By Sarah Davy
Being a sucker for vintage recipe books, I recently came across a slim black volume in a Murchison second-hand shop, called the Personality Cook Book. Compiled as a fundraiser for the Petone Free Kindergarten in 1971, it contains 149 ‘Favourite recipes from New Zealand’s leading personalities and the cast of Coronation Street’. Annie Walker (‘Trifle’), Len Fairclough (‘Lancashire Hot Pot’), and everyone’s favourite, the cantankerous Ena Sharples (‘Quiche Lorraine’), grace the front cover, but I was curious as to who would be among the ‘leading personalities’ 42 years ago in New Zealand.
Hero image: Advert of a woman in a bikini with the writing 'Squash & Sauna Centre, Lower Hutt, on her stomach.
It turns out there were several broad celebrity categories:
- Politicians: Robert Muldoon [note 1.] (‘Pineapple Whip’), John A Lee (‘Swagger Steak’).
- Sportsmen: All Blacks Colin and Stan Meads (‘Steak Stew’ and ‘Twenty Minute Wonder’ [2.]), Peter Snell (‘Pork Chops with Tamarillos’).
- Clergy: Bishop Alan Pyatt (‘Melon Au Surprise’).
- Those working in the arts: author Barry Crump (‘Huhu-Grub Hor’deuvres’ [sic]), artist Guy Ngan (‘Raw Cole Slaw’).
- And a range of others, including: activist Patricia Bartlett (‘Light Wholemeal Bread’), shearing expert W. Godfrey Bowen (‘Sweet and Sour Pork’), and the fabulously named Mrs Kenneth Franzheim III, ‘wife of the American Ambassador’ (‘Apricot Souffle’).
There were three named Māori contributors: All Black George Nepia (‘A Biscuit Cake’), New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (N.Z.B.C) announcer Marama Martin (‘Chocolate Cheesy Chews’), and Ralph Love, who provided an extremely detailed description of ‘How to Make a Real Hangi’ for 30-50 people (with a guide to its correct pronunciation – ‘HA as in Ha Ha’).
Food-wise, in keeping with our Pakeha meat and three vege preference of the period, the recipes are primarily for meat dishes (mainly beef), desserts and baking, although there are some diverse recipes like a Burmese chicken dish and a Hungarian goulash from mountaineer John Pascoe (‘O Nho Ko Swe’ and ‘Tarhonyia Goulash’); and songwriter Peter Cape’s ‘Paella Nuova Zealanda’ contains pipis, cockles, mussels and winkles. Cricketer Bert Sutcliffe contributed a family recipe called ‘Mum’s Hash’, a fruit and suet pudding dating back three generations, while Liz Brook, the Women’s Editor of the Evening Post, came up with ‘Pink Elephant’, a confection of jelly, cream and chocolate chips.
The final section is titled ‘Unusual Savoury Dishes’, which contains items like baked potatoes and stuffed peppers (courtesy of Corrie’s Bet Lynch) which have long since entered the realm of the everyday, as has Ian Cross’s dish of ‘Egg Curry for Lunch’. Barry Crump’s ‘Pan-Fried Possum’ is a different story however: he advises ‘the ones you see on the road are not usually the best [to use]’.
The largest category of contributors was those working in New Zealand broadcasting, for the N.Z.B.C. Television personalities included Ian Johnstone (‘Chocolate Coconut Squares’), Irvine Yardley (‘Gingernut Refrigerator Cake’) presenter of the W.N.T.V programme On Camera), producer Maurice Smyth (‘Veal Louisa’), and gardening expert Reg Chibnall (‘Passionfruit Cheese’). Announcers Philip Liner (‘Almond Pudding’), Peter Brian (‘Zabaglione’) and Bill Toft (‘Trout with Cream’) appear alongside broadcasters Merv Smith (‘Fried Chicken Supreme’), Robin King (‘Rich Caramel Custard’), Kate Harcourt (‘Pikelets’), Cherry Raymond (‘Drip Stew’) and Barbara Basham (‘Quince Honey’), who was ‘Deputy Editor, Spoken Features, N.Z.B.C’ (and Aunt Daisy’s daughter).
Some of these names were new to me, so I chose to find out more about a couple of them. ‘Doreen’ (‘Apple Custard Pie’) intrigued me because she did not have a given surname. This was apparently because she valued her privacy. Known as the ‘queen of radio talkback’ [3.], from 1965-1975 she broadcast Person to Person, a popular talkback radio programme on weekday afternoons on Wellington station 2ZB.
Doreen was Australian by birth, worked at the station for 32 years, was married to Bill Kelso and lived in Seatoun. In 1972 she published a spin-off cookery book from the programme, called Cooking With Doreen: Person to Person [4.].
We have an audio clip of the show here from Doreen’s first broadcast of the talkback feature called Telephone Time in 1965: it’s useful if you need to rescue a burnt pot, or get good crackling on your pork roast! (Click below to listen)
Invercargill-born Alex Lindsay (‘Casserole of Kidney & Mushrooms in Red Wine’), accomplished violinist, was the Concertmaster of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (N.Z.S.O) when he died suddenly, aged 55, in 1974 [5.]. He studied at the Royal College of Music in London, and worked between NZ and the UK throughout his career, as part of the London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras as well as the N.Z.S.O, which he led from 1967. His legacy in New Zealand music is recognised through an annual N.Z.S.O scholarship in his name.
As well as an unlikely source of New Zealand broadcasting and celebrity history, the Personality Cook Book, with its many advertisements, is also a snapshot of Petone businesses, industry, tradespeople and organisations in 1971. John Bidwill Ltd sold lamps and lampshades from the Labour Hall in Beach St, Frederick Hough was a ‘car trimmer and upholsterer’ in Heretaunga St, Dave’s Delicatessen in Jackson St sold ‘Bacon, Hams, Cold Meats, Cooked Chicken’, Dick & Watt Ltd supplied ‘Status Badges’ and ‘Presentation Medals’ in Victoria St. Breeze Clothes Lines in Sydney St was the place to go for ‘all revolving clothes line requirements’, and the Jeanette Beauty Salon in Jackson St was Petone’s ‘permanent waving specialists’.
An advertisement, reflecting prevailing attitudes to women is one where the words ‘Squash and Sauna Centre Lower Hutt’ are written in marker pen across the stomach of a (headless) woman in a bikini, lying on a leopardskin print blanket.
The female target readership of the cook book generated job advertisements for housewives: ‘Female operators’ were sought by the tobacco company W.D. and H.O. Wills (offering ‘subsidised meals’ and ‘generous staff buying privileges’) as well as by the Wellington Drug Company.
Brands and products of the period can also be found: anyone remember Avon Pies, AWA sound equipment, Old Spice, Cyclax cosmetics, Sanitarium Cornflake Crumbs (‘gives a lighter crispier food coating’), Vitadol or Debonaire kitchen units?
This small black recipe book has taken me on an unexpected journey into our culinary, social, celebrity and broadcasting history, and underlines the power of community cookery books as an awesome historical source.
With grateful thanks to Petone Free Kindergarten for granting permission for reproducing parts of the book.
[1.] Caricatures of personalities by ‘Mr John Morrison, Screen Art Productions Ltd.’
[2.] A baked pudding served with jam and custard.
[3.] ‘Doreen – queen of radio talkback’, http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/local-papers/the-wellingtonian/features/6314943/Doreen-queen-of-radio-talkback, accessed 3 January 2014.
[4.] Doreen’s books, papers and photographs are held at the National Library http://natlib.govt.nz/items?utf8=%E2%9C%93&text=doreen+kelso
[5.] ‘Alex Lindsay’, http://www.nzso.co.nz/education/alex-lindsay-award/alex-lindsay/, accessed 3 January 2014.