My youngest granddaughter Emily and I are busy in the kitchen making little Chinese sponges together. I’m teaching her how to crack eggs and to whisk them with sugar until they are creamy. Then we measure and sift the dry ingredients, fold them in and add one tablespoon of oil. Granny Shirley “Mama Chan, whose recipe it is, assures us this little bit of oil will make all the difference.
Spooning the batter into little muffin pans turns out to be a messy job for a beginner but after some mopping up they are into the oven. They come out perfectly, tender inside and crusty out. And what is especially good about these is that they are dairy free, as Emily is.
This was the first recipe we cooked from Love & Food at Gran’s Table by Natalie Oldfield. Soon to be followed by Australian damper, a bacon and egg pie and rhubarb crumble. All tried and true recipes that are bound to become family favourites and which our granddaughter will soon be able to cook for us at family get togethers.
But Love & Food at Gran’s Table is much more than a book jam-packed with treasured family recipes. It’s full of stories about 60 special grans from around the world .They and their children and grandchildren reminisce fondly about good food shared around the family table.
Auckland born Natalie Oldfield wrote this book as a tribute to her two grandmothers Dulcie May Booker and Nana Rita Burrell and the love of cooking they inspired in her.
Many of the grans had to pick up cooking skills for themselves, or learnt just by watching their mums with no written recipes to guide them .They cooked from scratch with basic ingredients but still managed to feed their families generously and well.
The kitchen was women’s domain. As Janet Blackwell commented:
I have been married to John Blackwell for 52 years, and he has seldom cooked a meal in all that time!
Jenny Ngau is one of the few grans ( 5 children and 13 grandchildren) who is married to a husband who likes to cook, but she does divulge that it’s always best done by one OR the other.
Baking was especially popular with these grans so there are plenty of biscuits, cakes, pies and desserts to tempt you into the kitchen. As well as savoury dishes such as smoked ribs, meatballs and homemade preserves and chutneys.
Many were keen to pass on their culture through food to the next generation so there are traditional recipes from different countries including Croatia, Scotland, the Lebanon, Samoa, and Japan. The Swedish Gravad Lax (dill –cured salmon), French potato pie, Japanese sesame raw fish and Scottish black bun all look delicious and are not difficult.
It’s not often that you find Dutch recipes in New Zealand cookbooks so I was especially delighted to find two here. The bitterballen are tiny deep-fried meatballs with a crispy coating. This cocktail snack is a great favourite in Holland. The second recipe is for poffertjes. These tiny puffy pancakes are much loved by Dutch children. They are usually sweet, served liberally dusted with icing sugar and a dab of butter so the savoury ones in this cookbook are a healthy alternative.
For many readers Love & Food at Gran’s Table will bring back fond memories of their own special grans. We had one in our family, my mother-in -law who each Sunday evening invited her children and grandchildren over. Looking back I think we rather took the effort involved in cooking all those roast dinners for granted. Wasn’t that just what grandmothers were supposed to do?
It’s great that this piece of social history has been published and a lovely way to honour these 60 grans from around the world. They deserve their spot in the limelight. Through their hard work and unselfish generosity they were often the glue that held families together.
Throughout the book the message in that love and cooking are inseparable. And it’s sprinkled with good advice. I especially liked Ruth White’s “My Life lesson is simple- have a good attitude towards life and a gin and tonic in the evenings always helps’
Love &Food at Gran’s Table
Author: Natalie Oldfield
Published by PQ Blackwell