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Local Focus: Love, Italy, and cooking for one

By Jie Pang, Local Focus video reporter.

Two Nickies had an hour-long conversation at Featherston’s Booktown event last week. Author Nicky Pellegrino talked with food writer Nici Wickes about her new cookbook at Featherston’s Booktown event.

“A lot of people asked me to write a recipe book when I was doing cooking videos during lockdown. But I was more interested in writing a book about life in general, and I wanted to have some recipes for one and talk about what it’s like to live as one.”

Hence the name of the book A Quiet Kitchen, about cooking meals for one.

“When I think about recipes and recipe writing, I want to make sure that people are not frightened of the ingredients” Wickes said. “If people are more likely to have the ingredients in the house, they’ll make that recipe again and again.”

Wickes wants cooking to be easy.

“My recipes don’t involve a lot of skill. You just have to know how to chop and stir and bake.”

Inspired by feedback from readers, Wickes already has a plan for her next book.

“I want to write another book along the same lines and how we live a good life, even when life has its challenges like depression, breakups, or ill health. A nice meal can nourish and comfort us.”

The other Nicky, Nicky Pellegrino, also writes books that nourish and comfort but in different ways. She has a series of novels based in Italy about food, friendship, and love.

Pellegrino wrote her first book, <i>Delicious</i> based on childhood memories of Italy and especially her aunt’s cooking. And many more books have followed.

“I didn’t think I would write 14 books set in Italy,” Pellegrino said. “What I didn’t realise is if you write a book with any success, publishers want you to write more of the same thing.”

Pellegrino travelled back to Italy in August to explore more places and meet more people.

“I went to Puglia in the south of Italy for a research trip. It’s fantastic to have that as an excuse for travel.”

Her next book is set in a town called Ostuni in Puglia.

“Ostuni is a beautiful white town on a hill. I completely love it there. I went for just a day once and thought, ‘I’ve got to come back here’.”

Back in Featherston, the one-hour talk between the two Nickies attracted over 70 book lovers who came away enthused by the subjects.

Booklover, Gillian Jones attended to make sure she could get a copy of A Quiet Kitchen as she found it difficult to get in bookstores.

“My daughter has the book, that a single woman friend gave her. My daughter loved it so much and bought the same book for another of her single women friends. I just really loved the concept of it. So that’s why I’m interested in purchasing it,” Jones said.

Also taking place in the same hall was an Artisan Food Fair with 18 stallholders. It complemented the book talk perfectly.

“Most stallholders are food-focused local producers,” Featherston Booktown Co-organiser Shara Hudson said. “And we’ve also got our local booksellers. So it’s great to support local producers and to showcase what we have here in the Wairarapa.”

Featherston Resident Corin Haines bought a couple of bowls from the Nidito pottery stall.

“The good thing is that we’ve got a lot of local crafts and artisan products, and it enables both the people making them and the people to see them,” he said.

The successful day had all the right ingredients – cookbooks, novels and artisanal food gifts. All brought together in Featherston’s iconic Anzac Hall.

“Having an artisan food fair, along with some Booktown events, is just the perfect thing,”
said longtime Featherston resident Rupert Watson. “Everyone in the community loves it. And it’s a great way for the community to come together. All these friends were popping in and catching up with people.”

public interest journalism ellie

Ellie Franco
Ellie Franco
Ellie Franco is Wairarapa’s Local Focus video journalist. She regularly covers in-depth stories on arts, culture, people, health, and the occasional pup.

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