I’ve got a 1970’s copy of the Edmond’s “Sure to Rise” cook book in front of me as I write. It’s dirty and covered in plastic. The front page has been ripped out and lost. This is a book that’s been thoroughly thrashed. But when I look at this book, I still wanna lick the page!
I grew up in the 1960’s and the Edmond’s Cook Book is the only cook book that I can remember from that time. We weren’t rich, we didn’t eat flash food, but food was important to us because we loved eating. And if you loved eating in those days, you had to know how to cook. There were no other options.
We lived in a small house with a small kitchen and this was in the useful drawer. Not the junk drawer, but in the drawer where you kept your notebooks and matches and pens — where things that you didn’t want to go missing were kept.
This book is so important because it does what it always did; it teaches you how to cook. But not only that, it passes on really good traditional wisdom about the sort of cuisine that New Zealanders ate for generations, and still do eat today.
You’d open up the jams and jellies section and, at the bottom of that page, it just says ‘do not slam the oven door’. It doesn’t actually say why but if I was looking at that as a novice cook, I would never slam the oven door ever again because I trust this book. That’s the whole thing about any food writing and something I’ve carried with me through my own career; the most successful food writing is the stuff that people trust.
I go back to this book to make things like banana cake. Why would I want another banana cake recipe, when this is the banana cake recipe? This is the lemon delicious recipe. This is the neenish tart recipe. It’s the steamed pudding recipe. It’s the Christmas cake recipe
I’ve only mentioned baking so far, but baking is a very important part of what New Zealand is good at. All cook books tell a cultural tale; I think this book is absolutely one of the most important transmitters of cookery knowledge for New Zealand. It’s competent with flashes of outstanding. It’s unpretentious. It doesn’t rely on outlandishly expensive or exotic ingredients. It’s just good, practical cookery.