Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, Friday 17 May, 4pm
Launched just three weeks ago, Lauraine Jacobs’ new book Everlasting Feast is the best kind of food memoir, one with lush food photography (by Elizabeth Clarkson) and some of her signature recipes. (All the flowers in the book are from Lauraine’s own garden.)
Lauraine Jacobs wrote for Cuisine magazine for many years and now writes for The Listener. In her new book, Lauraine tells colourful stories from her rich career in food and food writing in a way which is both educational and lively.
Lauraine has previously published ten recipe books and so felt with this book it was time to do something a bit different, to bring her love of story-telling together with her passion for food. Through close telling of her own journey with food, Lauraine explores the country’s journey in food since the 1950s. In this session, Lauraine spoke engagingly about both the national and international food scenes with a wry sense of humour and a sharp intelligence.
The book covers Lauraine’s life from a five-year old Brownie and is a very Auckland book, featuring the various places around the city where Lauraine has lived and worked. Lauraine has encountered many notable food writers in her career, especially through her involvement with the International Association of Culinary Professionals, which she first joined, then eventually chaired. Through the Association she met Julia Childs, who she said was a spirited raconteur who would often still be telling stories in the bar at 1am, a woman who truly earned her legendary title and who bought real cooking back to America in an era of Betty Crocker packet foods and tuna casseroles made with cans of Campbell’s soup.
Lauraine spoke passionately about the importance of starting our cooking from fresh, seasonal produce. In her book she writes in depth about her favourite ingredients: lemons, herbs, butter and salt.
She said her favourite quick meal is fresh fish with salad, which is a lovely fusion of those four ingredients – the lemon and butter enliven the fish, the salad is bought to life with lemon, herbs and salt. Lauraine somewhat controversially declared that ‘most New Zealand butter is rancid on the shelf’, that the paper packaging does not adequately keep it fresh and that for years she has bought Danish butter because it is cultured butter and as such tastes fresher. The local exception to this being Louis Road Creamery butter, which has caused her to buy local butter again. According to Lauraine, the best way to treat butter is to cut it into small cubes at the time of purchase, wrap them in foil, freeze and take out as required. She also believes that our local olive oils are better than most imports.
When asked by a member of the audience for what she considered one of her signature dishes, she chose her Red Salad (shown above) a salad developed for a special Christmas issue of Cuisine magazine, which she believes to be one of her most successful recipes. This recipe features in the new book.
When asked what the next trend would be in food, and she spoke hilariously about cake trends “Cupcakes are dead. Macarons have now been over done. Whoopie Pies never gained traction. Next up is the artisanal eclair.” She recently travelled to San Francisco and encountered beautiful eclairs there made with rich chocolate ganache and paper-thin pieces of dark chocolate as an embellishment. Apparently, the eclair is also on the rise in Paris, so we can expect to see them appearing in New Zealand cafes soon.
Lauraine was also asked what her ‘Desert Island Cookbook’ would be and she cited Constance Spry’s 60 year old The Constance Spry Cookery Book because it contains solid recipes for everything from casseroles to jams, but a more recent book which has inspired her is the Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.
According to Lauraine, one of the biggest changes in New Zealand food is how often we shop for ingredients now, the
notion of ‘the weekly shop’ is dying and people are shopping at
supermarkets on average four times a week now.
I really enjoy people with strong opinions plainly spoken, and Lauraine Jacobs delivered on this front. She is clearly a deeply intelligent person, with both an artistic flair for beautiful food and the analytical, forward thinking mind of someone who is always looking to the future of the food industry, how it might improve and change. This was an excellent, educational session and the hour flew by in an instant.
Further recommendations from Lauraine’s session:
- Recipe search and organising site
- Specialist food-writing bookshop featuring new and vintage food books
Written by Helen Lehndorf.
Thank you to Auckland Writers & Readers Festival for providing Helen’s ticket to this event.
by Lauraine Jacobs
Published by Random House
The Constance Spry Cookery Book
by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume
Published by Grub Street
Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Published by Ebury Press