Food and family: this is where our stories begin..

Canberra is a small city, so a book launch for two really enticing cookery books, is not to be missed.

We arrived at the speciality kitchen shop, The Essential Ingredient, to hear Emiko Davies and Tessa Kiros talk about their beautifully illustrated cookery books, called Tortellini at Midnight,and Provence to Pondicherry respectively.

Emiko Davies demonstrating her cooking at her book launch

It was an inspiring afternoon, full of wonderful stories of food, family and traditions, in Italy and France (and some food tasting and wine later).

Emiko Davies is Australian-born with a Japanese mother and an Australian father. When she left home to travel the world, Emiko lived in Italy for a while. On a cold miserable night in Florence she made a meal for a young man she did not know very well. All she had in the fridge was broccoli, pecarino and some garlic. When he began to eat the meal he said ”I’m going to marry you!” and two years later they did get married!

The cover of Emiko’s book Tortellini at Midnight

Emiko now lives in Italy with her husband and two children. She has written three cookery books, but in this one she shares stories and some of her favourite recipes from her Italian family. These recipes she has learnt through tasting and watching, usually from the kitchen table.

I cooked the recipe called Nonna Anna’s meatballs (Polpette di Nonna Anna) and it was delicious!

Tessa Kiros was born in London to a Finnish mother and a Greek Cypriot father. When she was young the family moved to South Africa.

Tessa Kiros talking about her writing life in Italy

She is now married to an Italian, living in Italy, and she has written and published many books on food, family and the countries that inspire these recipes.

Provence to Pondicherry by Tessa Kiros

Her most recent book is called Provence to Pondicherry: Recipes from France and Far Away.   Tessa re-traces the steps of early French explorers travelling to Guadeloupe, Vietnam, Pondicherry in India, La Reunion, and Normandy in France.

Tessa has written many books and my favourite is her first book called Falling Cloudberries. 

Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros

She wrote this book about her family, starting with her grandparents, taking each one and weaving the memory of them into stories and  traditional recipes, giving a rich and colourful family history. The title is taken from her memory of living in Finland, and picking the falling cloudberries.

My mother had an old recipe book called “Ouma’s Cookery Book” full of practical recipes for life after the war when food was scarce and people ‘made do’. The book is also full of quotes and comments about life, and could be used as a social history book too.

I love this dear old book because it is a companionable reminder of my mother, and I still have some of her hand written recipes tucked into some of the pages.

It seems, no matter where you come from, food and family create the first memories, and this is where your stories begin..

During a time when I was teaching English to children newly arrived in Australia, a little girl from Lebanon came to me with her painting…all I could see were three colourful moving circles, and a bright yellow sun in the corner of the page. I asked her to tell me about the painting and she said:

“these are my aunties, sitting in the sun, eating, talking and laughing”

Sometimes a happy memory of food and family doesn’t have to be part of a book, it is just a snapshot of life that stays in your heart….

Do you have a favourite recipe, or a cookery book that brings back family memories?


(My apologies for some of my photos, they were taken with my Iphone.)

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved





20 Replies to “Food and family: this is where our stories begin..”

  1. These two cookery books sound wonderful, Gerrie. You must have really enjoyed the stories and insights. I love Italian food but have never made meatballs. They look delicious. Your photos are fine. Most of mine are also taken with my iPhone. Happy weekend.

    1. Thanks Ross and Kim, their stories of Italy and food were really interesting….I wished I still had the Cloudberry jam, I would have taken a photo of it!

  2. Lovely to read about two such inspiring cooks. No problem with your pictures from your phone. These days I don’t cook much but still enjoy eating good food.

    1. Good to know the photos are okay, it is very hard taking photos inside a crowded shop! I agree, good food is always enjoyable!

    1. Yes, some of those little children, with very little English said the most amazing things…wished I’d written them all down! Hope all is going well with your new granddaughter…the first 10 weeks are hard work!

  3. I enjoyed this post very much, Gerrie. I love reading about family traditions and family recipes and these books look wonderful! I am glad you still have your mother’s book. My mother was and is still, a very good cook and I enjoyed eating everything she made when I still lived at home with her. Probably her cakes, pies and pastries were my favourite; her chicken and mushroom pie with shortcrust pastry was delectable! I am not an enthusiastic cook and would avoid cooking if I could but I don’t like to be beaten and usually my food turns out well. Your Nonna Anna’s meatballs looks delicious!

    1. Thanks Clare, your mother’s cooking sounds absolutely delicious…. there are so many good stories around cooking. When I was young (living in Africa) we lived next door to a couple from Cornwall. Mrs Thomas cooked the best Cornish pasties in the world…and she will never be forgotten for them!

  4. That sounds like a really fun event. I have many of my grandmother’s recipes and whenever I pull that book out I’m transported back to my childhood. My grandmother was an exception cook and baker. Family and friends enjoyed many delicious meals at her dining room table. Today, I must admit after a cross country move that I’ve downsized the number of cookbooks I own and look things up on the net. It’s not the same because you don’t have those pages with spills, spots, and markings which translate to ‘good recipe.’

    1. You are so right about the recipes with stains all over them … a sure sign of a good recipe! I don’t look at cookery books as much as I used to, but I always enjoy gathering around the table with friends and family.

  5. Cooking for others is–at its best–a fundamental expression of love, generosity, and inclusion. It’s no wonder that foods can carry a weight of memory and comfort. I have one of those wooden recipe boxes that hold index cards for recipes. Most of the recipes are handwritten, some 50 years old, in my careful teenage handwriting. Others were written for me by people otherwise long gone from my life. They carry parts of people along with them–Gail’s Eierknockerln, Barbara’s pizza crust–that transport me in space and time.

    1. Beautifully written Brenda, and I agree with all that you say, especially food as an expression of generosity and love and inclusion. I often remember people through plants they have given me, and/or through their cooking!

  6. Wonderful post, and those Italians sure know how to eat well. And, to live well. Love, love, love Italian food. One of my great pleasures is to invite friends over—usually for tea and some kind of baked treat—and we sit around our table as we talk and eat. A simple pleasure that can’t be beat, and your post beautifully illustrates this.

    1. Thanks Laurie, and yes, sitting down with friends/families to share some food is surely one of the joys of life. And so simple, you don’t need to be a millionaire.

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