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Topp Twins talk top Kiwi kai

The Topp twins are hitting our highways again in search of more top tucker.

By Kelly Bertrand
Old-fashioned – it’s a term that’s met with a fair bit of derision these days, worse than retro and not as cool as vintage. But it’s a word the Topp Twins, Jools and Lynda (both 57), have decided to adopt as their mantra heading into the second season of their hit show Topp Country.
“Just look at my character Ken,” begins Lynda. “He’s still wearing flares after all of these years – and they’re back in fashion. So we’ll take old-fashioned and run with it!”
“Maybe we could have a new word – how about new-fashioned?” Jools asks.
“I guess that’s what we are. It’s a trend – living sustainably and making a lot of your own stuff. And there’s no drama on our show, no one gets voted off – it’s just about good Kiwi tucker. You can’t get more old-school than that. No jus allowed, just gravy!”
It’s been a while since the Weekly last caught up with New Zealand’s favourite country crooners, and the twins say life has been happy, healthy and relentless in the time since. Along with making the second season of their lifestyle show, which sees the Topps travelling the country meeting Kiwi foodies, eating some good grub and, of course, having a bit of a singsong, Lynda, along with wife Donna Luxton, have been running Topp Lodge in Staveley, a small town in Canterbury. It’s where all of their philosophies – sustainability, politics and food – meet in a nice little bundle. But it’s what will be happening in the future that’s got Lynda really excited.
The Topp twins enjoying an al fresco feast in Hamilton.
“Topp Lodge is moving into weddings,” says Lynda, who held a commitment ceremony akin to a wedding in 2013. Now that it’s legal, they’re in the throes of actually marrying, with a celebrant up the road happy to supply the necessary documents. “We’ve got two gay weddings planned for next year at the lodge. People keep asking me if we’d become celebrants ourselves. At this point, let’s just say Camp Mother and Ken may be getting their celebrant licences!”
As we chat in an Auckland café – Jools and Lynda ignore the fancy salads in the cabinet in favour of a ham and cheese toasted sandwich and a couple of flat whites – the twins, who have graced our screens for more than 30 years, say it’s their travels that have made them the foodies they are today.
WATCH: Ken and Ken get fruity on Topp Country
“God, remember when we first started out, and we were travelling the length of New Zealand in a car?” Lynda asks Jools, who’s grinning at the memory.
“Oh, yeah. You learnt very fast to be a foodie, because you couldn’t get a decent feed anywhere!” laughs Jools, who won her battle with breast cancer in 2007.
“If it wasn’t for Chinese takeaways, I think we would have starved to death. This café culture didn’t exist. It was tearooms, and you’d have a cucumber club sandwich and a lamington – pink or brown, a huge choice – and some tea.”
Bowling ladies Mavis and Lorna are back along with all our other favourite characters.
Both Jools and Lynda have watched as Kiwi palates, tastes and preferences have changed over the years, but still believe there’s something to be said for those old classics you can’t seem to find on café menus any more – and that’s the basis for the menu at Topp Lodge. Indeed, the biggest seller on the nights where Lynda puts on her apron and cooks for the locals is the somewhat ruggedly named “Steak, eggs, sausages and chips with no green s**t”.
“A couple of tractor drivers came in one night after the kitchen had closed for a beer, and Lynda says, ‘Well, I can’t serve you beer if you haven’t eaten all day. What do you want?’” Jools grins.
Jolls getting to grips with goats with Sarah Jenkins from Kaikoura Cheese.
“And that’s exactly what they said, so Lynda stuck it on the menu. Now it’s the most popular dish by far – that, mince on toast and the bacon butties.”
“You can have a traditional bacon buttie or a healthy bacon buttie,” adds Lynda. “The healthy one’s made with wholemeal bread.”
But for this second season of Topp Country, Jools and Lynda do admit to trying a few things outside their normal comfort zones – including deep-fried grasshopper and ostrich steaks.
“Those were in the ‘for the love of exotic’ episode,” nods Jools. “This season, we’ve expanded the episode themes a bit, so we don’t need to have a featured ingredient for the whole episode.”
WATCH: Ken and Ken act the goat on Topp Country
Adds Lynda, “You know, we’re really proud of Topp Country, actually. We’ve met some amazing people, whose passion for what they’re making or farming is incredible, and viewers see that, I think. We rock up to their place, have a cup of tea and a chat, and all of a sudden, they can’t stop talking.”
It all means that Jools and Lynda will never have to check into a motel again, having met dozens of Kiwis they’re now happy to call friends.
“There was one episode that still sticks with me, one that really sums up what the show is all about,” remembers Lynda. “We were visiting an older couple who farm lavender and all of their family were there for the filming too. We got out our guitar and started to sing a song, as we do, and the couple started waltzing, right there in the lavender field. We turned around and the whole family had tears rolling down their faces. One of their daughters said, “I’ve just realised – you’re telling their story. This is their legacy.’ And we just thought, ‘How cool is that?’”
WATCH: Camp Mother and Camp Leader perform with the APO
Catch the top Kiwi characters on Topp Country, which screens on TV One, Sundays at 8pm.