The idea for Sophie Hansen's book 'A Basket by the Door' bubbled out of her fully formed at a chance encounter with publishers Murdoch Books.
Sophie had confidence in her idea and a follow-up formal proposal for the book was the easiest she'd ever written.
Murdoch Books loved the concept and 18 months ago Sophie started giving form to the stories she hears in daily life about how a gift of food can give energy to a new mother, help a friend recover from an illness, or simply say, "Thank you" or "I love you."
When Sophie was starting to photograph food for her book she contacted us to buy several props, including the Stanley metal lunch box above, a tiffin, and baking pan. It has been a thrill spotting them in print.
As I have been reading Sophie's book and writing this blog post I have been having a chuckle about baskets by the door and farm animals.
I remember a friend calling over to pick up her daughter years ago. She had a homemade lasagne on the front seat to take to her in-laws.
Our long haired Jack Russell, Jill, didn’t miss a beat. She was up in that front seat, eating the lasagne through the plastic wrap before we could do anything to save their lunch. I have been reliving that mortification. Beware of the dog (and other animals) when leaving baskets. If it's a drop and run delivery, store gifted food in old or new tins, or, if in doubt, leave out of reach of animals.
It is four years since Sophie's first book, "Local is Lovely,' and she hopes her photography has improved, and that her new book inspires readers to cook food to give to others, but also to double the recipe and cook for their family as well.
Her favourite hero recipe in the book is 'The Chicken Pie', for when you need to "bring in the big guns" of nourishment.
"I really love it. It's time consuming, but the gorgeous golden flaky pastry and white sauce is the ultimate comfort food," Sophie says.
She's also a fan of the smoothie kits, for someone housebound to consume goodness quickly, easily, and possibly one-handed while breast feeding.
Sophie remembers the emphasis on conviviality from her time working for Slow Food in Italy and it's a philosophy she brings to her cooking and care packages.
"I am not a chef, I am about nurturing and making a person feel special by using simple, considered ingredients, handled with care," Sophie says.
To this end, 'A Basket by the Door' includes easy to learn skills for making sauerkraut, pickle, cordial, and passata.
"There's so much in the world that we can't control, but we can control how we bring people around a table, cocoon ourselves at home, and learn old school skills to nourish."
Always an advocate for rural communities and farmers, Sophie encouraged readers to consider using the autumn school holidays as an excuse to go bush, stay in a B&B and have a big shop of local, seasonal produce, and help country economies that have been doing it tough during the drought.
"Cooking seasonally can start with seeking out your closest farmers' market, pick-your-own orchard, or growing some of your own food like rocket."
I'll definitely be cooking from 'A Basket by the Door' during the school holidays. In fact I might hand it over to our boys to choose a recipe each and we'll cook them together.
'A Basket by the Door' is available at book shops and online
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