• 20 December 2023
  • Web Master

Image: KMBS President Nicola Saker interviews Annabel Langbein. Photograph by Stephen A'Court.

On Tuesday 28 November 2023 we were delighted to host culinary queen and lifelong adventurer Annabel Langbein for a fundraising event to support Katherine Mansfield House & Garden. Annabel grew up in Karori, so it was lovely to have her back in her old neighborhood at Marsden Auditorium for Savouring Stories: Talking Books with Annabel Langbein.

In her 2020 memoir Bella: My Life in Food, Annabel recounts many stories from her hugely varied life that extends far beyond the kitchen and our TV screens - after leaving school at 16 she lived off the land up the Whanganui River, before helping to build a boat in which to sail around the world - only to get as far as Gisborne due to terrible sea sickness. She worked as a possum trapper before heading to South America solo where she learned to speak fluent Spanish, then later flatted in New York with a woman who would go on to cook for a French President and inspire a film!

Not only is Annabel a longtime cook and bestselling food writer, she's also an avid gardener. She started gardening at a young age with her father in Karori, competing to see who could grow the biggest vegetables, and has since created an amazing garden at her home in Wānaka. She's now exploring her creativity in new ways, including ceramics at art school this year.

Below are some of the books Annabel mentioned during her conversation with Katherine Mansfield Birthplace President Nicola Saker, and some of her recent favourites that she didn’t get time to mention during the wide-ranging and often very funny conversation!

Children’s Books

Annabel remembered being read lots of classics by her parents before bed at night including stories by Rudyard Kipling, Pamela Lyndon Travers’ Mary Poppins, and Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking.

In an interview with The Post leading up to our event, Annabel mentioned other favourites from her youth: “Willard Price’s Adventure series that took her into the African desert and the deep sea” and the National Geographic – her father “had to get a corner of their home re-piled because of the dent created by the family’s stack of magazines.”

Annabel explained that she loved reading as a child, until she discovered something rather distracting as an adolescent: BOYS!

Food Writing

Elizabeth David

MFK Fisher

David Tanis

Michael Pollan

Here is a glimpse of Annabel’s cookbook collection posted to her Facebook page.


Biophilia by Edward O. Wilson

The International Book of Trees by Hugh Johnson

Annabel has felt a deep connection with the natural world since she was a child, it’s her happy place. She studied horticulture at Lincoln University and regularly shares updates from her garden in Wānaka on her Facebook and Instagram pages.

South America

Annabel spent time living and working in South America as a young woman, where she learned to speak Spanish. She mentioned loving Pablo Neruda’s poetry and his memoir, and Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia.

Books recently read and enjoyed

A Visit to Don Otavio, Sybille Bedford

Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus

Demon Copperhead, Barbara Kingsolver

Kawai, Monty Souter

Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant, Cristina Sanders

Daisy Jones and The Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid

Klara and the Sun - Kazuo Ishiguro

Still Life, Sarah Winman

Dominicana and How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water, Angie Cruz 

Olive Ketteridge and The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout

Tom Lake, Anne Patchett (Annabel notes she didn’t enjoy this as much as Patchett’s other books)

The Boookseller at the End of the World, Ruth Shaw

Apricots on the Nile: A Memoir with Recipes, Colette Rossant

Apeirogon, Colum McCann (Annabel notes: Definitely a book to be reading right now. Quite possibly the most amazing book I have ever read.)

Finally – the book she’s read most?

A classic: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.


A huge thank you to Annabel for being such a wonderful guest and to all our supporters who made the event such a success. Special thanks to Hunter's Wines who sponsored the delicious MiruMiru™ bubbles, Samuel Marsden Collegiate School who hosted us, the sponsors of our raffle prizes Cranfields, Prefab, Gipps Street Deli, La Petite Chocolate and Lighthouse Cinema, and our audience who had some excellent questions! This was our major fundraiser for the year so we are very grateful to everyone who supported it. Donations of any amount are gratefully received at any time of year and contributes to the care and maintenance of our Category 1 Historic Place and our collection. You can donate here.

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