It's not that often that ordinary folks get the chance to sit across the dinner table with a politician, but thanks to veteran political journalist, Annabel Crabb, we can. The fourth series of her popular Kitchen Cabinet returns to our screens this month and, once again, there's an interesting, if not delightful, agenda with a delicious menu to match.
Since 2012, Kitchen Cabinet has taken us across Australia and into the homes of politicians, from Prime Ministers to backbenchers, discovering varying degrees of culinary competence and uncovering some interesting 'secrets'.
Julie Bishop, Joe Hockey, Penny Wong, Tanya Plibersek, Peter Garrett, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd have all hosted Ms Crabb, for a meal in exchange for dessert, conversation and, perhaps, a little psychoanalysis. Discussions have ventured into the territory of Julie Bishop's 'Death Stare'; the numerous portraits of Joe Hockey that Joe Hockey himself has purchased; the significance of aspic and Julia Gillard's 'non-election'; and the art of politics and diplomacy as employed by bouncers.
In an article that appeared in Australian Gourmet Traveller in 2012, Annabel wrote that she 'likes politicians' and 'likes having dinner with them'. Indeed, she must. For not only does she whip up a cracker of a dessert, she is good at what she does on this show. 'Sharing food is the quickest way to get around the awkwardness of the journalist-politician relationship, a relationship that - even at its most civil - is plagued by an episodic asymmetry of need. Sharing food loosens the lips and gives everyone something to do with their hands,' she points out.
In series four, she's is back for more, knocking on the doors of politicians’ homes, in search of a good meal and some answers. Since the show was last on air there's been a change in government, a new PM, and an interesting crop of senators that never cease to surprise. So dinner conversation is not going to be a problem! Where to start?
'Various hard-bitten cynics and knockers speculated at the end of Series Three that Kitchen Cabinet had run out of interesting politicians who could cook,' says Annabel. 'Well, in your eye, naysayers! I give you Bob Hawke's steamed Asian fish; Bill Shorten's Labor Ratatouille; and Mussels from Brussels, courtesy of Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Not to mention the world's zaniest salad, delivered by Mary-Jo "Hokey Pokey" Fisher.'
In this series, former PM, Bob Hawke, opens the doors to his Sydney home and takes Annabel on a house tour that involves both an inclinator and an elevator. Annabel breaks bread with our Belgian-born, Perth-based Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann. Leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten, whips up a ratatouille with some close supervision from his wife, Chloe. Labor MP, Anna Burke, talks about her experiences as Speaker during the most unruly parliament in Australian history. Liberal MP and former crocodile hunter, Warren Entsch, invites Annabel to his farm near Cairns, to sample some local produce. And, in a special episode, Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, and former Liberal senator, Mary Jo Fisher, talk openly about their struggles with depression and how mental health can influence a political career, as they whip up that salad.
Kitchen Cabinet returns to our screens on Tuesday, 21 October at 8pm, so make sure you tune in to the ABC or catch up on iview. I'll certainly be watching, it sounds interesting and fun. I'm not sure what I'm looking forward to more... the interviews or Annabel's desserts!
Note: The image at the top of this post appears courtesy of the publicity team at #ourabc ABC TV.
Tell me dear readers, are you interested in politics? Do you think that food and politics are connected? How so?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.