When I was a kid my family had the best holidays in and around Nelson, and as we headed out with nets to catch flounder in the estuary up near Cable Bay for this weekend’s episode of my TV series, all the happy memories came flooding back.
Those endless summers picnicking and swimming at Tahunanui beach or up the Maitai valley, picking raspberries and going fishing. It just felt so free.
My family roots go a long way back in the Nelson area. On my mother’s side there’s a pardoned convict who lived there back in the 1820s. On my father’s side, his grandfather and grandmother, Fred and Mary Langbein, came out from England in 1901 and bought Broadgreen, the famous historic cob house out in Stoke. There they brought up my grandfather and his seven siblings, a line of famous engineers.
Whenever I look at the old pictures and see the huge gardens and the wonderful glasshouse attached to the house, I wonder if that’s where I got my green thumbs from. My dad was an amazing gardener, and my sister Prue and I both love to garden.
I have always felt disappointed that I didn’t get the engineering gene, though. I might once have bled the fuel line in my then boyfriend’s – now husband’s – truck while he was having a tantrum in the cab (probably why he married me if I think about it), but I am hopeless at manuals and physics, and I guess I have always found rules, especially about the way you have do things, somewhat pernickety and tiresome. But if you are building a bridge or a tunnel, the rules are really, really important, so engineering school was never on my list.
Until recently I really thought I didn’t have that engineering gene. Then, when I was hosting a lunch in Noosa during my recent Australian book tour, someone in the audience put up his hand and asked me how I had learned to engineer a good recipe! Well that was a eureka moment, I tell you. All these years I have felt I have been letting the side down by not carrying on a highly regarded family tradition that’s lasted a few generations of clever engineers. But no, it appears I actually have been continuing the tradition – albeit navigating from a set of ingredients to a finished dish happily on the table without a teary moment or a soggy bottom, rather than mapping out a bridge or a building so that it won’t fall down. I know it’s a big stretch, but for now I’ll take the compliment.