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/