Photography by Jude Madison.

The literary world came to Food International’s premises recently. Instead of the usual strident sounds from the forklift, orders being yelled out and the cheese cutting room in full working mode, the board room was filled with the melodic voice of famous Samoan writer, Sia  Figiel, reading from her latest novel, ‘Free Love.’

Food International’s Gladys Youssef took advantage of the recent mid-week holiday and a flying visit to Auckland by Sia to organise the reading.

An internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet, writer and painter, she won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for the Best First Book for the South-East Asia Pacific region with ‘where we once belonged’. She is the first Pacific Islander to win the prize and her work has been translated into French, German, Spanish, Catalan and Danish.

‘Free Love’ is Sia’s fourth novel and has been very well received by international critics. Local Samoan women who attended the reading (many had attended St Mary’s Convent in Apia with the writer so there was lots of laughter and nostalgia) described the book as: “an excellent read and very steamy.”

And of course, we couldn’t have a meeting organised by Gladys without wonderful food to complement the literary cultural event. YOLO cheeses were the heroes in a selection of yummy platters (prepared by Harvest & Gather) which showed just how artistic and versatile a selection of platters based on different varieties of YOLO can be.

As for the author, who has appeared at literary conferences and festivals throughout the world and performed her poetry at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre in London, life is taking a different turn. Sia is returning to live in Samoa where she plans to grow her own food and live off the grid.

We wish her well and recommend you pick up a copy of ‘Free Love’. Enjoy Sia’s elegant prose with a glass of something special and a platter of YOLO treats.