MamaBake was very lucky, earlier in the month, to have the chance to interview Maggie Beer about the importance of community and food.

Maggie Beer

How important is the family meal? What value is it to the family?

Eating with my family has always been a priority. Of course we all have reasons that stand in front of that happening every single day but as a general rule, eating together is so much more than satisfying hunger.

What did community look like for you when you had small children at home?

We were in the thick of things with the Pheasant Farm Restaurant when the girls were little and so they were a part of every day of life at the restaurant. This didn’t always mean meals together but it did always mean plenty of food on offer and always seasonally based. It really gave the girls a solid understanding of the seasons, and of what we were growing immediately surrounding us with the dam, the orchards and the vineyard.

Why is it important for children to be involved in food preparation and cooking?

I’ve seen the most wonderful results with involving children in the growing and cooking process with my work as an ambassador for Stephanie Alexander’s amazing kitchen garden scheme. What a turn around in some children! The pride and natural interest that is encouraged when children are able to plant food, care for it as it grows and then be there when its ready to pick and eat, is second to none for establishing a solid basis for a good food life. Fast food loses its shine when compared to something homegrown and hand tended from what I’ve seen in all the schools I’ve visited, and that can only be a good thing!

What is your favourite go-to’last minute’ dinner?

If I happen to have left over roast chook in the fridge, then chicken noodle soup with real egg noodles is a favourite, but if time pressures don’t even allow for that, then I rely on sugo and good dried pasta – all it takes is the time to cook the pasta and heat the sugo. A good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some crusty bread and that’s my idea of fast food!

What is your favourite ingredient to prepare and cook?  What do you like to cook with it?

Easy – verjuice. I never tire of the many different ways it can ‘lift’ a meal. My palate always seeks out that piquancy only verjuice seems to satisfy and as much as it suits almost all of my cooking, sweet or savoury, I’m also just as happy to pour it straight over ice and sip on it while I’m cooking.

What is your favourite kitchen gadget and why?

Not exactly a utensil, but my marble topped butcher’s block (see photo) is highly prized in my kitchen, it not only provides a preparation space but becomes an ad hoc bar when we have guests over, with everyone milling about, drinks in hand, chatting and jumping in to help out while I’m preparing dinner.

What is your signature family celebration meal?

I take my weekends whenever I can these days, but Sundays are usually family days, spent with Colin and our daughters and their children. There is always food involved of course, the requests volley between Roast Barossa Chook and the simplest pasta based on what’s in our garden at the time. Everyone’s involved in the cooking process so the day is as easy as possible with very few plans needing to be put into place beforehand.

Can you give us three words to describe your food values?

Seasonal, local, fresh.

Do you like the idea of mums getting together to big batch bake regularly? And if so, why?

Absolutely! Any sense of community that can be built around food is a good thing. So many great ideas can be shared beyond the resulting home baked cakes and biscuits etc, and when food preparation is shared it becomes an entirely different experience for everyone involved, something far more social than simply making food. I’m all for it!

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