Book Review: Around the World in 80 Food Trucks, by Lonely Planet

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_around_the_world_in_80_food_trucksHands up if you remember pie carts? Oh, how times have changed! Food trucks are in vogue now and this book not only shares 80 different recipes from around the world but also tells us about the hard-working people behind the scenes, as well as the history of their business and their ‘truck’. Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, North and South America are all represented. The common formula is simple – fresh food, locally sourced and prepared by hand – although the vehicles and their owners are a truly diverse bunch.

Who can run a food truck? According to the New York city-based Caitlyn Napolitano, ‘Anyone with passion, gumption and a love of cooking’.

The rise of the gourmet food truck has apparently occurred in the last 10 years or so, coinciding with the growth of festivals and pop-up ventures. As most of the vehicles are mobile their owners are able to move from location to location according to the season or demand. A handful have expanded and now operate permanent restaurants as well.

The vehicles include an old fishing boat now on wheels, a truck covered in Astroturf, and a re-purposed dentist wagon (whatever that may be). One vendor operates from a vintage bicycle and ‘Little Bonnie Dot’ is an enchanting 1930s teardrop caravan. She rolls around the Australian countryside enticing people to her mobile tea parties.

Photos show the people running the trucks exuding happiness and enthusiasm. If there’s a downside to operating a food truck, it’s mentioned only in passing or not at all. Many of them say that the food they offer was inspired by visiting or living in other countries. Some saw a gap in the market they knew they could fill. While some operators have a lot of items on their menu, others have chosen to do one thing and do it well. The recipes have been invented, transformed, and sometimes passed down through generations. Many chefs are self-taught, although a few have undertaken formal study at places such as the Culinary Institute of New York and Ireland’s Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Although many of the featured recipes appear to be quick and easy to prepare, some require more forward planning, such as ingredients that need to simmer for a while and the pickle that must rest for at least 24 hours before use. Most recipes are for main dishes, although desserts are covered too – including pineapple-ginger ice pops, lemon waffles, and a superb caramel flan. There are lots of delicious-looking sauces, onion jams and marinades too. The index is organised by location as well as by the type of dish.

Two of the food trucks are based here in Aotearoa. Although the recipes include ingredients from around the world, most would be easy to find in your local supermarket; if not, there are suggested equivalents. (No mollete available? Use a soft bread roll instead.) The recipes are well-written and easy to follow. There’s a note about how many people each recipe will serve: typically 2 to 4, although the octopus serves 16 – and Banjo’s Blue Cheese slaw supposedly ‘feeds a crowd’.

There are Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter links for most trucks if you’d like to learn more about them. Here are a few to whet your appetite:

Belgian waffles in New York City

Earlsfield Sourdough Pizza

Hong Kong’s ‘Princess Kitchen’

Australian Greek Street Food

I’m always attracted to recipes with interesting names, so the Chakalaka Relish (hot and spicy, packed with vegetables, baked beans, and chopped chilies) is first on my list of things to try. I’m also intrigued by Curry Up’s Chana Masala recipe which includes chickpeas steeped in tea.

Sometimes you have to take a leap to be happy.’

  • Wes, an ex-advertising executive whose food truck offers more than 30 different types of waffles

The featured food truckers include former engineers, dental technicians, bankers and fashion designers – so if you’ve fantasised about throwing in your routine 9-to-5 job this book might inspire you to launch a new career. It will also appeal to those interested in recreating dishes from a favourite food truck, and anyone planning a trip abroad who would enjoy fresh food prepared in a novel setting. If you have limited space you’ll appreciate the book’s compact size – and as it covers a whole range of topics (including recipes, travel, people’s stories, and the history of the food truck scene) it would be equally at home on a bookshelf in a living room or a kitchen.

Reviewed by Anne Kerslake-Hendricks

Around the World in 80 Food Trucks
by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781788681315

 

Book Review: Unpacking Harper Holt, by Di Walker

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_unpacking_harper_holtWhat happens when your life doesn’t look the way you imagined it? Many of us face this challenge at some point during our lives – something unexpected happens and alters us, changes our view on life and what we do within it in a way that can never be undone, even if we want it to be.

Teenager Harper Holt has just moved to Melbourne, Australia, with her father Hugh and mother Helena. Harper has been warned, they’ll only be there for six months max. The Holts move so often that Harper never fully unpacks her belongings and cannot call any house her home. She is sick of always being the new girl at school, sick of leaving friends behind and having to make new ones, she just wants to stay in one place long enough to call it home. It has always just been the three of them as a unit, with their special bond, their jobs within that unit, and their weekly habits to tie them all together. But then something unimaginable happens and Harper Holt’s life will never be the same again, even though she wishes it could be.

Di Walker’s debut Unpacking Harper Holt is a Y A novel that explores the effects of grief, bullying and feeling lonely, even when you’re in a crowded place. Written as a novel for teens, complete with listed internet resources for dealing with bullying and grief, I was also struck by the feelings this work brought out in myself as an adult. Grief and loneliness is a personalised thing, everyone experiences it differently, but Di Walker manages to include everyone in the experience, to the point that the book reminded me of my own losses and experience of a world and viewpoint forever altered by something beyond my control. This novel explores the desire to control your own experience, the want to change things back to the way you used to know it, and the reality of there being no way back.

I recommend this novel for anyone going through a tough time, for anyone needing help in finding sunshine again. Unpacking Harper Holt provides a vision of what is possible in dealing with life-altering circumstances, how one can accept what life has dealt them and move forward into a new way of life. It shows how friendships and connection with others can help to heal the wounds of grief and bullying.

This book is perfect for that teenager in your life who needs help and reassurance. It is also a good read. In the future I could see this book becoming part of a school’s curriculum to help all students understand what lies behind bullying and also the potential effect of grief on fellow students as well as oneself. This isn’t something I’d normally pick up to read, but I’ve found it very therapeutic and highly recommend it.

Review by Penny M Geddis

Unpacking Harper Holt
by Di Walker
Published by Walker Books, Australia
ISBN  9781760650599

Book Review: Grandzilla, by Lisa Williams

Available in bookshops nationwide.

Grandzilla.JPGGrandmothers are on the whole these days neither old or little. Most of us are a lot younger than perhaps our own grandmothers might have been. Tessa hates hers and has therefore dubbed her Grandzilla. It is 2015 and her beloved grandfather Ed has just died, making her grandmother even more of a monster. Tessa had a close relationship with her late grandfather and during her grieving, she hits out continually with mean-spirited comments.

Her grandmother Tillie, though, has her own secrets. Tessa is of the generation that thinks nobody old can possibly have been an activist. The next thing we know, Tillie’s cousin Dawn turns up on her doorstep. ‘Notorious Terrorist sent home to die’ screams the news headlines. Dawn is dying of cancer.

Dawn had been serving a life sentence in a German prison. She was part of the committed terrorist attacks by the UF, a far-left militant group active 1967 – 1984 in what was then West Germany. Dawn was supposedly the mastermind of the 1968 kidnap of banker Dietmar Kriegbaum. She eluded capture after a shoot-out with police when one of their officers was killed. She managed to stay off the radar for three decades after fleeing Germany in 1970 to Edinburgh in Scotland where she worked as a pharmacist’s assistant. Dawn was captured in 2002 when her neighbor attended a performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and saw a reproduction of an old wanted poster with Dawn’s picture on it, as part of the play Revolutionary Disorder. She called her in, and Dawn went to jail.

Turning up on Tillie’s doorstep, Dawn wants to make peace with her cousin. Meanwhile Tessa works briefly at Betta-Mart, where she meets Todd and Cal who are part of a protest movement. Tension is high around the streets with police, and protesters clashing. Tessa gets involved, thanks to her friendship with Todd and Cal. Riots and violence become a shared experience between she and her grandmother,  bringing the two very different generations together.

This is a story that will resonate with most of us as we have seen many times on television protesters clashing in the USA and other countries around the world. Most protests involving violence are around race or religion, and this was fertile ground to explore the relationship between two generations.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Grandzilla
by Lisa Williams
Nationwide
ISBN 9780473448486

Book Review: Scarfie Flats Of Dunedin, by Sarah Gallagher with Ian Chapman

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_scarfie_flats_of_dunedinJust mention the words ‘Toad hall, ‘The Dog Box’, Footrot Flats’ or ‘Shrieking Shack’ to anyone who has studied at Otago University and these legendary flats will trigger a hilarious yarn or two of escapades during their scarfie days.

In 2000, while studying at the University, Sarah Gallagher was preparing a presentation on the theme of ephemera, and felt the signs on flats she walked among everyday were just what she was looking for. Scarfie Flats of Dunedin is a result of the eighteen year research project, ‘into the flats, their tenants and their tales’. Gallagher collected more than 600 names, the earliest dating back to the 1930’s , and these have been recorded in the rear of the book, as well as a map of the area noting the locality of all the featured flats.

Having been a student in Dunedin in the mid 1960’s I was intrigued by this title and keen to delve into the student sector of the city again. Many flats seem to be the same as when I left. Of course I have continued my connection with having two daughters study there and now my first granddaughter has recently graduated as a doctor, so we have seen some changes, but more likely just a coat of paint.

This hardback book has sat on my coffee table for a month and I have enjoyed the nostalgic journey with Sarah Gallagher as she learned how the flats got their names and who might have lived in them.

Interesting to see the TV Ones Seven Sharp programme visit one such flat recently, 660 Castle street, where the band Six60 had its beginnings in 2006. The boys had spent time jamming in their rooms at UniCol and ‘thought it would be good to flat together and get a band going’.

Other contributors have also added their point of view along with Dr Ian Chapman and the photographs brought it all together for me. Our family has pored over these with many a laugh and story.

Scarfie Flats will be enjoyed by many ages, as it is an engaging read, and well researched, a valuable record for Otago University but would sit well on everyone’s coffee table.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Scarfie Flats Of Dunedin
by Sarah Gallagher with Ian Chapman
Published by Imagination Press
ISBN 9780995110441

Book Review: A Mistake, by Carl Shuker

Available from today in bookshops nationwide. Launched tonight at Wellington’s Unity Books. 

cv_a_mistake.jpgI’m a sucker for any book about strong women, medicine, and Wellington. This book is a slam-dunk, because it covers all three, so, spoiler alert: I loved this book.

A Mistake, by New Zealand author Carl Shuker, follows a brilliant surgeon, Elizabeth Taylor, who is at the peak of her powers as a surgeon, but somehow continually getting in her own way as a human being. So devoted to perfection she will demolish an entire internal wall of her house to get rid of a barely perceptible imperfection, she has alienated almost every person she comes into contact with.

When surgery goes wrong and a patient dies, Elizabeth finds that the people and institutions she has sacrificed her adult life for would rather avert their eyes then stand by her. At the same time the government is preparing to publicly report surgical outcomes, with the potential to ruin a surgeon’s career overnight. Elizabeth has to navigate the opaque politics of the hospital, the DHB, and the medical community with enough skill to salvage her own career.

Elizabeth is, in many ways, not a particularly likeable person, so it is a huge tribute to Shuker’s skills as an author that I cared so much for her fate I could hardly put A Mistake down. A Mistake is a short book – only 182 pages – and Shuker writes with a brief, almost staccato style in places. Yet his characterisation is so deft I feel I know her like a friend. A friend who has continually battled the inherent sexism and deeply slanted gender politics of the medical profession for twenty years and still can’t rustle up one person she can actually rely on among her colleagues.

Elizabeth is a strong person with a laser focus on whatever task she decides to conquer, and an unbelievable loyalty to the teams of medical professionals she works with. She is also unpleasantly honest, demanding and not given to unnecessary niceties. This combination of behaviour raises her to the height of profession, and would be not only tolerated but rewarded and praised in a man. Yet for Elizabeth, this leads to her almost total alienation by her peers. It is a story that women have seen happen over and over again, and it is both slightly astonishing and deeply reassuring to see this recognised and reflected by a male author.

Interwoven with Elizabeth’s narrative is a parallel retelling of the timeline of the 1986 Challenger space shuttle tragedy. This might sound forced and out of place, but in Shuker’s hands it makes perfect sense, both echoing and enhancing Elizabeth’s story – in a complex machine, as in a human being, the smallest failure can lead to disaster. Even though the world knows how the Challenger’s trajectory played out, I still found I was racing to read the next instalment of the timeline.

Wellington plays a small but significant part in the charm of this book. It is surprising that it is still, in 2019, relatively rare to read a book that celebrates its New Zealand-ness rather than smothering it or bleaching it to the point it could be set in any country in the world. So it still feels to me like a fresh delight to read a book so assuredly set in New Zealand.

This is Shuker’s fifth novel and the first I have read. My unread books pile is threatening to engulf my entire house, but based on the strength of A Mistake, I’m willing to add the rest of Shuker’s oeuvre to the towering stack.

Reviewed by Emma Marr

A Mistake
by Carl Shuker
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN 978177656145

Book Review: Yackety Zac, by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_yackety_zacWhen Booksellers sent out an email recently with a photograph of children’s books to be reviewed, and an instruction to ‘choose 3’, it was a classic case of judging a book by the cover – or title, in this case. The title and cover illustration Yackety Zac pretty much tells you everything you are going to need to know about this book, and I HAD to have it.

Don’t think you won’t be surprised by Yackety Zac though.  Yup, Zac talks A LOT, but I wasn’t expecting his talk to be so precociously early, or in rhyme. The rhymes scan well, and trip of the tongue with ease. The language is also rich, and exposes children to words they might not otherwise use, in the best traditions of Lynley Dodd and Margaret Mahy – this is always a very good thing.

The illustrations are hilarious and vibrantly coloured. The expressions on the other character’s faces convey exactly everyone’s reactions to Zac’s incessant talking, while Zac is joyfully oblivious. I also love the subtle messages on the doctor’s clinic wall – a good reminder for everyone about the reason why we have two ears and only one mouth.

The solution to Zac’s problem is funny and clever, and a nice play on an old idiom.  It ties up the story in a satisfying.  It was school holidays when I reviewed Yackety Zac, so I enlisted the help of my friend Lucas, who is 7, to give me his opinion. He thought it was very funny, and liked the conclusion as much as I did.

Lucas and I highly recommend this book for children from 3 years and up, and I think it will be a useful resource for teachers in particular (despite the rather unflattering portrayal of a teacher in the book!), to raise the issue of taking turn while talking in a humourous and fun way.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Yackety Zac
by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Published by OneTree House
ISBN 9780995106451

Book Review: The Travel Book, by Lonely Planet

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_travel_book19Do you remember as a child of the 80s reading the Guinness World Book of Records with wide-eyes? Lonely Planet’s The Travel Book offers the same captivating experience. It’s a catalogue of every country in the world, laid out for you like a travel brochure, inviting you to sit back, relax and dream about where you could go.

The Travel Book coffee table tome offers a glimpse into each country – when to go, highlights to see, what local cuisine to savour, and a little bit of travel writer insight into the heart of each country’s culture. It’s an interesting read, and aims not to be an encyclopaedic reference, more a snapshot of the range and diversity on our planet.

Each page is a feast for the eyes with beautiful full colour images of the wonders of our world, natural, historic and cultural. Families will love this book, with kids having fun sharing the facts they learn; country size and population, official languages and capital city listed at the top of each page.

The Travel Book gives equal weight to every country, picking out what makes every place on the planet unique and worth wondering about. From Kiribati and Grenada to Canada and Ireland, every country gets its 15 minutes of fame in The Travel Book.

Imagine Agadez in Niger, one of the Sahara’s most romantic caravan towns, with an iconic pyramid-shaped mud mosque. Try a Bokit in Guadaloupe – a deep-fried pocket stuffed with saltfish, salad and creole sauce. Would you like to visit the 24,000 islands in the Swedish Stockholm Archipelago? I once spent a month in Sweden doing just that – although I only managed about ten of them, it was enough to plant a deep-seated love of the country.

Each country page also includes a ‘random fact’ – such as in Japan, it’s common to give gifts of fruit as a luxury product; one of the most expensive is the black-rind Densuke watermelon which can cost thousands of dollars.

The Travel Book is a great opportunity to take a moment out of your everyday to dream of faraway places and exotic cultures, challenging everything you know and are familiar with in your own life. Sit down with a bunch of post it notes and mark out all the places you want to see and experience, it might spark a booking to go there for real!

by Amie Lightbourne

The Travel Book
Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781787017634