if its not yummy, then we better make it funny.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why am I baking bread at 3:00 in the morning?

I have a story for you. A couple of years ago I found a nice hard bound book at a primary school gala (what we call a school carnival in the States). It is entitled Dining By Arrangement. It is about an Australian woman who had settled in Karekare, a sleepy beautiful coastal community west of Auckland. The woman's name was Tina Greenville. She was raising two adolescent girls on her own. She decided to put her culinary skills to use by converting a part of her home into a restaurant routinely. People would schedule meals or parties and she would develop a seasonal menu, get her girls to help clean and decorate and "play restaurant" for the night. I found the book a delight to read because I love the unconventional idea she pulled off and the stories are witty, sometimes poignant, and there are recipes with every anecdote. When I met Clair Inwood, a woman from neighboring Piha who happens to be a caterer, I asked her if she had ever eaten at Tina's eatery. She said that she had not but that Tina now lives in Piha. She added a story that she knew about Tina that further intrigued me.

Years back, Tina came to a point where she decided she must sell her Karekare home. I don't know the details of the necessity, maybe finances dictated it. She was considering the impending transition while walking on the beach at Karekare one day. Karekare beach is a hauntingly beautiful place. It has lush green mountains meeting dramatic cliffs and rock formations interrupted by the constant waves of the Tasman Sea which changes color from pale blue to aqua to greenstone jade throughout the day. It is where the beach scenes for The Piano were filmed. That day, while walking Tina met an American man, she ended up walking along with him and sharing her concerns about selling her house. It was a transition that had significance beyond a real estate transaction and she was working it through. Tom, the American man noted eventually that he was, or wanted to be, a seasonal resident in the area and perhaps he could buy the house and she could remain there until summer came and then just make room for him when he came each summer. Wow.

The offer was considered and accepted. The months passed and the first summer of the arrangement loomed as Tina wondered how hard it would be to "move over" for Tom, the new owner to have the space in 'his' house. She was pensive. Something must have worked out right during that time, though, because Tina and Tom were eventually married. I guess that summer wasn't so hard to endure after all!

I just loved the story and it fit nicely with the lore I had already collected about Tina. Occasionally I would inquire as to Tina's whereabouts. Looking up her name in the Western Auckland phone book got me nowhere. I got some more accounts of her quirky restaurant by asking locals I met about her, but noone could tell me how to find her. I was interested in doing catered dinners from my perch and wanted to consult her about it. There were a few other things on my plate, though, like Children, two university studies programs to support, immigration anxiety and loneliness and marital uneasiness, to name a few. I didn't make any progress finding Tina to meet her and share my appreciation for her book and pick her brain for advice on how to set something up, myself.

Recently I had a 'Bed and Breakfast" guest, Carol Jackson over to stay in our guest room while she was on a one woman hiking vacation. Carol, who owns Serendipity books in Friday Harbor is a great guest. She showered us with her invigorating, 'can do' style and was appreciative of both the loud but charming children and the brand new kittens (that love to sleep on the guest room bed). Carol and I went on a hike while she was here and what we thought would be a 2-3 hour hike turned out to be a 5+ hour one. We returned home, exhausted. I was able to lay down, but Carol had an engagement with a friend of a friend in Piha. I was upstairs waking when I heard Jordan on the phone that evening. He kept saying "that's amazing!" to whoever he was talking to. Finally I came downstairs to indulge my curiosity. Jordan saw me and excitedly told me he was on the phone with Carols friend. Carol and her friend had figured out that The woman had actually met me before. She had lived seasonally in Friday harbor and had ordered a cake from me. (I filled orders for special cakes from my home, after I closed the restaurant)
Jordan handed me the phone so I could talk to the warm and chatty woman myself. She recounted our meeting in my house, (complete with reports of little Lil in high chair with whipped cream all over her face). As the conversation went on she mentioned she and her husband were living here now, that he had recently moved all his worldly belongings from Friday Harbor. As we visited about Karekare, her first New Zealand home, she mentioned that her husband had bought her home, only they weren't married then. It all came together in my head. She was Tina Greenville! Id been looking for her and she had found me. I gushed forth with the recognition and told her I loved her book and Id been informally researching her eatery and loved the story of her courtship with Tom and had retold it often. I wondered if I was staring to sound a little stalker-like, so I curtailed my raving, a bit. We had a long conversation and have had some good chats since. I decided to make her a loaf of bread to take over and meet her in person. At about 10 last night I set the timer for an hour to get up and bake the risen loaf. It wasn't until 3:00 however, that I heard the buzzer going off. So now I'm baking the (overproofed) bread and telling the story of Tina Greenville. Having a friend with a business called serendipity come to stay can have it's surprise benefits. Thanks Carol, for the visit and the new friend. Carol must be back in Friday Harbor by now. Tell her hello for me if you live there. Here is a good photo of her, taken on our hike.


  1. What an interesting story. I live in Piha and am friends with Tina. Tina and Tom are coming to dinner, with other friends, this very day. Regards Bobbie

  2. Doesn't the world just keep getting smaller! Bon Appetit. Kate

  3. I love that story. It would make a lovely film!


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