Ladies A Plate wins PANZ design award

September 5, 2009

 Ladies A Plate, the 21st century tribute to 20th century baking, won the PANZ design award.

It’s a lovely book – so good that mine has gone north for a while with a student who uses it for stress release.

Charmian Smith from the ODT interviewed its author, Alexa Johnston, when the book was published last year:

In the 1970s, as a feminist, she believed political and social change were necessary for women to have control of their own lives, but she still chose to bake as a hobby.

“Feminism is about choice and baking was a choice. For some women it was a huge relief not to have to bake.

“Now where feminism is, it is still possible to make a choice, and I think baking is a better way of spending your time and money than going out and buying stuff – and you end up with a better result, too,” she said.

“When you bake for other people it gives them pleasure as well. It’s a bit of a win-win situation.”

I used to bake several times a week but when I stopped feeding our staff I stopped baking too.

However, now I don’t have to do it I sometimes choose to do it and have come to enjoy baking again.

A gift from the home kitchen is a gift from the heart which, as Alexa says, brings pleasure to the baker and the recipient.


Montana Book Award Finalists announced

June 2, 2009

The finalists in the Montana Book Awards include, The 10pm Question by Kate De Goldi which won the NZ Post Children’s Book Award.

Ladies A Plate: Traditional Home Baking by Alexa Johnston is a finalist in the Lifestyle and Contemporary Culture section. This is an intergenerational book. It’s full of recipes my mother used to make and I gave a copy to my daughter.

Another finalist in that section is The Pavlova Story: A Slice of New Zealand’s clinary History by Helen Leach (and yes, records show it was cooked in New Zealand before Australia).

The full list of finalists is here.


Ladies a plate

November 2, 2008

The smell of baking always takes me back to my childhood and the delight of coming home from school to the warmth of the kitchen and Mum’s freshly baked biscuits and cakes. 

My brothers and I liked to help her although, just how helpful we were is a moot point when much of our assitance involved testing the raw mixture in spite of her warnings it would give us worms.

Bought biscuits made very rare appearances in our home and ironically were regarded as treats because familiarity blunted our appreciation of Mum’s baking which was far better.

When I left home Mum’s recipes went with me and baking was a regular work avoidance activity when I was a student.

My mother-in-law was a champion baker, renowned for both the quality and quantity of what she produced. One or her nephews recounts the story of sitting in her kitchen, enjoying her baking as she tipped the contents of a cake tin into the hen bucket to make room for the fresh biscuits.

When I moved to the farm it went without saying that I was expected to bake too so there would always be something in the tins for workers, stock agents and anyone else who dropped in.

And I did for several years then both my farmer and I decided we’d be better off without baking so I stopped.

Our daughter was still at primary school at the time so I said I’d buy biscuits for her lunch. She enjoyed the novelty of that for a while, but then started baking herself because real biscuits were much nicer than bought ones.

While I’ve never gone back to baking at least once a week as I used to, I haven’t given it up completely.

Every now and then when the mood, or work avoidance, takes me; a special occasion calls for something sweet or a treat from the kitchen is required I get back in to baking, and doing it irregularly makes it much more enjoyable.

And I’m not alone in finding this domestic art can be fun because I read that home baking is back in vogue and Alexa Johnston has written a book about it, called Ladies A Plate.

Charmian Smith interviewed her and found:

In the 1970s, as a feminist, she believed political and social change were necessary for women to have control of their own lives, but she still chose to bake as a hobby.

“Feminism is about choice and baking was a choice. For some women it was a huge relief not to have to bake.

“Now where feminism is, it is still possible to make a choice, and I think baking is a better way of spending your time and money than going out and buying stuff – and you end up with a better result, too,” she said.

“When you bake for other people it gives them pleasure as well. It’s a bit of a win-win situation.”

The rest of Charmian’s interview of Alexa is here.


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