HER KITCHEN RULES Some of our best cooks won’t hesitate to tell you that, when it comes to good food, mother knows best
Measuring, mixing and licking the bowl — every cook has to start somewhere. We learn so much from watching our mothers in the kitchen; not just about how to create certain dishes but also the wider issues of time management, hygiene, safety and minimising waste. And how to get so proficient at cooking that the recipe barely rates a second glance.
Former MasterChef contestant Jessie Spiby remembers learning to cook from her mother and grandmother, who appeared able to whip up a threecourse meal out of nothing.
Adelaide-based Spiby didn’t start out with threecourse meals, though, but scones and cakes, in particular chocolate cakes.
At the time — aged about eight — she thought she was making the desserts all by herself. In hindsight, of course, she realises her mum Sally was watching over her every move.
Spiby remembers making a cake for her dad and getting confused with the ratios. The cake looked right but tasted like bicarbonate of soda.
“You can’t get it right all the time — if you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world,” she says. “You just start again or eat it anyway.”
As well as learning her family’s chocolate cake recipe, she was also taught about food waste: “Both my mum and grandma enjoyed cooking from scratch and I grew up not realising that was not what other people did.”
With a family background in farming, to Spiby it made sense to put care into how produce was han- dled. “It teaches you to really savour your food; it really influenced how I enjoy food still.”
These days her new interest in native Australian ingredients has led her to raiding her mother’s property at Willunga, South Australia, for produce.
“She doesn’t realise how much she can eat from there which looks like weeds. It’s cool for me to learn and then go there and steal it.”
Emily Rose Brott, who has published a new cookbook, My Secret Ingredient, says her mother Vivienne was her inspiration for cooking healthy food.
“I grew up watching her in the kitchen,” she says. “She probably liked having me there cleaning up.”
Melbourne-based Brott says her mother always cooked healthy, wholesome food for the family. “She had a few favourite recipes, chocolate cake and spaghetti bolognaise. I did make a healthy version of the chocolate cake, which is as virtuous as chocolate cake can get and it still gets passed around.”
Her biggest compliment about her own cooking skills, she says, comes from her mother — who now rings her up asking for cooking tips. Turning the tables, indeed.
Monday Morning Cooking Club member and author Merelyn Chalmers remembers that when she was as a child living in Perth, her mother was very particular about her ingredients.
“She wanted her walnuts and poppy seed to be the freshest possible,” Chalmers says. That meant young Merelyn would sit in the back yard shelling the walnuts and crushing them with a hammer so they could be hand-ground.
Later, her mum, Yolan, visited her native Hun-
‘Things your mother cooks go into the deep recesses of your memory and they sometimes stay there when you’re a busy working woman’ ANNE A’HERRAN