Back in my early days that were spent in New Zealand, every Sunday morning we would go to church.  Most Sundays we would come home to a roast that had been put in the oven prior to us leaving for the 9am service but occasionally, we would be squashed into the Holden and driven to Waikanae where my mother’s parents lived.

View of the South Island from the Kapiti Coast

It was such a long car trip and I hated the length of time I had to be confined to the car.  It was hours of torture; or so it seemed.  Because in reality, Waikanae is only just over an hour from where I lived in Wellington.  It was a very scenic drive that winded around the edges of the Cook Strait and on a clear day you could see all the way across to the South Island.

Waikanae is a small but pretty town on the Kapiti Coast that with its beaches and bushland and pretty scenery is where many older New Zealanders like to spend their retirement years.  My nana and grandad lived in a tiny house that was built up near the road but behind the house was an acre of land they had turned into an incredible edible garden with an amazing variety of vegetables and fruits.

Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast

As soon as we arrived I would greet nana and grandad then run with my sisters down to the bottom of the garden and see what was growing.  There were fruit trees to inspect including feijoa, tamarillo, lemon, lime, orange, apple, pear, plum, apricot and peach.  There were vines with grapes, passionfruit and kiwifruit; there were berries like loganberries, blackberries and strawberries; there were vegetables that grow on vines like beans and peas; and there were vegetables that grew in the ground like carrots and potatoes.

Em and I would climb the trees to eat all the fruit then pick fresh berries and eat those too.  We’d ask nana if she needed us to harvest anything and knowing we’d be so disappointed if we couldn’t pick anything, she’d usually ask us to bring up some peas or tomatoes and dig up a few carrots.

When lunch was ready we’d have to come inside and sit up at the table for lunch.  I still remember my grandmother’s table setting and her brightly coloured place mats.  The food would be laid out on the table in bowls of varying sizes and then Grandad would say ‘grace’.  After bowing our heads we’d begin our lunch and most of it would be from their garden, apart from the leg of lamb.  Homemade mint sauce would be poured over the lamb, roasted root vegetables served with it as well as pickled beetroot and fresh salads.

After the main course nana would bring out her famous meringues.  All her grandchildren still talk about them and we all wish we had the recipe.  I don’t know what it was that gave them their magic, perhaps it was the splash of malt vinegar.  They were crisp with a good crunch on the outside and extremely chewy on the inside.  These would be served with plenty of hand-whipped cream with sprinkle of icing sugar and their own fresh berries.

As the sun was beginning to set it would be time to climb back into the Holden for the very long trip home.  It would be dark by the time we arrived and we’d be given a light dinner of spaghetti on toast or mince on toast before climbing the stairs to bed.

My grandparents stayed on that property, working their garden everyday, right up until their 90’s.  They enjoyed good health that could have been the result of their insistence on a ‘no drinking/no smoking’ lifestyle, but I think it could have had a lot to do with the satisfaction and enjoyment they gained from living a sustainable lifestyle.

Meanwhile, unlike the restrained lifestyle my grandparents lived, Carl has opened a bottle of 17-year old whiskey.


An aged stiff drink

A night-cap!

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  1. It’s so nice of you to share your story of Waikanae and your grand parents 🙂 I’ve only ever had the chance to meet one grand mother and unfortunately, we never really had the chance to cook with each other, nor does she really make any desserts. But there are a few Chinese dishes that i love and think I really should get the recipe before its too late ~

    You’ve got me intrigued by these lovely meringues your grandma makes 😀

  2. A great look back in time … and your words were successful in transporting me to the island!

  3. Wow, what a view!!! And I would have loved to graze in your grandparent’s garden, too…loved your reminiscing 🙂

  4. In the first picture the island looks like a mirage, like a dream. Sweet memories and the fact that u r sharing them with us is humbling. I understand why they enjoyed living a peaceful life, I feel after all I ll pursue the same path once I get older. What could be better then enjoying your own little garden and harvest the fruits and veggies?

  5. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    What lovely memories! Nothing beats a nanna’s recipe does it? What is the whiskey like? 😀

  6. Monet@anecdotesandapples.com says:

    What beautiful memories…and photos to go along with your eloquent words. So very glad I found your blog!

  7. Minnesota Prairie Roots says:

    What wonderful food memories. I cannot imagine so many fruit trees. You most definitely inherited your grandmother’s appreciation for fine food.

  8. Eva Taylor says:

    What a lovely memory of your grand parents; my grand parents lived in Europe do we only saw them a few times.
    Eva http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com

  9. Glamorous Glutton says:

    How fabulous to have all that wonderful produce and to be able to appreciate it at such a young age. Wonderful memories to treasure. As is that fabulous bottle of Ballantine! Cheers Carl! GG

  10. Those are such beautiful memories my friend, thank you for sharing 😀
    So lucky to be around such incredible food from a young age 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  11. Mandy - The Complete Cook Book says:

    Oh wow, what a treasured memory Charlie and how special to eat so much home grown produce from your grandparents garden – fantastic!
    🙂 Mandy xo

  12. Your childhood memories of visits to your grandparents’ home resonated with me. That’s why I started blogging. 🙂 What a beautiful place to grow up.

  13. Sounds idyllic, Charlie! Thanks for the lovely read first thing in the morning! xx

  14. What great memories to have, Charlie. Funny how a child’s sense of distance varies depending upon what’s waiting at the trip’s end. If it’s a nice place, even a 30 minute trip will seemingly last for hours, while an hour’s journey will seem like an eternity. And woe to the child, at least in our family car, that utters the immortal, “Are we there yet?”
    Thanks for sharing such a warm, personal memory with us. I’ll be wearing this smile for a while.

  15. Claire @ Claire K Creations says:

    What a wonderful memory and lovely grandparents you had Charlie. I could feel the excitement as you described the garden. Sounds like quite a haven.

  16. Barb Bamber says:

    What precious memories our Grandparents give us.. now your children can read these and have memories of their Great Grandparents. What an inspiration the way they lived on food from their garden.. They made sustainable cool before it was cool!!

  17. Todays lifestyle is a lot different isn’t it? It sounds like a little patch of heaven Charlie, and how lovely for you girls to be able to roam through it gleaning 🙂
    I bet the whiskey is nice and mellow after all this time, and I’m sure you will be too after a sip or two!

  18. Tina @ bitemeshowme says:

    I went to New Zealand for the first time eariler this year and can I just say it is an absolutely beautiful place. You really wouldn’t expect any place to be as serene and calm, particularly with the mountain views!

  19. The beautiful volcanic soil grows delicious food. I’d have been too full to eat a meal after scrounging through the garden. 🙂

    I don’t subscribe to any “rules” but I do like a nice scotch and I don’t smoke. I’d like one of Nana’s meringues now.

  20. I want to live like your grandparents.

  21. yummychunklet says:

    Your grandparents sound awesome, at least by the way they ate!

  22. Victoria of Flavors of the Sun says:

    I have fond memories of enormous family gardens as well. What a lovely way to live. And that scotch doesn’t look bad either.

  23. What a wonderful memory! And what a great garden your grandparents had. The time spent enjoying a meal together is always the memory we cherish and remember often. I too have very fond memories of my grandparents and all the holidays spent there eating and drinking. xx

  24. Your grandparents sound so lovely. Romantic in a solid, comforting way. I would love to grow old that way….

  25. Love your youthtime story in New Zealand. Makes me think back on my first years in Australia: now incredible I actually survived taking account of the many things which happened. You and I both have access to SBS, my fave TV station: what is it now – seven million stories and accounting . . .?

  26. I love your grandparents’ life! It sounds amazing and it’s so beautiful. I’d love to visit it one day.

  27. I really enjoyed getting a fuller glimpse of your childhood while also learning about your grandparents. You described a wonderful garden. Perhaps all that good homegrown produce put you on the cooking path of today! I like Carl’s idea, though, too. A good stiff drink goes well with stress reduction! 😉

  28. Oh what I would give for an acre of backyard to plant edible things in ! We visited my parents on Sunday and came back with bags of oranges and a container of mulberries – and purple tongues.

  29. Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake says:

    I’ve never visited NZ even though it’s so close by, such a shame! NZ sounds like a beautiful country and all of my friends and relatives who have been said so too. You’ve described a perfect scenario there, love your grandparents’ lifestyles, just like my grandma who’s turning 99 in a few months, she has a no chilli, no sour things and a no alcohol apart from a sip or 2 to warm the body policy. 🙂

  30. mjskit @ mjskitchen.com says:

    What a great story story of your grandparents and what a beautiful place to have lived. The scenery and ocean air alone would have kept me living forever!

  31. Thank you for sharing you lovely childhood memories of your grandparents.


  32. I love your NZ stories. Could just picture it! I bet it smelled marvelous, too!

  33. Jed Gray (sportsglutton) says:

    The blue in that opening image just makes me want to pack my bags and hop on a plane…beautiful. And while I can appreciate those who chose not to consume adult libations, I appreciate a good scotch too much not to drink it. 🙂

  34. Wow, that is some blue, blue sea. The sea always has a miserable green/grey colour in England… not at all as enticing as that alas 🙁

    That bottle of whiskey looks way older than 17 years – how long has Carl had it?

  35. Linda Walbridge says:

    Hi Charlie – I can relate to your post of church and pot roast on Sundays as a child. I grew up in Texas but on Sundays after church we often times went home for a pot roast complete with root veggies for “dinner”. My favorite after church “dinner” however, was driving about 40 minutes to my favorite seafood restaurant “Al’s” for fried gulf shrimp….YUM! It was always freezing cold in that establishment and I loved curling up in my dad’s lap after lunch to stay warm, while the adults had coffee and visited. I am an only child and soooo was always the only kid at the table – boring but I loved the food! Thanks for rekindling that memory!

  36. GourmetGetaway says:

    Such nice memories and a lovely story. My sister and I used to have to walk to church each Sunday by oursleves.. My parents had alone time :0

  37. I’m catching up on some missed posts, and I must say how much I enjoyed reading your memories of the Kapiti coast, and your grandparents’ wonderful lifestyle. My sister and her family all live at Paekakariki and I know how beautiful that coast is.

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