13 Apr 2015

Dame Alison honoured by flood of support

5:25 am on 13 April 2015

The son of celebrated New Zealand cook, Alison Holst, says she is "honoured" by the outpouring of support since the news of her dementia became public.

Dame Alison, 77, lives with her husband, a retired doctor, in Orewa. News of her condition was made public after she signed off from a monthly cooking column in her community newspaper, citing memory problems.

Dame Alison Holst and her son Simon Holst.

Dame Alison Holst and her son Simon Holst. Photo: Holst Online

Simon Holst, who has penned nearly 30 cookbooks with his mother, confirmed she had dementia and said the family had known for a while that something was going on.

"Dementia is a pretty awful, awful thing to go through. As a family member it's not much fun watching someone slipping away in front of you. And, you know, it must just be incredibly frustrating for her - it's just hard."

He said he could understand the public's interest in his mother's condition, but said there was nothing to be ashamed about.

Dame Alison DNZM CBE QSM, has been Nine to Noon's longtime resident food expert.

"She's led a very public life, and I understand the public as a result are interested in what's going on; we owe people that," Simon Holst said.

"We've had some lovely messages of support today, from friends and complete strangers. I think that's one of the things Alison's always loved; several times she's been voted as one of the most trusted Kiwis, so it's the idea that she's helped a lot of people find their way in the kitchen."

He said he and his sister, who is a geriatrician, were making more of an effort to see Dame Alison.

"If you can find a positive spin on something like dementia - is it's a progressive illness. You can see the signs, you get the chance to make decisions like spending more time with your loved ones. And that's what we've all done as a family."

"I don't want to put any words into Alison's mouth but I do know that she is touched by the support she's been getting, and she's been honoured to be invited or welcomed into families' lives. There's been a lot of feedback from a lot of people over the years and there's nothing she likes more than hearing her books and recipes are being used. This is a lasting legacy, it's a nice thing. There's no need that has to stop."

For the family, he said they would just continue to support Dame Alison in whatever way they could. He said: "I just think I'm following in the footsteps [of Dame Alison], most of my time is doing foody stuff. Writing cookbooks and things."

"One of the things I personally am finding difficult about this is this is my mother, my business partner and my mentor. I mean, she's still Alison and I certainly enjoy her for that!"