Kiwi Fruit

Article for Tommy's Lifestyle Magazine

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Pineapple and pizza are a food combination some consider an abomination; it’s certainly not Italian.

Pineapples have become an integral part of the New Zealand diet: pineapple rings in hamburgers, crushed pineapple in toasted sandwiches (with ham and cheese, please), and – confession time – I love pineapple lumps and just hope they taste the same when production moves to Australia next year.

Although pineapples can be grown in Northland, they don’t fruit in New Zealand and most of our supply comes from the Philippines. I don’t know much about gardening, especially tropical plants, but I’ve learnt that weeding around pineapples is a blood sport as those spikes mean business; and the plants produce only two pineapples in their life cycle.

Sometimes they’re harvested a bit early so, as they don’t ripen after picking, smell before you buy and select one with a sweet scent. My mother used to check for ripeness by pulling a leaf from the fruit’s crown, but that’s no longer possible as these days pineapples are sold with their crowns removed (ostensibly for biosecurity reasons).

Because the fruit is sweet yet acidic, it works well in sweet-and-sour dishes or in stir fries with salty oyster or soy sauce. But keep fresh pineapple away from dairy products because it contains bromelin (an enzyme), which makes dairy products separate and stops jelly from setting. Canned pineapple is fine because the canning process destroys the enzyme. Bet you didn’t know that!

The fruit is a great source of good things like vitamins B1, B6, and C; plus fibre, manganese and copper but now they’ve moved to our living rooms; a highly fashionable interior decorating feature, often heavily gilded. As one journalist asked in Britain’s Independent earlier this year, “why does every millennial (people born in the 1980s) seem to have a gold pineapple in their home?”.

Over the past few years, gilded pineapples have popped up almost everywhere. Social media helps broadcast trends, so something like a gold pineapple (eye-catching, glamorous and bold, yet inexpensive) suddenly appears everywhere.

Other current fads, like drink trolleys and flamingos, probably won’t be fashionable in a year’s time – remember avocado bathrooms? One enterprising UK bathroom company ran an ‘avocado amnesty’ earlier this year, as 75% of UK homebuyers demand a price reduction for a property with an avocado bathroom suite – one of the most hated pieces of interior design from the 1970s. I’m not sure New Zealanders really embraced sludge-green baths; one upside, perhaps, of our restricted choices due to the tyranny of distance, and a small population.  

Christopher Columbus introduced the pineapple to Europe in 1493, having discovered them in Guadeloupe. Europeans thought the strange fruit’s abrasive, segmented skin looked a bit like a pinecone, and its firm interior pulp like an apple: the ‘pineapple’ had arrived.

Refined sugar was expensive at the time, and the pineapple was an instant hit with European royal courts, although it was another 200 years before gardeners perfected a hothouse method for growing the tropical plant. Even then, the pineapple was so rare and coveted that King Charles II posed for an official portrait receiving a pineapple as a gift; a symbol of royal privilege.

But it’s not just the taste.  Pineapples have been a decorator’s favourite for centuries, swiftly becoming a favourite motif of architects, artisans and craftsmen; used for gateposts, door knockers, curtain finials, and serving dishes.

Pineapples are also a traditional symbol of hospitality, particularly in the US. New England sea captains brought them back from the West Indies, spearing one on their gate to let friends know they were home safely, and welcoming them to visit. It wasn’t long before people started carving pineapples into doorways and gateposts.

In the Deep South, pineapples were also highly symbolic. Back in the Scarlett O’Hara era, transport restrictions meant guests stayed for far longer than today’s three-day-maximum rule. They were presented with a welcoming pineapple on arrival, and another when the host wanted them to leave. The pineapple was sliced in half and placed on the guest’s bed – an unspoken signal that it was time for them to pack their bags.

Over the past couple of years, gold pineapples have been popping up everywhere in New Zealand. I suspect the end is nigh. As one interior designer observed, “when something becomes too popular, it starts at the top at design fairs, but slowly over a couple of years it filters its way down into the mass market and that’s when it is time to step away.”

So, what’s the next interior design fad? Apparently, it’s the cactus and their spikes are far more menacing.

Nicola Young

Strawberries are Red, Violets are Blue

Article from Tommy's Lifestyle Magazine

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Which berry isn’t a berry? The strawberry; a close relative of the rose (just like the raspberry) and now in season until February.

The list of ‘true berries’ is rather surprising. It’s easy to identify blueberries and gooseberries, but bananas, peppers and tomatoes? Really? They’re all formed from the ovary of one flower, with seeds embedded in their flesh. Whereas summer favourites like strawberries, raspberries and blackberries aren’t berries at all; they’re ‘accessory fruits’, developed from multiple ovaries of one flower with their seeds (200 per strawberry) on the outside. But that botanical insight won’t make any difference to my love of them – strawberries are summer in a mouthful.

In medieval times, strawberries symbolised perfection and righteousness; monks painted them to illuminate their manuscripts, and stone masons carved strawberry designs in churches and cathedrals.

People foraged for wild strawberries in the forest until the French began transplanting them into their gardens in the 14th century. Charles V, a medieval French king, had 1,200 strawberry plants in his royal garden; perhaps more significantly, he established a permanent, waged army rather than shanghaiing the unemployed to fight his battles; no wonder he was known as ‘Charles the Wise’.

In the 1700s, French horticulturists crossed a North American variety of strawberry with a Chilean one: the modern, garden strawberry was born. It soon became known as the ‘fruit of love’ because it resembled a plump, red heart. By the 16th century, strawberry farms were common in southern England – particularly Kent, long-considered the fruit bowl of England.

Cultivation became increasingly widespread; partly for medical reasons (the plant was used to treat depression), and partly because people loved eating them. Strawberries were traditionally sold in cone-shaped straw baskets (one of the earliest packaged foods), not that dissimilar to the folded newspaper ‘chips’ used by Greytown fruit farms in the 1960s.

The English strawberry season used to be alarmingly short by New Zealand expectations; 25 years ago it was only six weeks, now it stretches from May to October. As a new mother living in Kent decades ago, I was determined not to miss the season. I plonked my two-week-old baby boy in the middle of a strawberry farm (under shade, of course) while I picked a bucket of luscious red fruit and scoffed the lot. A few days later, my tiny son had developed hives; yes, I’d overdone the strawberries.

Strawberries and cream are a classic combo, a creation attributed to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey – Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor although it was more likely the inspiration of one of his cooks. Wolsey’s glittering rise to power (from butcher’s son to the second-most powerful man in England) was blighted by his inability to get Henry’s first marriage – to Catherine of Aragon – annulled. Wolsey was accused of treason, but died of natural causes (bowel issues, not cholesterol) before being tried. His legacy lives on: Wolsey built the magnificent palace of Hampton Court (later seized by Henry VIII) that had the largest kitchens in England, and his magnificent black marble sarcophagus was incorporated into Nelson’s tomb in the crypt of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, after lying empty for 300 years.

The English love affair with strawberries and cream continues; every year more than 25,000kg of strawberries are eaten at the Wimbledon tennis championships. Eton Mess is another English classic, served since the 1890s at the annual cricket match between Eton College and Harrow School: whipped cream, crushed meringue (a great way to use broken meringues), strawberries and a dollop of strawberry jam. Mess, incidentally, is an archaic word for a dish of food; not a reflection on the cook’s inability to make food look good.

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My Scottish forebears preferred to eat them with freshly-ground black pepper which enhances the flavour and neutralises the fruit’s tartness; making strawberries sweeter and richer. You won’t taste the pepper unless you’ve a particularly heavy hand.

Strawberries don’t ripen after picking so can be eaten immediately; they stay fresher if not washed, and are best kept in the ‘fridge.

If you want to prolong the taste of summer, try making freezer jam. I’ve no idea why it’s gone out of vogue, as it was all the go back in the ‘80s (just like spinach salad). Because the fruit isn’t cooked, it tastes remarkably fresh: mashed strawberries, sugar and pectin (to help the mixture thicken). It’s really easy, there are lots of recipes on the internet but – with the glut of summer produce approaching, you may not have space in your freezer.

Nicola Young

The Frida Affair

I have a few blog posts to catch up on, not least of all, a very fun shoot with the amazing ladies at Just Teasing Hairdressing for their branding and advertising campaign.

We started out with the owner Gale's picture, which was used in her first ad and business cards.

Gale loves everything Frida - and indeed if you take a look around her salon, it is filled with beautiful flowers, paintings and colourful artefacts dedicated to Frida Kahlo. Much of the art is made by friends, and there is a feature wall (by Ellen Coup) in green - styled from a very famous magazine cover of Frida Kahlo.

Behind the scenes:

This initial branding worked really well - Gale used to do a wall calendar every year for people to collect, so it feels quite right to have a little piece of Just Teasing to take away with you. This year Gale is celebrating 20 years of her salon - indeed a Wellington institution.

Five Señoritas and a beautiful Eclectus parrot called Arthur

Fast forward a few months, and we were ready to shoot the rest of the team for their cards, and make an Anniversary calendar! I arrived ready to shoot and was delighted to meet Arthur - a beautiful Eclectus parrot bought in by Charlotte.

Charlotte & Arthur

  A.J.


A.J.

  Natalie


Natalie

  Jackie


Jackie

  Amber


Amber

  Gale


Gale

And their 20th Anniversary Poster

Sunprints

We're on school holidays in our house, and its been the most incredible time for creativity. In lieu of having a darkroom available, I've been playing with a sunprint kit - taking things back to basics - photograms, silhouettes, shadows, light, chiaroscuro...

I can't wait to access the darkroom to work on some more process work.

Harry Callahan

I'm having a week of revisiting the photographer's that inspired me so much as a student. Today, Harry Callahan. His simple, beautiful work so evident of love for his wife Eleanor.

 Eleanor, Chicago, 1949

Eleanor, Chicago, 1949

 Eleanor, 1947

Eleanor, 1947

 Eleanor, Chicago, 1948

Eleanor, Chicago, 1948

 Eleanor, Chicago, 1949

Eleanor, Chicago, 1949

Here's a little about him as a Photographer:

Harry Callahan ( 1912 – 1999) was an influential twentieth century American photographer.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Callahan began teaching himself photography in 1938.  A talk given by Ansel Adams in 1941 inspired him to take his work seriously.  In 1946 he was invited to teach photography at the Institute of Design in Chicago by László Moholy-Nagy. He moved to Rhode Island in 1961 to establish a photography program at the Rhode Island School of Design, teaching there until his retirement in 1977. Callahan left almost no written records—no diaries, letters, scrapbooks or teaching notes. His technical photographic method was to go out almost every morning, walk the city he lived in and take numerous pictures. He then spent almost every afternoon making proof prints of that day's best negatives. Yet, for all his photographic activity, Callahan, at his own estimation, produced no more than half a dozen final images a year.

He photographed his wife and daughter and the streets, scenes and buildings of cities where he lived. Even prior to the birth his daughter showed up in photographs of Eleanor's pregnancy. 

Callahan's work was a deeply personal response to his own life. He encouraged his students to turn their cameras on their own lives, leading by example. Callahan photographed his wife over a period of fifteen years, as his prime subject. Eleanor was essential to his art from 1947 to 1960. He photographed her everywhere - at home, in the city streets, in the landscape; alone, with their daughter, in black and white and in color, nude and clothed, distant and close. 

Easter Inspiration

Easter is my family's favourite celebration of the year. Decorating eggs, Easter egg hunts, playing with our friends and pets; coming together to celebrate and eat with family. So what better time to team up with an amazing Florist and Stylist, and do a shoot! I've been wanting to work with Mindy Dalzell of Twig and Arrow for ages, so a few days later, here's what we came up with:

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Tommy's 200th Issue

Tommy's celebrated their 200th issue of their Tommy’s Lifestyle magazine on the 13th March. Craig and I (as Graphic Solutions Ltd) have been lucky enough to be involved with this from its inception. Tommy’s was set up in 1999; a new style of agency run by Tommy Heptinstall and David Platt, who’d worked together for years as real estate agents then decided to set up a new type of agency – one where agents worked together collegially; no easy feat in a sector known for its cut-throat competition.

 David Platt + Tommy Heptinstall at Emporio Coffee, Abel St Street

David Platt + Tommy Heptinstall at Emporio Coffee, Abel St Street

Rosa's Birthday

We had a lovely weekend celebrating my daughter's 9th birthday, in which she embraced the woodland theme, which I am so very fond of! This included a making of Teacup Terrariums to take home :-)

Teacup Terrariums

Berhampore

Berhampore has always been one of Wellington’s more low-profile suburbs; an area people drive through on their way from Newtown to Island Bay’s coast. Nicola Young writes about the latest up and coming new businesses popping up in town.

The suburb’s name has fascinating origins: in 1757, the British East India Company (the world’s first multinational) won a decisive battle against the Nawab of Bengal at Berhampore (about 150km north of Calcutta). The victory is considered pivotal in establishing British colonial rule in South Asia and the East India Company’s century-long domination of Indian trade. (It’s hardly surprising that, when the English language acquired Indian words, one was ‘loot’).

George Hunter, the first mayor of the Wellington Borough (1842-43, before we attained city status), had close connections to Berhampore, where his English father-in-law had served in the Army. Wellington’s smattering of Indian place names (Khandallah!) can be traced back to Hunter, although it’s been said Indian names in Wellington are as relevant as Maori place names would be in India.

Hunter was also, inadvertently, responsible for New Zealand’s Eight-Hour Day.  While sailing to New Zealand in 1840, Hunter asked a fellow migrant to build him a store in Lambton Quay; the carpenter – Samuel Parnell – agreed, providing he only worked an eight-hour day.  It was an international first, although not recognised by statute until 1857.

Now Berhampore has become the ‘new’ Newtown; with its charming houses (many of them ripe for renovation), and its small commercial centre attracting some interesting businesses.

Chocolatier Jo Coffey opened L’Affaire au Chocolat four years ago, moving her boutique chocolate kitchen out of her home. “I knew Berhampore was the on the rise,
and then had the opportunity to buy the shop”.

L'Affaire au Chocolat

Jo rates her hot chocolate as the best in Wellington, but it’s her hand-made, soft-centred chocolates that attract customers from as far away as Eastbourne and the Kapiti Coast.  “New Zealanders are becoming very knowledgeable about chocolate, and their tastes are maturing. My chocolates are very grown up, not candy; the best selling flavours are caramel and raspberry.”

Baker Gramercy is almost next-door; a specialist bread shop that opened a few weeks ago. Its owner, Wellington College old-boy James Whyte, worked as a commercial property broker, then – wanting a change of direction – trained as a chef in New York before returning to his home town. 

Gramercy

“Berhampore was a forgotten suburb; under-appreciated and lacking identity. It wasn’t really on my list when I was looking for premises, but I soon realised the area’s attractions: only five minutes from the CBD, where commercial rental prices are four times higher; it’s got a real sense of community; and I found premises with an established catering kitchen.”

James is focusing on a narrow range of breads (baguettes, ciabatta and sourdough); using traditional techniques many have abandoned; his sourdough bread ferments for up to two days, allowing the flavours time to develop. “I can only produce small batches, as it’s all made by hand, although I’m hoping to expand into pastries – simple ones! – shortly.”

James makes a maximum of 200 loaves, and it’s usually sold out by 1pm. “It’s good to make a product that’s being so well-received. The ingredients are high-cost and quality, although I’m determined to keep the prices accessible, in line with the prices of breads made by much bigger bakeries.

“I want to develop my business the same way as I make my bread: slowly and deliberately.”

Goose Shack

Across the road, Goose Shack HQ opened a few days after Baker Gramercy, having evolved from a food truck business serving barbequed meats, fish and sandwiches at the City Market. Goose Shack HQ caters for local Berhampore families wanting good quality, simple food – most of it cooked on a wood-fired oven. Owner, Haydn Turner, has worked in the hospitality industry for years, including a stint on the floor at the River Café (one of London’s trail-blazing restaurants, and Jamie Oliver’s training ground). 

Rimsky-Korsakov is a cafe run by Rosie Smyth – a displaced Lyttleton-ite, who wanted to recreate the sense of community she missed when she moved to Wellington. Unusually, Rimsky-Korsakov holds ‘pot luck’ dinners when locals bring their own food to the café to eat while listening to live bands.  Rosy is delighted locals have embraced her café as a community hub; she wants to set up a mums’ group and, further down the track, start life drawing classes.

Rinski's

Berhampore’s renaissance mirrors what’s happening in Britain, where artisan foodie shops are resuscitating moribund high streets.  Let’s hope Berhampore is trail-blazing, and other suburbs will follow.   

Nicola Young