I am proud to say Dame Alison Holst lives near me. We bump into each other at the Orewa Post Office often and I marvel at her height, healthiness and of course cleverness in the kitchen. Alison launches her 100th book this month… Wow!

New Zealand’s best-known cook was confronted with her earliest work when she attended a book-signing session in Southland yesterday.

Dame Alison Holst has been in the region to launch her 100th book, but this time it is not a cookbook. Dame Alison began a nationwide tour in Winton, promoting her memoirs A Home-grown Cook: The Dame Alison Holst story.

She said a Winton resident came in with her two earliest cook books, written in 1966, to get them autographed.

“A lot of people have got some of the early books,” she said. She then travelled to Gore where she spoke at an event to raise money for West Gore School.

Dame Alison said it made geographical sense to launch the tour in Southland. She will make her way up the country raising money for Plunket and other charities. She will officially launch the memoir with family and friends in her childhood home of Dunedin today.

The memoirs follow her life, from growing up to becoming a dame in 2010. Before she started writing her memoirs, she did not realise she had written so many books.

“I had no idea I had written 100 books, I had never counted them them all up,” she said.

Dame Alison’s daughter and grand-daughter helped her scan the covers of all her previous books, which are displayed at the back of the memoirs.

“I have made a lot of friends who say `Some of the books of yours we have are so dirty because we have cooked so much from them’,” she said. “That is how a cook book should be.”

One of Dame Alison’s fondest memories, mentioned in the book, was when she lived with her young children in California for two years.

“We were living on the smell of an oily rag but it didn’t matter. We met a lot of nice people and had a great time,” she said. “We had about $20 a week to spend on food but we did well.”

She said a local farmer sold her small eggs for one cent each and a greengrocer sold her wilted veges for half price.

At 73 years of age, Dame Alison shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.

She has already released her 101st book – Gluten Free Baking.

“It is hard for people who are gluten free to find recipes.”

Dame Alison said she was flabbergasted when she received her damehood last year.

“I went to the supermarket and as soon as I got into the shop the manager came out with a bunch of flowers and all the customers were coming up and giving me a hug,” she said.

~Southland Times

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