Photographs: David Straight
Al Brown and wife Lizzie’s fridge is small. “We’re crammed,” he says. “We’ve got a tiny fridge because we’ve got a tiny kitchen – it was the only sized fridge that would fit in there.” The family moved to their Auckland villa a year or so ago, and Al recently built an outdoor kitchen, to try to gain another room over the summer at least. “I think your fridge represents your life in a way,” he says. “Ours is chaotic and crazy but full of flavour.”
Sirloin steak – from Black Rock Butchery which is owned by Nosh. “My wife bought that and she’s done pretty well,” he says. “I go through all the steaks, looking for the marbling – can you see the marbling on the lower one?” He likes sirloin because it is the intersection between cost and flavour: it’s cheap, but it tastes as good as scotch or fillet. “And look at that fat cap! I know you’re not supposed to eat it but the dog never gets it in our house.”
Butter. Several types, since Al’s daughter Connie is a baking nut. Though she doesn’t like Al’s butter, produced by Oamaru’s Whitestone Cheese. “They like generic butter,” he says. “They don’t really like anything I do, actually!”
Cheese, though it’s more generic than you might expect. “We shop like everyone else – if we want feta on a Wednesday night salad, it won’t be the most expensive.”
On the second shelf down there, that’s a huge Christmas cake, made by Lizzie.
Colman’s Mustard. It’s a classic. We have a lot of mustard,” says Al. “That little shmear on the side of the plate.”
In fact, as well as mustard there is an entire shelf of condiments. “We’re just loaded with them.” In the fridge at the moment: harissa, eggplant kasundi from Depot, vinaigrettes, chutney and who knows what else. They might eat steak cooked on the outdoor grill, salad and some kind of carb, say, and it will be cooked quite simply – but in the middle of the table there will be half a dozen condiments. “That’s the heritage of New Zealand food – we were a frugal bunch,” he says. “With a fridge full of condiments you can throw something together pretty quickly.”