Wednesday, February 29, 2012

You can't have too much support, but you can have too much baking powder

My husband is a good cook, although he never uses recipes. I think recipes are heaven: there is nothing more interesting to me than pottering around the kitchen with an ancient cookery tome and some bizarre ingredients I have never seen before. When we got married, he presented me with the Edmonds Cookery book, a tome that he assured me was the staple of all Kiwi cooking since the time of Captain Cook. Since at the time I was interested in learning to cook foreign fancy stuff, I raised my eyebrows at the recipes for sausage rolls and bread-and-butter pudding. I put it on the shelf in that polite I'll-never-use-this sort of way. My suspicion mounted when my husband used it to make scones, a dish that turned out to be so full of baking powder it was inedible. (Edmonds make baking powder: I appreciate that they want their book to increase baking powder sales, but surely it is a short-term strategy if it renders all their recipes inedible).

Part of the problem is, of course, that there are only so many days in the week, pennies in the purse, and that I have at any one time several dozen recipes I am meaning to get around to but haven't tried yet. The same applies to interesting-sounding strategies that might be helpful to my children. I am a bit support-networked-out today, having had three meetings in the past forty-eight hours, all from professionals whose organisations thought they might be useful to my kids. Don't get me wrong, all of them came from lovely reputable state-funded organisations and bristled with stacks of useful-looking pamphlets, courses, one-day-seminars...enough stuff to occupy me for twenty years. If I gave up doing anything else. I guess if you had the right mindset, learning about autism and developmental delay could be a really absorbing hobby. If I didn't have the children to raise, of course.

We're in a city and I guess that might be the reason there is so much happening. Before we were in a Yorkshire village and I had a policy of grabbing all the expertise and seminars available. This was easy, because there wasn't that much around. Now I am bewildered by all this activity. I am, shock horror, going to have to CHOOSE what I do, there is more information and support out there than any one family could possibly take on board. It's a nice position to be in, but it does make me feel rather nervous: what if I do too much? Too little? What is the "right" amount? It is a bit like recipes - there are so many fabulous ones on my want-to-try list, but my waistline, budget and time management will suffer if I do all of them. What I am ruefully aware of is how wrong I was to be nervous about local support, before I came, worried that there would not be the same level of expertise as in the UK. If anything, I've found the opposite. In terms of general awareness, New Zealand is streets ahead. And, it turns out, even the Edmonds cookbook has its uses. It's not fancy, but it's clear and economical. Moreoever, it was the only place I could find a bread-and-butter pudding recipe this week. I'm relieved that it didn't contain baking powder.

Three weeks ago we went out for a Cantonese meal, to celebrate both Valentine's Day and the day we started seeing each other. When our first choice was off the menu we asked the waiter for suggestions. As you do. But evidently you don't, or New Zealanders don't, because at the end of the meal he thanked us for showing an interest in the food, offered to translate the list of ingredients, and said that most Kiwis just chose from a couple of dishes (When other immigrants start insulting New Zealand to you both, you realise just how English your other half must now sound). Obviously I cannot judge the truth of this statement. Perhaps Kiwis are in fact world-famous gourmet adventurers who sneer at the Chinese for only ever ordering noodles or rice in a Kiwi restaurant. But it made me think that what I really needed was the SN equivalent of a bilingual waiter, who could go through the alluring menu of support groups, children's clubs, family days out, professional involvement in front of me and make useful recommendations as to what I could enjoy. Because you can't sample everything, or you will get overwhelmed. Still, it's lovely to have all these options. No one told me there would be ANYTHING in New Zealand, I was expecting to arrive in a barren land where people peered at me and said "sorry, did you say your sons were a bit funny in the head?" Instead I have almost been overwhelmed by the quality expertise on hand. I am reminded of the Edmonds cookery book, which if you avoid the ones requiring stupid amount of baking powder, is actually packed full of useful recipes, but which has none of the glossy photography and hollow celebrity endorsement that infects our English culinary scene. So you assume it's rubbish, just like I assumed that NZ didn't really have any provision, because I couldn't find fancy stuff on the internet.

I have made only two firm decisions so far: I will do the Early Bird course (internationally recognised course for preschoolers' parents), and my husband and I are taking advantage of a free weekend away in a hotel, yes that's a free weekend away in a hotel, with the boys taken care of by a clearly insane TA from my middle son's kindy who is happy to work at Ministry of Health Care rates. It is funded by a variety of autism-and-disability bodies, but organised by some biomedical bods (the ones who specialise in gluten-free diets, mineral supplements, and the like. The deal is that you do a seminar, on glutenfree and other therapies and get the free accommodation. Seems fair to me. As long as they don't try to convince us that what our kids need is more baking powder.


  1. I love the edmonds cookery book, it's one of my most used recipe books! I had no idea that NZ was such a minefield of information, I thought we were streets BEHIND the UK! I am glad you have some good suppports coming your way, and don't forget your kiwi pommy friends that are right with you, ready to try weird and wonderful herbs in our recipes that you would never find in an Edmonds cook book!!!

  2. Well I'm sure it depends where you are: in our case we were coming from rural Yorkshire. I am sure if it was london then there would be a lot more expertise on hand. So I'm possibly not comparing like with like.
    Funding for education there is definitely better managed, but everything else seems about the same or better here.

    And oh goodie to herbs and recipe book conversations!

  3. Edmonds is great isn't it? But, have you tried Jo Seagars All things Nice - it is a good (small) collection of classic NZ easy yummies. I'm afraid it has replaced my Edmonds for cakes and slices etc!!!

  4. Ooh gosh it sounds yummy, thank you so much for the recommendation. I shall investigate our library for some copies forthwith.

  5. What is unique about NZ cuisine? I know nothing, very curious.

    Was going to point out that you are comparing the sticks in the UK to urban sophistication in NZ, when it comes to support groups etc., but you already know that...

  6. Haven't you found that you need those local recipes? For a while I tried to use my trusted Nigella / Nigel recipes but half the ingredients were suddenly exotic, the measuring devices didn't match up and the temperatures were all in, um English not American. I capitulated and started cooking with cups, sticks, and fahrenheit. Of course now I'm back in England I've brought my measuring cups, and will have to translate the American temperatures back into good old centigrade...

  7. Yeah I think that is going to be a problem. I have only one thing that lets me measure American cups, which is getting trickier and tricker. Lots here seems to be in cups so am thinking I may need to investNever heard of a stick though (runs off to google)

  8. American butter comes wrapped in sticks (I think there are 4 or 8 sticks in each pat). When dairy snobbery takes over and one substitutes American butter for the superior (and three times as expensive) European kind, the whole recipe system breaks down...