‘Inspiration and treasured’ cook Margaret Fulton dies

Margaret Fulton at the 2014 launch of an Australia Post "legends" collection of stamps.

Margaret Fulton at the 2014 launch of an Australia Post "legends" collection of stamps. Photo: Getty

Celebrated food writer Margaret Fulton has died aged 94.

Her family said they were “mourning the loss of their loving, inspirational and treasured mother, grandmother and great-grandmother early this morning”.

Fulton was most well-known for the 1968 The Margaret Fulton Cookbook, and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1983.

Generations of Australians can thank Fulton for injecting zest and flair into their cooking long before celebrity chefs populated Australian TV screens.

Through her wildly popular cookbooks, she introduced a post-war nation brought up on meat and three veg to the exotic flavours of Italian, French, Greek, Spanish, and Chinese cuisine.

More than 1.5 million copies of The Margaret Fulton Cookbook have perched on kitchen counters as hungry people, young and old, followed her instructions to bake, whip, stir, toss, and beat.

“I think Australians responded to this enormous excitement that I was feeling about food and they were feeling it too,” Fulton said in a 1997 television interview.

Not only was Fulton a prolific cookery book writer – she wrote more than 20 books – she was also food editor for Woman’s Day magazine, one of the first in the industry to be a cook and a journalist at the same time.

“I’ve been showing women how to bake a scone and keep a man; yes, that comes into it because it’s all part of life,” she said when honoured on her 93rd birthday.

margaret fulton dead

Fulton in 2000 with other celebrity food judges (from front) Steve Liebman, Michael Papahatziz and Rod McGeogh. Photo: AAP

‘Australia’s original domestic goddess’

In a career spanning multiple decades, Fulton had a finger in every pie.

She was as a teacher, a cook, a journalist, a writer, an account executive, a pressure cooker salesperson, and a solo parent.

Fulton travelled extensively, bringing to life the recipes she collected along the way through her writing and television cooking shows.

She was, as the now-folded Bulletin once wrote, “Australia’s original domestic goddess”.

“I often break the rules with cookery and I live to regret it,” Fulton said.

“You think, ‘I’ll take a shortcut’ and it doesn’t work but then, if I weren’t the type of person who took a shortcut, I wouldn’t be the kind of person I am.”

Frugal childhood was foundation

Margaret Isobel Fulton was born in Nairn, Scotland, on October 10, 1924, the youngest of six children.

When she was three, the family moved to the NSW town of Glen Innes, where her father worked as a tailor.

Fulton and her siblings grew up during the Depression wearing Scottish wool, but the family scrimped to pay bills.

They moved into a small cottage with a toilet and bathroom in a tin shed out the back and a tin tub and washboard as a laundry.

As Fulton recalled in a 1997 interview with the Australian Biography project, her mother’s first impression was one of “total shock”.

“Where’s the kitchen? The kitchen looked like a shed to me with a fuel stove,” she said.

“My mother was saying, ‘Where do you wash? There’s no sink’.

“The toilet was a thing in a wee shed in the back garden. The laundry was just a bit of corrugated iron.

“She made a marvellous fist of coming to grips with this very alien community.”

Not only was she influenced by her mother’s ability to create delicious meals from the cheapest cuts of meat, Fulton was also inspired by a wealthy local family’s cook.

She was regularly invited to play with the family’s daughters because she “spoke nicely”. But the cook, who had been brought over from England, was more interesting.

“I wanted to be with the cook who was making lovely raised pies,” Fulton said.

“That was the first time I’d seen very intricate cooking being done and I discovered this wonderful world.”

The young Fulton was also a keen piano player, but in the run-up to a piano exam, her sports mistress – who did not like her – encouraged the school bully to whack her hand with a hockey stick.

“I always say, my brilliant career was banged on the thumb but … the world lost a very second-rate piano teacher or pianist and got a very good cook,” Fulton said.


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