If you have ever done an online search for a tried and tested recipe for a hearty morning tea or delicious smoko break snack, chances are you have ended up on the whatsforsmoko blog or Instagram page. This site, packed full of recipes for chocolate cake, cheese scones, bacon and egg pies and plenty of other tempting treats, is the work of Philippa Cameron, a busy wife, mother and station cook.
Philippa's husband Joe is the fifth generation of his family to work and live at Otematata Station, a 40,000 hectare high country station in Otago which runs 30,000 merino sheep and 500 head of cattle (Hereford cows that are mated with Angus and Hereford bulls). When Philippa's mother-in-law, Mandy, passed away in 2017, the job of station cook fell to Philippa and in her book she recalls how in the early days of this new role she called on her farming friends to help with recipes. Saying "you know it's a success if the tins come back empty", Philippa has now compiled her own go to list of recipes to use to feed the family, shepherds and staff on the station.
Some of these recipes, beautifully photographed and clearly explained, appear in this book, along with descriptions of life on the station, through the seasons of the year. The book is brimming full of gorgeous photographs - both of the food and life on the station itself, along with well written observations about the rigours of life on the station. The observations combine explanations of the farming seasons, along with anecdotes about parenting two young girls, mustering flocks of 10,000 and 15,000 sheep by horseback, foot and helicopter, and even using a helicopter to deliver some forgotten eggs to the musterers' hut.
Philippa has a great way of words, making this book a tempting peek into her high country life. On top of the tales and recipes, she has included a range of tips and tricks she has put together for making do when you live too far out of town to be able to just pop to the supermarket for an item you have run out of. As well as these great tips, Philippa has also included her ideas for living a more sustainable life. Called "do one thing" she has created a list of things you can do in your own home, or sheep station, to make a difference and reduce waste. From replacing curtains with roller blinds (in strong sunlight the plastic curtain hooks snap and end up in the rubbish frequently) to choosing natural fabrics for clothing, she has curated an easy to read, (and easy to aim for) list of things we can all do to make a difference to the world around us.
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While her "Do one thing" list is inspiring, I would respectfully add one more thing to it. If you one thing this week - make it treating yourself to this book and indulge yourself in a delicious slice of high Country Life.
Thanks to Stratford Paper Plus, we have a copy of this book to give away to one lucky reader. For details on how to enter, check out the print edition of the paper this week.