Book Review: Hudson & Halls, the Food of Love, by Joanne Drayton

Available in bookshops nationwide. This book is shortlisted for the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-fiction in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 

cv_hudson_and_hallsHudson & Halls, The Food of Love is a wonderful book. Far more interesting than just their cooking, this tells the story of their two lives – in the spotlight, and in private.

Drayton has done a great job of researching their backgrounds and giving an insight into their personalities. While their television personas were very flamboyant and upbeat, their personal lives contained a lot of sadness. Peter Hudson grew up not really knowing who his real mother (whose background could be a whole book in itself) was, while David Halls pretty much knew who he was – but subconsciously realised it wasn’t what his family would accept.

The fact they came from opposite sides of the world and from very different backgrounds meant nothing once they met – it was like they found their soulmates and their purpose in life. I’m still a little astounded a shoe salesman and a shipping clerk ended up being celebrity chefs, but hey, this was the 1970s when anyone with ambition could become a star!

The book included a lot of things I never knew about the couple, probably because I was a teenager when they were at the height of their fame here. I didn’t know about their shoe shop or their restaurant, and I’m not even sure I knew about their move to the UK after New Zealand television ended their reign.

As a homosexual couple, Hudson and Halls lived in conservative New Zealand during a time of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, but they were genuinely liked by many and a lot of homes owned at least one of their cookbooks. Despite this they certainly suffered some harsh criticism both here and in the UK (if the reviewer of one of their television series published her review today, there would be an outcry and she’d be rightly vilified), but they never gave up.

I doubt many people would have kept going despite so many rejections, but reinventing themselves was something Hudson and Halls did time and time again.

While I knew neither man was still alive I did not recall details about their deaths, and reading about what happened deeply saddened me. I always remembered Hudson and Halls and their spats in the kitchen, but Drayton’s book means I will now remember them more fondly, like a pair of slightly eccentric uncles who could always be relied upon to liven up any family gathering.

At the end of the book Drayton shares how long it took her to write the book and how many setbacks she had along the way. I’m very pleased she persevered and made the effort to talk to as many people who knew the couple as possible. I think that is what sets this book apart – the photos are like looking into someone’s personal photo album (which it sounds like she was permitted to do), and the memories of their friends are what elevate it from a mere biography into a very personal look into Hudson and Halls’ lives. I’m sure they’d be horrified at some of the personal recollections of their friends, but the book would be poorer without them. Their friends and family have shared some intimate memories but the book is definitely not voyeuristic.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Hudson & Halls, the Food of Love
by Joanne Drayton
Published by Otago University Press
ISBN 9781988531267