anniversary.  Tui Flower sure did “knock the chef out” of her and the food writer in. I went to the book launch in Oxford, North Canterbury. What made the afternoon and the cookbook such a delight— is this book’s subtitle “Our people, their food”.

Country Calendar CookbookDivided into seasons, each set of recipes is grouped by the families that cook them. The families, their land and their stories are each introduced, and then each recipe is enhanced with more family stories and Allyson’s tips. Instead of primped and posed food shots, there are pictures of people, plants, land and animals, as well as beautifully photographed simply presented food, mostly cooked by the families themselves.

This book is as far removed from the normal fare of cookery book as a single-serve prepackaged chicken breast in the supermarket is from a home kill pig, spit roasted and shared with friends in the shade afforded by the canopy of an apple orchard. It is a treasure. A sample of our people — fishermen, farmers, market gardeners. their lives, and their food. A slice of New Zealand, all to savour.

Trash or treasure? Outpost by Adam Baker

I can’t take it any more – I just have to complain.  Bitterly.  And at length.

With a name like Outpost, a tagline like “They took the job to ESCAPE THE WORLD. They didn’t expect the WORLD TO END” (and yes, the all-shouty capital letters are as presented), and a cover picture of a hazard-suited dude watching a burning city, it was always going to be either Trash or Treasure.

Sadly for Adam Baker, I’m placing this one firmly in the Trash category. Despite rave reviews from publishers on Amazon, lots of kudos from authors like Stephen Leather, and a general vibe that this is a great and gripping read, I’m not feeling the love.

The premise? Absolutely fab – what’s not to love here. A wintering-over skeleton crew marooned on an Arctic oil rig as civilisation falls to a global pandemic. The characters – hmmm, a little flat (conflicted chubby reverend Jane, dreadlocked dope-growing Sikh engineer Ghost, tattooed ex-con Nail, codeine-addicted doctor Rye: can you say walking cliche?). Tolerable, although there’s no real character development.

The storyline? Well, let’s just say, how many disaster scenario locations can you squeeze into one book? We’ve got the almost abandoned oil rig, the scientists marooned on the ice, the actually abandoned Russian research station full of biohazards, the crashing-in-front-of-their-eyes space station pod (with dying cosmonaut), the floating cruise liner (with infected ravening hordes), and I’m still only halfway through the book.

The thing that’s really tipping the balance, though (because despite all this, I can still see the potential), is the STYLE of the thing.  Every page has strings of sentences like this: “Flash of lightning. She let her eyes adjust. A seething ocean. Surging, frothing waves.”  Every single page. It’s like Dick and Jane Visit the Apocalypse. Can I make it to the end of the book? I don’t know. Do I even want to?  I don’t know. Also, there’s a sequel …

Have you read it? Vote below – trash or treasure? Or suggest some similar books that I might enjoy …