My Hungarian parents fled their homeland during the Russian uprising in 1956, leaving their extended family behind. I was born in Australia and unfortunately did not have the opportunity to meet any of my grandparents, much less spend time with them at the kitchen table. Margaret Fulton, Australia's national treasure, is one of my food heroes, hence, reading Margaret & Me has been a most heartwarming yet bittersweet experience.
Food and travel writer, Kate Gibbs, is part of an Australian food dynasty. She refers to this as 'growing up foodie'. Third-generation foodie, in fact. Her grandmother, Margaret Fulton OAM, is the matriarch of Australian cooking; and her mother, Suzanne Gibbs, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu school of cookery in London before becoming an accomplished food writer.
In her third book, Margaret & Me, Kate shares the highs and lows from the life of her extraordinary grandmother as well as her own experiences. This rich legacy has informed Kate’s career and inspired her to educate a new generation about the joys of cooking and the importance of good, real food.
My grandmother talks about growing up at the table, singing for her supper. Everyone helped and pitched in, stirred the pots, set the table and cleared up. The kitchen was the centre of the house for her, as a child. And she made it so for us too. I grew up the way many do, at the table, surrounded by family and friends. It's the stories from these tables I now share. This is my inheritance.
As well as chronicling her own journey, Kate has distilled the kitchen wisdom into 50 beautifully photographed recipes, a mixture of classics such as Scotch broth and homemade crumpets that recall Margaret’s Scottish heritage, to Kate’s modern takes on slow-roasted lamb and custard-filled chocolate profiteroles. These are the recipes that endure as family favourites. Recipes that caught my attention include orange and ricotta donuts with chocolate sauce; salmon pastourma with fenugreek and cucumber; spiced kedgeree, eccles cakes, and potted shrimps.
My favourite snippet is in a story in the chapter titled Love, where Kate tells how she was writing a recipe on the German fruitcake, stollen, for a food magazine. She had began to macerate the fruit, then telephoned her mother, Suzanne, to see if she had any citrus peel. An hour later, Suzanne called Kate back and told her about a recipe she had written for one of Margaret's cookbooks in the 1970s. Kate says she made the stollen, then made her mother's stollen as a comparison...
'I carted two containers of the stollen over to my mother's house, so she could make an informed comparison. I found her in the kitchen with my dad and Grandma. They half looked up at me, distracted by something much more important. Mum had two stollen in the oven and was slicing into another. My grandmother leaned into the loaf, poked the side with her finger, then pulled out four little plates. I put my loaf on the bench, with the others. Three generations lined up at the kitchen bench.
Margaret and Me: Recipes for life from my grandmother's kitchen by Kate Gibbs. Murdoch Books, $39.99. Thank you to the publicity team, Kate Gibbs and Margaret Fulton for giving me the opportunity to review this delightful book.
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