It was another full day.
I started it sensibly by not sleeping much the night before because I was too busy blogging. When I did get to bed, the baby needed a feed. Then not long after it seemed to be time to get up again.
The sainted husband would no doubt have taken the kids to school and let me sleep longer, but it was Lydia’s first school visit and I wasn’t going to miss that. Plus walking to school is an important part of my latest regime. Anyway, it had to be done.
No sooner home, showered, dressed, baby fed again etc,etc, but Lydia was back from school wishing she could stay the night there (so she likes it, thank goodness), my good friend and partner in crime Natasha had arrived (refer our recent Paella adventures) and we set off to Petone on serious business.
Naturally it was only once we’d gone too far to turn back that I realised I had left behind my shopping list for next Tuesday’s Vietnamese cooking night.
House of Knives
Still, we each had friends to collect from knife hospital, House of Knives and other places to go.
Natasha is diligent and well organised, so I think hers were probably just in for a bit of a rest and a spot of botox. My much loved but somewhat neglected chef’s knife was there for more serious work.
We’ve been together for nearly 25 years and in that time there have been plenty of adventures. Heck, we even go on holiday together. (Have you ever tried to chop anything with what they give you in a motel unit?) But this is only our third professional sharpening.
We’d been going through a bit of a rough patch. The steel wasn’t doing it for us any more, probably exacerbated by the recent guest who used the knife to open a beer. Guess how close he came to finding out just what a good knife can do. The tip was bent. (My family deny all knowledge.) And the heel needed another regrind. Not even the sharpest blade can cut well if it doesn’t touch the board all the way through.
Natasha’s knives were ready. Mine had missed the regrind, so had to stay in overnight again. A bit of a pain, but now I’ve got a good excuse for another trip.
We had a good look around the store. Much as I would have liked the crowd sized paella pan, 2 new pairing knives and a black steel frying pan, all I came out with was a bird’s nest icing tip which I hope to deploy in making grass for Lydia’s forthcoming toadstool birthday cake. (I loathe working with icing, so whatever you’re thinking, please lower your expectations.)
Having come so far, it would have been rude not to visit Bookfeast, the specialist book store conveniently located in the neighbouring shop.
For those who like to read about food and wine, particularly those quaint individuals who still like to flick through a cookbook before they buy, Bookfeast is a veritable oasis. It’s less of an oasis with a four year old in tow, even they are really very,very good, but I still managed to come out with a book on Vietnamese street food and a list of titles that should solve my husband’s birthday and Christmas shopping problems unto the ages.
Shop owner Sandra Young is always good for a chat and listens very patiently to my standard rant about the lack of good Russian and Polish cookbooks. She tells me she’s reducing her stock of the kind of popular books carried by the chains in favour of the more obscure and specialised books that her customers crave.
If you get a chance, check out her sale shelves. You might reasonablly expect to see a selection of less loved volumes that have outstayed their welcome, but that’s not the way Sandra does it. She says if a shelf it getting to full, she just picks out a volume at random to make space for the new one. Probably not what her accountant wants to hear, but when I go back to collect that knife next week, I’ll be making a bee-line for that shelf.
By now, Natasha and I are feeling weakened, probably more from what we didn’t buy than what we did, and make our way across the road (kind of) to a place Natasha spotted when admitting her knives the day before.
I lived in this town as a child back when still was it’s own town, the meatworks were a big employer, children came to school with no shoes and nobody had heard of gentrification. These days it’s part of another city council, the meatworks are long gone and while I’m sure the poverty is still there, house prices are up and Jackson St offers you everything from a chocolatier through crepes to curry and back again.
Amoungst this panoply, it would be easy enough to go past Cafe Figg. As we go in, the traffic is noisy and it’s starting to rain. Inside it’s cosy without being claustophobic. The food in the cabinet is appetisingly presented, the staff are very friendly and a charming mural ties the autumn colours of the grape leaves overhanging the rear courtyard area to the trees framing the shop on the other side of the road.
Lydia, who has been behaving well for some time on the promise of a hot chocolate, homes in on strawberry muffin. The range in the cabinet is more than supplemented by a menu, although in terms of presentation, that particular document might look more a home in a greasy spoon. The new regime dictates abstinence and Lydia declined “help” with her muffin, so there’s not much I can tell you about the food. I can tell you that they got my hot chocolate just right and that the bathroom facilities were very clean. I think I’ll take Mum there next time we’re on the loose.
By then it was time to head back to Wellington to rescue children from institutions of learning and prepare ourselves for the pizza session to come. More on that in my next blog. Plenty more on Petone food shops to come.
- 3 Ways You May Be Ruining Your Knives (thekitchn.com)
- Cooking Tool: Know Your Knives (fillyourplate.org)
- Back to School: Paella at Social Cooking (lifelivedlavishly.wordpress.com)