I got myself to Auckland, baked up batches of Apricot Nut Crusties at Ilaria’s, stuffed them into a French farmers’ market bag and took them on the plane as hand luggage. Yes, I was off to Marlborough, to Blenheim to be precise, and I intended giving anyone who even poked their nose in our Shared Kitchen book at the Marlborough Book Festival a cookie. But first, on the flight down, when cookie monster was wheeled down the aisle on the tea trolley I wished I had stuffed at least one of my own cookies in my coat pocket, but regretfully I hadn’t. It was too much of a kerfuffle to get the basket down from the overhead locker (yes, I’m short!), what with tea trolleys and crew on the go, so I went cookie-less on the flight. In fact, I went cookie-less the whole trip, as just like Santa Claus, I kept giving my treats away and at the end of the day (literally!), there was none left for me. Dang!
My! Do they spend up large in Blenheim! Over the 3-day festival the book stall shrunk in size by two-thirds. Festival attendees could be seen toting armfuls of books around the venue. Good! Well, actually GREAT! It’s what authors need, to connect with their loyal followers, to meet a new audience and make new devotees, and to sell books so they can continue what they do best: write more books.
I was there as a presenter, but, as a fan girl, I hopped into as many sessions as I could. Acclaimed author Patricia Grace in conversation with Paula Morris was memorable. If she comes to a town near you, get a ticket. One of Patricia’s books Baby No-Eyes (first published 1998) has been serialised and is currently playing daily on Radio NZ at 10.45am.
As a nod to history, I sampled several Sauvignon Blancs while in Marlborough but on my return to Auckland (after a settling in period!) I’ve made good my commitment to go ‘dry’ during the rest of July. I did 6-7 weeks last year but I was gutted to discover how much sugar was in the 0% wines I had been consuming. I’ve found a much better alternative, and it comes from a long-standing family-owned Marlborough winery: Giesen. There are 5 wines in the 0% range – Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rosé and Merlot. Read about them here Giesen Wines.
* It was a Marlborough wine, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, that in 1985 gained international attention in London in the Air New Zealand Export Awards held in association with Decanter magazine. At the time it was inconceivable that a wine produced in a country that was known as a primary producer of meat, butter and cheese, with a fledgling wine industry, could win a top award in a prestigious wine competition. Look at us now!
No one was loitering around the cute little rotunda in central Blenheim when I walked on by because they were all at the Marlborough Book Festival. But the rotunda is a thing of beauty and at ¼ to 10 on a Sunday morning, it was all the better for an absence of people, for my photograph anyway!
On Friday 8th July I slipped out of the book festival in search of something nourishing: soup and toast. I found it! And I know it was the 8th of July because the café kindly reminded me every time I looked up from my table.
Pea and ham soup, made the old fashioned way with barley and NOT coloured green with spinach, served with well-buttered grainy bread, warmed my tootsies on a nippy day. As previously discussed, we all know what day that was. And, as you can see, the photo is not that great, but people were staring at me and giving me the ‘oh she’s one of those who has to photograph everything before she eats it’ vibes. My pea soup recipe on Shared Kitchen (based on bacon bone broth, and, erm, coloured green with spinach, but made tasty with mint and parsley), is here Pea & Bacon Soup.