Last year I chatted to the author of Maggie’s Kitchen, Caroline Beecham. Originally from Brighton in the UK, a place Caroline describes as, “south of London with colleges, universities and beaches with no sand”.
Caroline tells me she was working in London in the film industry when her partner procured a job in Australia. It was 1999, a fantastic time to arrive in Australia with the millennium ticking over and the focus on the Sydney Olympics.
It’s not only mainland Australia that Caroline loves but Tasmania too. She singles out Freycinet National Park which helped engage her energetic seven and ten year old boys while she favoured the Tasmanian wines.
Caroline book ‘Maggie’s Kitchen’ is the story of one of the kitchens during the war which provided wholesome meals for those in need. It was a time when women’s roles were changing too, as they took on the work of men who had enlisted in war. The kitchen is maintained by Maggie and her cousin Rose and aided by the Polish refugee Janek who creates some heat (not just from cooking) in the kitchen as the desired love interest of both women.
Kitchens like Maggies experienced difficulties with the war time shortage of various ingredients. The ingredients that were available needed to be utilised in creative ways to make them stretch. This kind of creative adventurous with menus leads Maggie coming into conflict with the ministry.
As a delicious addition to the novel Caroline has provided little epigraphs from the ministry of food at the beginning of each chapter and also includes some extra recipes for those that might like to try them. Caroline tells me that not being a big meat eater herself she let her parents cook up the offal recipe!
Caroline adds that researching and learning about those times of frugality makes her think of her broccoli stalks in a completely different way!
You can experience more of Maggie’s kitchen at the books website http://maggieskitchennovel.com.
Maggie says her second novel will revisit WW2 but this time the creative output is from a war artist with a contemporary story woven in.
Maggie’s Kitchen is out now published by Allen and Unwin