Auckland Writers Festival: Stephanie Alexander and the Everyday Delight of Food

Stephanie Alexander is desperate for our children to fall madly, deeply, truly in love—with food. And with over ten per cent of Australian primary schools participating in the Kitchen Garden Foundation program (also inspiring the New Zealand version, Garden to Table) she has, shall we say, made a big dent in the Australasian food-love soufflé.

Stephanie Alexander (Simon Griffiths) 2006

Stephanie Alexander (Simon Griffiths) 2006

Here’s how to foster a child’s life-long love of food, Stephanie Alexander style:

Copyright Caroline Barron 2015

Copyright Caroline Barron 2015

“I’d built a deep understanding of how to respect food, how to love food” – Stephanie Alexander

Alexander credits her wide-spanning career as a restaurateur, food-writer and tireless campaigner for a healthy love of eating to her mother, and to time spent in France as a young woman. Her parents’ close friendships with Jewish immigrants after World War Two had an immediate impact on what was coming out of her mother’s kitchen. There were now caraway seeds in bread and walnuts in cakes. It wasn’t until her first meal at the dining hall at Melbourne University’s halls of residence, that she realized her mother’s “parade across the table” was highly unusual. France fostered her understanding of the “ceremony of the table” and how to shop cost-effectively. All of these factors lead her to a life of everything food.

“I love words and I love writing books” – Stephanie Alexander

Most important to her now is the passing down of knowledge. This is why, she says, she has written fourteen cookbooks. Her legendary cooking bible The Cook’s Companion has sold more than 500,000 copies since 1996. One of which was clutched to the chest of New Zealand’s best-loved chef Peter Gordon who stood, smiling shyly, at the signing desk. Every man has his hero.

One famous chef to another: Stephanie Alexander signs a book for Peter Gordon

One famous chef to another: Stephanie Alexander signs a book for Peter Gordon. Image copyright Caroline Barron 2015

Alexander concluded by emphasizing the importance of the pleasure aspect of food and positive modeling through great food experiences. If a child knows how to prepare healthy food they will be able to “look after themselves and enjoy food.”

It’s all about:

Keeping it simple

Knowing your ingredients

Losing your anxiety about cooking

Finding the pleasure!

Stephanie Alexander appeared at Sails Restaurant as part of Auckland Writers Festival, and patrons Mary and Peter Biggs of Lavender’s Green.

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