'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 28 April 2011

Interview: Louise Fulton Keats

KBR warmly welcomes Louise Fulton Keats, author and granddaughter of Australian culinary doyenne, Margaret Fulton. Here Louise talks to us about her beautiful new book - My Grandma's Kitchen.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in Balmain, Sydney with my husband John and our 15-month old son Harry. We often spend weekends at our farm in Kangaroo Valley where all our animals live - horses, cows, chickens and ducks. Harry loves to help me feed the chooks and then collect their freshly-laid eggs for our breakfast.

What inspired you to write My Grandma’s Kitchen?
One event that prompted me to write the book was Harry's arrival last year. He is the first grandchild and great-grandchild in the Fulton family so his birth was met with enormous excitement all round.

My mum Suzanne and my grandma Margaret have been so loving and so involved in his upbringing, it had me reflecting on the importance of grandmas.

I was lucky enough as a child to have Grandma Margaret living just a few doors down from us (we all still live in Balmain) so my sister and I spent much of our childhood in her home - and, of course, her kitchen. I decided to write a book that celebrates the role that Grandmas play, in particular, in teaching their grandchildren how to cook and eat well.

And of course there was no better Grandma to base the book on than my own! I have such fond memories of time spent in her kitchen and they formed the basis for the book. She has been the best grandmother that anyone could hope for and the book is also intended as a tribute to her.

How did you source your designer/illustrator or did the publisher do this for you?
I discussed with my publisher, Paul McNally from Hardie Grant, the look and feel that I wanted the book to have, in particular, a collage effect with photographs incorporated into line drawings. They had worked with Michelle on other projects and felt she would be perfect for the book - which of course she was!
Did you work much with Michelle on the book’s concept?
It was such a fun, collaborative process and Michelle was a complete treasure to work with. She was always open to my various requests - including photographs of Teddy (who is Harry's first bear, given to him by his Great-Grandma Margaret - she knitted all his lovely scarves that appear in the book) and using the beagle dog (Michelle's original sketches included a cat, but when I told her how I had grown up with Grandma's gorgeous beagle, Nutmeg, we decided to ditch the cat!).

Our editor, Jane Winning, was also involved in the creative process and she has a really lovely aesthetic too.

Was it nerve-wracking following in your grandmother’s footsteps by writing a book?
I was a lawyer before moving into food writing and have written four legal text books, so the world of book-writing is not new to me. However, children's story and food writing is another dish of fish altogether!

Grandma has counselled me to respect the classics but also to not be too safe - she has spoken about how she felt like Toad from Wind in the Willows on one of his crazy, fast-paced adventures with some of the food journeys she took the Australian public on, introducing them to wonderful new ingredients and tastes they had never been exposed to. She was delighted when they followed her on her wild ride!

So in choosing the recipes, and developing them with Grandma, I made sure that in addition to all the delicious comfort dishes that I loved when I was a child - pancakes, pikelets, banana cake, macaroni cheese - we also included some more adventurous choices too, such as apple bircher muesli, homemade pesto, and beetroot and bean salad.

What do you love most about your new book?
I'm just so happy with the finished product - I can't stop hugging it! All of the recipes are my favourites and I love to cook them all regularly. Since it's cold wintery weather today, I'll be making the pumpkin soup followed by the roast chicken with lemon herb stuffing for dinner tonight.

What do you hope My Grandma’s Kitchen gives its readers?
My main hope is that it inspires them to put on an apron and get cooking. I thought that if children could see what fun Lulu and Harry have in the kitchen, they would want to have a go too. I also hope that it gives grandmas - as well as grandads, mums, dads and everyone else in a child's life - some fun cooking ideas. I spent so much of my blissful childhood chopping, mixing and baking in the kitchen, so I'm hoping other families will share that experience too.

What do you love most about cooking with kids?
I love sharing with them the sense of awe and achievement that comes with cooking. I still feel like a kid myself in the kitchen because - despite having seen it countless times - I still get such a thrill from pulling a perfectly-risen cake from the oven or from taking a handful of freshly-picked basil from the garden and transforming it into delicious pesto. Kids are always so proud of their culinary feats and I adore being part of that process.

Why is it important for kids to learn and enjoy cooking?
I believe cooking is one of the most important life skills you can pass on to your child. Being able to cook will significantly impacts a child's health and quality of life as an adult. If your child can cook, he can eat well for the rest of his life.

What’s next for Louise Fulton Keats?
I am currently writing a baby and toddler cookbook which will be released in 2012. Harry thinks it's a wonderful project as he gets to enjoy the fruits of my recipe testing. Yesterday he gobbled up red lentil and coconut dhal and today he's been sampling wholemeal blueberry muffins. [Ed: yum!]

What is your favourite ice cream flavour and why?
I'm a lemon sorbet girl - refreshing, not too sweet - heaven!

See our review of Grandma's Kitchen right here and learn more about this gorgeous book at mygrandmaskitchen.com.au.