by Margaret Fulton Posted on 04:12PM, 27 August 2010 Be the first to comment
I was the youngest of Alexander and Isabella Fulton’s six children, a wee three year old when we left Scotland to settle in a small country town on the other side of the world. It was 1928 and the town with a Scottish name, was Glen Innes.
People say the young don’t remember things, but the shocked silence of our whole family as we were shown our new home, a tiny wooden house opposite the grand Presbyterian church rang like church bells in my ears. A tiny sitting room. The kitchen? An old fuel stove, no sink. The bathroom? An old tin bath and a chip heater. The laundry was a copper in the back yard with a tub. From that day I learnt to assess each day by the look on my mother’s face.
Mother soon found a more fitting house which she quickly made into a comfortable home and we settled into our new life in a new country.
The church community soon arranged a welcome party. And what a welcome! The boys couldn’t believe the ‘spread’. Towering passionfruit sponge cakes, jam rolls, mulberry pies with thick cream, chocolate cakes and an amazing array of biscuits and little cakes, dishes of jellies with fruit salad and lashings of cream. And we were pressed to eat more and more. The people were so friendly inviting mother to teas, suppers … did she play cards? The three boys found themselves playing games with energetic, lively children. My two pretty teenage sisters were being ‘eyed-off’ by the young men of the town. We were going to love our new country with its warm-hearted, generous people.
I have an early memory of sitting with my mother in the grandstand at the local annual show enjoying the ring events. Mother gasped as the next event was announced. ‘Scotty’ (John) Fulton aged 14 was heralded as a rodeo rider (he had never mounted a horse) was on Big Bad Ned, the roughest, toughest, meanest – you can guess the rest. A good show everyone declared as our John flew through the air. Then another Glasgow boy burst into the ring on a wild, dangerous beastie with horns. It was horrible, even if it was over in a flash. My big brother Alex thought at 15 he was a real man who could tackle the world. The boys were so proud.
This small country town was not unlike other towns. The Chinese community ran Kwong Sing’s – a big general store. Opposite was Mackenzie’s, quite a posh general store owned by a genteel Scottish family. The Paragon Café (every country town had one) was run by a Greek family whose daughter sang opera. The draper’s shop Scarfes was a first class Lebanese establishment. There was a CWA Centre (Country Women’s Association), a stately Town Hall right in the middle of the main street, where the Mayor in his robes and chains of office would preside on civic occasions, and during the war a Red Cross Tea Room was set up.
My life was one of adventure. We’d go to the country picking blackberries for jam and pies or to the river for yabbies. We discovered magical mushroom rings in the paddocks. As I grew older there were tennis parties and later dances and of course all this interspersed with school.
The boys joined the Boy Scouts. I joined the Brownies and later the Girl Guides. I became the leader of the pack, the Magpie Pack and learned about survival in the bush, honour, commitment and leadership. It was so character building!
Soon the big smoke beckoned. I was the last of the children living at home. Tom had become a teacher; Alex an engineer; John joined the army and went with the 7th Division to the Middle East. Cath and Jean had married. It was time for me to fly the coop.
Little did I know what a wonderful life lay ahead and what an influence my happy days in a country town would have throughout my life. The good food I took for granted at home made me want to emulate my mother’s fine cooking. The lovely baking with which country women welcomed visitors left a strong impression of friendship, generosity and warmth. It is not surprising that I chose to work in the world of food. Teaching people to cook, writing recipes for magazines and books. At 84 I wrote my twentieth major cookbook. My mother would be proud of me with being awarded an OAM by our government for services to journalism, named one of the hundred national living treasures and me … just a girl from the country … anything is possible in ‘The Lucky Country’.
My country childhood has made me an enthusiastic and proud Australian who loves the land of her birth and the land of her adoption. I and many like me who have come to this country from all over the world have thrived in the vibrant, energetic, hard working and adventurous company of the people who are proud to be Australian.
Margaret Isobel Fulton OAM is a British-born Australian food and cooking 'guru', writer, journalist, author, and commentator. She was the first of this genre of writers in Australia. Fulton's book, The Margaret Fulton Cookbook, was published by Paul Hamlyn in 1968 and was an instant success. Over 1.5 million copies have sold and it remains in print. Through her magazine columns and cookbooks, Margaret showed the nation how to cook in new and exciting ways – with her bold approach to food, Australia’s national cuisine was transformed.