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Laing Muse | Phillipa Cameron, Whats for Smoko

Philippa Cameron’s ‘smoko’ brings people together - farm staff, shepherds and family unite for her delectable morning and afternoon teas, rich in lasting sustenance and infused with high country charm. Philippa is the station cook at Otemetata Station, a 40,000 hectare high country idyll where she lives with husband Joe, the fifth generation farmer to farm there, and her two daughters Flora and Evelyn. 

Philippa has recently released a book, A High Country Life, which is an account of a year in the life of a high country cook, peppered with recipes that are tried, loved, repeated. We spoke with Philippa about her typical day on the farm, living to the season, and effortless dressing for wherever the land may take you.Tell us about Whats For Smoko - what led you to document your culinary creations? 

Tell us about Whats For Smoko - what led you to document your culinary creations? 

I began to document my journey as a station cook when I became concerned that the role of a farm cook was often perceived in a negative light.  I wanted to highlight that a cook was an actual vocation, and that it was an integral cog in the farm mechanism.  It’s a role that often those of us find ourselves in when we marry into a farming family and it fits well with family life.  It’s important to create a supportive team environment when working in isolated places; and sharing a cuppa and a sammie over a bit of banter is just as important to us as looking after our stock.

How does living in the high country inspire you and inspire your cooking?

My father in law often tells me that you could never have too much mutton in a week, which lucky for us is easy to obtain. 

We use a lot of seasonal fruit and veggies from our garden, along with mutton, beef and game meat from the station.

The trick to cooking on farm is a well stocked pantry, a full vegetable garden and a few ’never-fail’ recipes up your sleeve.

I find the weather also plays an essential part in what I decide to make each day.  If a southerly has blown through on a winters evening I will pack a thermos filled with thick vegetable and barley soup to warm the bones and fuel the body.  During the hot summer days leading up to Christmas I always pack fresh fruit to add moisture to the smoko bags.

Tell us about your new book, A High Country Life… 

It’s a wee tale of our life on a High Country Station in the the South Island of New Zealand, told from the perspective of the farm cook.  Tried and true recipes are spaced between pages of fabulous photography and the narrative of a year in my kitchen throughout the seasons.

What are the best bits about living high country life? How does each day differ?

It’s the lifestyle, the people and the space.  It’s listening to the land and learning from those that farmed before us, ensuring that we continue to learn and move forward. 

It’s being able to look out across our garden and see the children walking up the hill to feed their wee pony a carrot and then them returning with scraped knees and grass stains after exploring on the way home. 

I could go on . . . It fills my heart.

How would you describe your own personal style? What is the key to a successful outfit? 

I would call it classic country.  

I love stripes and florals and solid colours.

I love an outfit that can go well while feeding a pet lamb, but one that you can pop a bit of lippy and mascara on with, and run to town to pick up supplies.

What do you love about the Laing pieces in your wardrobe?

The feel of the fabric against your skin, and the cut of the style.

Pieces that I would consider slow fashion and timeless, which is important to me - supporting natural fibres and avoiding fast fashion.

How will you be wearing/styling this piece as we head into summer? What will you be wearing it with? 

I choose classic-cut pieces that I know will dress up or down as we head into a season of entertaining. Perfect with a pair of jeans, or tucking into a long flowing skirt


Images: Dana Johnston & Lottie Henry




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