For me it all began watching my mum bake, I never thought of it as special, it was just something that was. (As a child you are so accepting, you just absorb all that learning on an unconscious level!) There were always cookies or a slice of some kind and a cake every week in the ‘biscuits’ cupboard. (There still is!) I remember watching my brothers’ friends making a bee line to it every time they came over gleefully scoffing the tasty snacks. Whenever we would go somewhere mum would always bring some kind of delicious baking that was always received with happiness and anticipation.
When I was 19 I went and did camp America for a summer and spent the next 6 months living in a tiny coastal town in central California. It was a friend’s birthday and I immediately wanted to bake them a cake but being in a flat situation there were no cookbooks. I rang mum (this was before the days of internet!) and got her chocolate cake and icing recipes. It was such a hit and it was my first realisation of the joy of making and giving food, and I was hooked. A week later I received in the mail the most amazing gift. Mum had hand written me a recipe book that contained all my favourite meals and baking. She called it a “taste from home” it was just the thing to abate my homesickness and gave me the opportunity to begin baking on my own.
I spent the next 14 years traveling and living in different countries and that book always came with me. I didn’t take it back packing but it was with me at my ‘base’ in London and I certainly used it a lot in the 9 years I lived in Sydney. Along the way I collected new recipes and mum sent me more of hers, always in her clear handwriting and simple instructions. That book is still with me, bulging at the seams from added recipes and covered in fragments of mixture and flour. (You can tell the most used recipes by the amount of mixture all over it!)
While living in Sydney I studied naturopathy, nutrition and massage. My 1st year nutrition teacher was to make the biggest impact on me. It was like someone had pulled back a curtain and shown me a whole new way of thinking about food. The different types of food, why your body needs it, what it does in your body, how it can affect not just your physical state but your mental and emotional as well. It was a huge learning curve for me as while I had had a relatively healthy diet I had never really thought about food before, just eating and drinking what ever I wanted.
Along with my fellow students we all became very full on about what we put in our mouths to the point of being a little bit obnoxious! My wake up call came when my friend told me she was afraid to have me over for dinner as 1) she didn’t know what to cook me and 2) she didn’t want a lecture on what she had made! It made me think about the meaning of food and about being grateful to those who made food for us. I thought back to how much joy people got from mums baking and that to me was the essence of it. Giving and sharing something delicious and nourishing (and lets be truthful, the praise is nice as well!).
As that curtain had been drawn back I couldn’t go back to eating everything I used to but I have the approach of being aware of what I eat but if we are out and we ending up eating fish and chips, then great! I am going to enjoy every greasy mouthful! On that note though on an everyday basis I try to keep my families food homemade and nutritious as I can. One of the big things I noticed is how much sugar was in the recipes I had. I started experimenting and found you could reduce the amount sugar or use alternative sweeteners like maple syrup and dates and they still tasted sweet enough.
For over 7 years I reworked all my mum’s recipes and created my own and have been influenced from macro traditions to wholefood to ayuvadic to everything in between. I have moved back to New Zealand, got married and had two children along the way to bring you this collection of recipes that I hope brings you as much pleasure as it does for me. I know they work, I have tried them all; some several, some literally hundreds of times! I am proud of this achievement and delight in hearing how others are enjoying it too. I don’t do intricate complicated recipes, just simple delicious baking that my family and friends love, ones which I hope yours do too.
Happy baking, and eating!