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A beautiful 'foodoir' about Margaret Fulton and her granddaughter

By Sara Schwarz
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Margaret and Me - Recipes for life from my grandmother's kitchen by Kate Gibbs

Margaret and Me - Recipes for life from my grandmother's kitchen by Kate Gibbs


It’s a rare thing to not want a recipe book to end but this is what I felt after finishing Margaret and Me. What a beautiful ‘foodoir’ this book is.

Written by Margaret Fulton’s eldest granddaughter, food writer Kate Gibbs, Margaret and Me is part biography, part autobiography and full of recipes for great food and life.

In Margaret and Me, Kate Gibbs has skilfully interwoven a very personal biography of one of Australia’s most loved women with her own story of growing up as part of an Australian food dynasty, and of her journey to becoming a food journalist in her own right. Interspersed within are selections of family favourites, traditional and modern recipes, each with strong links to key moments in the lives of Margaret and Kate.

Like many Australians I grew up knowing who Margaret – ‘National  Living Treasure’ Fulton – was and have often seen her face beaming out from recipe books, magazine pages and more recently stamps. She is woven into the fabric of Australian food culture. However I realised I knew next to nothing about her actual life.

What I have discovered is that this indomitable lady’s story is an inspiration, and that her life contains a lot more spice than I would have ever expected.

From strong Scottish stock, Mrs Fulton’s family emigrated to northern NSW when she was a child in the 1920s. As an 18 year old she moved to Sydney with a desire to escape her small hometown and, through mutual friends, met a woman who would shape her destiny (and by default, the palates of many Australians).

"After the war, food, energy and cosmetics will grow, and these will be the areas for the new progressive woman", advised Olwen Francis, then cookery editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly. Sage advice still today.

An unhappy marriage resulted in a beautiful baby girl (food writer and Le Cordon Bleu London graduate Suzanne Gibbs), and in the desire for Ms Fulton to take control of her own destiny. Through many sacrifices and a lot of hard work, Margaret Fulton created a role for herself as a food writer and educator when such a job didn’t exist in Australia.

By 1967, already a household name through her recipe columns, her hard work and perseverance paid off further when Margaret was invited write a cookbook. The result was The Margaret Fulton Cookbook that has sold over 1.5 million copies and is still in print today (revised 2010).

Throughout many ups and downs (and a cast of delightfully inappropriate men), Margaret’s desire to share her food knowledge and passion with all Australia has kept driving her on. She is often referred to as the woman who taught Australia how and what to cook. Over the years Margaret has kept herself relevant by tapping into society’s changing tastes and influences, and at times often shaping them.

Mrs Fulton turns 91 this year and there seems little chance of her slowing down.

Kate Gibb’s story is equally fascinating. Having grown up as a ‘foodie’ she attempted to create her own path away from a career in food and instead spent time as a teacher and journalist in Australia and in London. But the pull became too strong and in 2010 she began the hard yards of carving out a career for herself as a modern day food professional.

Kate’s story really resonated with me. Although we’ve never met, we’re similar in age, both grew up in Sydney, and lived in London at around the same time. Her tales of family dinners in 1980’s China Town, of car trips around NSW, of exploring London’s Borough Markets and Sundays spent on the couch after nights out in Clapham brought back many memories.

So too did Kate’s experiences of love and loss, of growing up with strong female role models, of the need to break away and discover one’s own path, and of learning to make peace with ourselves. These tales have an age-old core that all can relate to and Kate has captured them beautifully, interweaving her grandmother’s stories with that of her mother’s and her own.

I highly recommend this book as a gift to yourself or significant food and family-loving other. Many will find a connection to the stories and the recipes within.

In honour of the indomitable women in my life, I’m planning to cook up a feast of recipes from the book for my family  (Potato scones with Salmon Caviar p21; French Onion Soup Gratinee p100; Octopus, Potato and Caper Salad p267; Real Ginger Beer p259, and with Chocolate Chilli Tart for dessert p171).

Or perhaps I’ll just sit back with a glass of wine and hand the book over to my partner with the pages marked accordingly. Either way I think Margaret and Kate will approve.


Margaret and Me: recipes for life from my grandmother's kitchen by Kate Gibbs (Sydney, 2015, hc, 256pp, RRP A$39.99) is published by Murdoch Books and is available at good bookshops or directly from the publisher »

A bit more about Margaret and Me »

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May 06th, 2015
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