Word of Mouth – a celebration of the food and wine books

The 8 day food festival, “Tasting Australia” has opened here in Adelaide with one of the biggest events being the “Feast for the Senses”, a two day extravaganza of food and drink held on the banks of the River Torrens over the weekend just past.  This is an enormously popular event, attracting thousands looking for a picnic treat in the autumn sunshine.    There were queues aplenty as I pushed my way through the feeding frenzy, gradually making my way over to a marquee at the far side where a more sedate consumption of words was taking place at “Word of Mouth” – a celebration of the spoken and written word in food and wine-related matters.

I managed to catch a little of a session on food security and sustainability, featuring cookbook writers Julie Biuso (NZ) and Jill Norman (UK) and the indefatigable Peter Cundall, who addressed what they see as the imperative of growing our own food.   Jill Norman pointed out that, with the recent cessation of international flights in Europe as a result of the Icelandic volcano, many fresh fruit and vegetables have become unavailable in the UK – a situation that would not be so critical if there were a return to the home growing of seasonal produce, rather than their reliance on imported products all year round.   This was followed by the session about food/travel journalism where “Selector” magazine publisher Paul Diamond, journalist Winsor Dobbin and writer Paul Mercurio  disabused the listeners of any notions they may have had about travel writing being merely “junkets”!  There was general despair about the amount of commercial “puff pieces” and advertorials in current travel journalism, with the panel advising any potential food or travel writers to be stringent in their checking of facts before submitting any written pieces for publication.

The final panel I sat in on for the day was a very popular discussion about Spanish cuisine.  The speakers were Melbourne chef Frank Camorra and writer Richard Cornish – authors of the multi-award winning “Movida” and their latest book, “Movida Rustica” – and John Barlow, author of “Everything But the Squeal”.    The Movida Madrilena was a movement that took place in Spain after Franco’s death and represented the resurrection of the Spanish economy and identity.  Spanish food, both traditional and modern, has become a significant marker of this and the conversation centred around how and why this is so.  Camorra pointed out that there are 17 different autonomous communities within Spain, each with their own regional languages and cuisines and each having wide autonomy to enable them to maintain their distinctions and diversities.  John Barlow’s book, “Everything But the Squeal” is a testament to this and he spoke of his experiences in Galicia as he travelled around the province endeavouring to eat every part of their  principal source of meat – the pig!  Camorra and Cornish both spoke of how tactile the food culture of Spain is.  There is a significant focus on food sharing and physical closeness and a habit of touching the food – with much eating with fingers!  It is  a culture which engages in a great deal of discourse about food, with cooking and dining being constant sources of discussion.  Camorra also spoke warmly of the generosity of the people when it came to sharing their food and recipes.  He and Cornish travelled extensively in the regional areas when compiling their latest book and frequently found it a great struggle to move on as their various hosts pressed them with food, wine and conversation.  Clearly a labour of love, this book, “Movida Rustica”, is a celebration of Spanish traditions and traditional cuisines and last night was awarded a prestigious “Gold Ladle” award at the Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards for Best Hard Cover Recipe Book (over 35 Euro)!

Three Wakefield Press books nominated for Le Cordon Bleu World Food media Awards

The biennial, international food and wine festival “Tasting Australia”, is coming up here in Adelaide in a few weeks time. It is a week long “foodie-fest” which also involves some industry events, including the awarding of the Le Cordon Bleu World Food media Awards. This year South Australia’s own Wakefield Press has had three of their publications nominated for the prestigious awards – “The Blue Ribbon Cookbook“, by Liz Harfull has been nominated for Best Hard Cover Recipe Book (under 35 Euro) and Lolo Hobein’s “One Magic Square” and John Barlow’s “Everything But the Squeal” have both been nominated for Best Food Book.  The nominations come from a jury of over 50 international food industry professionals looking at the best the world has to offer in the field of food media and Wakefield Press have every reason to be deeply chuffed for scooping three nominations in such a competitive arena!

Liz Harfull’s “The Blue Ribbon Cookbook” is a joy to look at and thumb through with the format a credit to the book designer.  It is the first book to pay tribute to the – mostly country – cooks who enter the agricultural and horticultural shows of South Australia.  Inspired by a book of artwork from US State Fair posters and recipes,  Harfull, who is originally from the South East but now lives in the Adelaide hills, spent over  seven months researching and writing, attending the country shows and visiting the prize-winning cooks out of show time.  The book features a story on a prizewinning cook from each of the area shows, with one of their winning recipes.  This isn’t haute cuisine, but the kind of food a lot of us were brought up on – or wish we were – so if you are looking for a completely reliable recipe for lemon slice or homemade pasties, I’d suggest that you start here!  Each entry is accompanied by plenty of full colour photo’s of the cooks and their food, the shows and a wealth of archival photo’s, some dating back to the beginning of the last century.

Lolo Hobien is another denizen of the Adelaide hills, having emigrated with her husband and children to Australia from  Holland in 1958.  She is no stranger to nominations, with “One Magic Square” winning a Gourmand World Cookbook award for Best Innovative Cookbook in 2008 and the Bicentennial/ABC Fiction Award for her earlier novel, “Walk a Barefoot Road”.  In “One Magic Square” she shows how it is possible to have a productive food garden in as little as a single square metre.  With many well-intentioned veggie patches failing because of ambitious beginnings, she suggests designs, planting tips and pointers on soil maintenance which should put home grown produce within the reach of all of us.  Easily accessible for the novice gardener, this book also offers  suggestions for the more experienced gardeners – and I know some – who enjoy dipping in and out at random.

Everything But the Squeal” is written by Englishman John Barlow, who now lives in Spain with his wife and son.  In it, he documents his year of traveling around Galicia to fulfill his goal of eating every bit of the pig which is the dominant meat in that damp, green north-western corner of Spain.  To achieve this he determinedly makes his way through astonishing amounts of rich, fatty, but frequently very tasty piles of pork in every possible incarnation.  In the process he both observes and takes part in many of the cultural celebrations of Galicia, some of them dating back to pagan times, including one called “Dirty Day” which I cannot even begin to describe!   He meets up with some surprising locals and becomes familiar with a breed of pig that was considered extinct up until less than 20 years ago, but is now making it’s way onto the plates of gourmets around the world.  This is really a very affectionate homage to both pork and the people of Galicia and a very amusing read.  Having said that, I did read most of it in one sitting, subsequently dreaming of pork all night and, on waking, felt ever so slightly queasy.

Amanda McInerney is a book and food lover from the Adelaide Hills.  She writes her own foodie blog at: http://lambsearsandhoney.com/

September Book Giveaway


Let this month’s prize pack take you on an unforgettable journey – globe-trot with Joel Magarey, get lost among the desert elephants of Namibia, pig out in northern Spain. Relax and soak in William McInnes’ reflections on his father, and unleash your inner-child with the hottest children’s releases. The pack includes:

A Man’s Got To Have A Hobby by William McInnes SIGNED

Ivory Moon by Sally Henderson

Exposure: A Journey by Joel Magarey

Everything But The Squeal by John Barlow

Schooling Around: Robot Riot! by Andy Griffiths

Looking For Flavour by Barbara Santich

It’s Yr Life by Tempany Deckert & Tristan Bancks

Gone by Michael Grant

The Greatest Blogger In The World by Andrew McDonald

To go into the draw to win these books, just complete the entry form here. Entries close September 30, 2009.

Ivory Moon
Everything But The Squeal


When you join our Facebook Group, not only do you become a part of one of Australia’s fastest growing online book groups, you also go into the draw to win prizes! This month, one lucky member will win a pack that includes:

The Pheonix Files: Arrival by Chris Morphew

Brainjack by Brian Falkner

Big Stories From Little Lunch by Danny Katz, illustrated by Mitch Vane

Scatterheart by Lili Wilkinson

Allie McGregor’s True Colours by Sue Lawson

Tales From The Labyrinth/The Stone Ladder by Peter Lloyd

Jetty Road by Cath Kenneally

Chinese Cinderella: The Mystery of the Song Dynasty Painting

Big Stories From Little Lunch


Allie McGregor's True Colours

Tales from the Labyrinth / The Stone Ladder

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Black Dog Books, Hachette, Hardie Grant Egmont, Pan Macmillan, Random House, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.