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A Feeling for Food by Lis Cowey



A Feeling for Food is a heartwarming, beautifully written food memoir from a New Zealand kitchen. Lis Cowey wrote it for her two sons as they were leaving home so they would have not just her recipes but the stories behind them.


It will remind Fred and Carlo of the many special family meals and celebrations they shared together as a family and enable them to recreate these for themselves in the future.


In the first part of her book, Lis tells of her family life when she was young and of her mother’s and grandmother’s approach to cooking, which was very different. She passes on some old family recipes, their Great Grandma Cowey’s shortbread, and Great-Granny Nelson’s tomato relish.


Lis is a cook well-travelled. After the home she grew up in, the second main culinary influence in her life was France. Her love affair with French cuisine began after she arrived in Paris as an 18-year-old to study at the Alliance Francaise for 4 months. She was blown away by the elegance of this city, the tantalising aromas as she walked its streets and tasted its glorious food. It clinched her lifetime attachment to French food and eating culture.


In the 1990’s, a big OE with partner Ben followed. It was a mind-blowing and exhilarating experience for them to taste panforte in Sienna, arancini in Rome, paella in Barcelona and focaccia and fresh pasta in Italy. These foods were so different from the kind of food being eaten in New Zealand in those days. Once home, she set out to recreate them as a balm for her very itchy feet and her pining for elsewhere.


When Lis was growing up, the breakfasts that were served in her family were prosaic and healthy. But the spontaneous family breakfasts they have enjoyed at home were delightfully self-indulgent. The boys will have fond memories of Uncle Paul’s fluffy pancakes and Aunt Renata’s waffles.


Easter was chocolate time and hot cross buns, using a recipe she cut out of the Victoria University magazine Salient, which, like many of her recipes, she tweaked over the years. At Christmas time, they baked biscuits together, which they started doing as soon as Fred could use a rolling pin.


One tradition Lis began was to mark the boys’ eighteenth birthdays with a very special celebration to signify that they were now fully-fledged adults. She dearly wanted their move into adulthood to be happy unlike her own painful transition to adulthood.


Most of the stories and recipes in Lis’s book relate to her side of the family. But in the last chapter, Ben’s family’s chocolate obsession takes centre change, and she recounts many of the stories, memories, feelings, and recipes revolving around his family’s attachment to chocolate. That Lis has made a big effort to carry on his family traditions is evident in her recipes for chocolate brownies, chocolate chip cookies and chocolate desserts and 7 delectable chocolate cakes! As Lis says, you can never have too many chocolate cakes!


Being a chocoholic myself, undoubtedly, it is those pages that will get messy finger marks all over them, and some are bound to find a place in our family recipe archive. There are many more delectable recipes in A Feeling for Food to try, but it is her stories, mostly joyous, some bittersweet, and so well told, that linger in my memory.


A Feeling for Food is a precious heirloom for her boys. She encourages them, as they go out into the big wide world, to add more of their own magical memories and feelings for food. It could well mark the beginning of a never-ending story as it is passed on through succeeding generations.


Reviewer: Lyn Potter

The Cuba Press

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