Australian Biography: Margaret Fulton
Margaret Fulton (1924–2019, born in Nairn, Scotland) was the first and greatest of the Australian celebrity cookery writers.
Through her magazine columns and later her cookbooks, she showed the nation how to cook in new and exciting ways.
Her inspiration and example showed younger Australians the pleasurable and creative possibilities of fine dining and our national cuisine was transformed.
She was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1997.
Interviewer: Robin Hughes
Recorded: October 21, 1997
This is a transcript of the complete original interview conducted for the Australian Biography project.
Well, I was born in Nairn near Inverness, in the north of Scotland, a lovely part of Scotland, in ... in October, 1924,10 October, 1924, and I've since learnt I was born in the Year of the Rat, which actually tells me what my future is going to be: I'm always going to be surrounded by food.
No, my father was really in Glasgow. He was a tailor and he didn't think that Glasgow was a nice place for children to be born. He ... they needed fresh air to be born and things like that, and also he used to go up to the north of Scotland, to do the lovely clothes that they wore, the hunting and fishing. He was a master tailor, and really a master at his craft. So he had a lot of his people who ... his clients, who used to go up to the north for the fishing season. So it was sort of a dual ... dual way thing. We went up, and people in the north of Scotland used to give their homes. They used to sort of move out of the main part of their homes and then the visitors would move into the homes, and then they would do for the people who came up, so we spent a lot of time in the north of Scotland. And then me and some of my brothers and sisters, my siblings, were born in the north of Scotland, rather in ... in industrial Glasgow.
My father had known a tailor who had come to Australia. He'd come to Glen Innes, which is a very sort of ... it's a very pretty town in the New England district and he had done quite well in tailoring, but he'd also done a lot better with sheep because it was a lovely country for sheep. And he told Dad how marvellous it was, and it was the land of opportunity and the land of, you know, sunshine and he ... Dad was a sort of a ... I suppose an adventurer. And he thought it sounded lovely. My mother didn't think it sounded quite as good. She used to say that, 'Alex, you know, the children will be better off here. We've got friends, we've got our contacts here to go to a strange country with six children, you know, what will the future be? I know they say the future, it's the land of opportunity, but we've got our contacts here', but however, Dad won the day and yes, we came to Australia when I was about three.
I don't know how well his business was doing. My father was a master craftsman, but he wasn't a terribly good business man, you know. He ... he had a lovely ... he was a lovely, wonderful, amusing and ... just a perfect dad for anybody. I don't know if his business was doing all that well. I don't think it had very much to do with it. I think he wanted to come to this land of opportunity and he came.
I was the ... I'm the youngest. I'm the baby. Or I was the baby of the family. And it was lovely being the youngest of six children. We had three boys and three girls and they all adored me, and they all loved me, and they all pampered me and they all thought I was the sweetest baby and the loveliest little thing. So I ... I grew up being loved, which is a very nice ... it's a very nice thing to do.
No, I wasn't really. I wasn't indulged in the way we think of being indulged and spoiled, you know, as you would with say a single child. No, I don't think ... they were all too busy to spoil me. And my mother was too busy to spoil me. It wasn't a spoiling. It wasn't a time when children of my ... of say of you know, a family, that really got spoilt, because things were to ... things were always on the go. Things were always happening. Yes, you didn't get time to get spoiled. The only way I was spoiled, that ... that I wasn't pestered. I wasn't pestered to do things. They weren't always looking to see what I might be doing and tell me to stop it, you know. I just went ahead and did it and I think that's the only spoiling I got.
Oh, I know they say you don't have really solid memories, but I do remember very much moving into this funny wee house, opposite the Presbyterian church and mother walked in. We all walked in, and where's the kitchen and the kitchen was ... it looked like a shed to me with a fuel stove. And my mother saying, 'Where do you wash? Where's ... there's no sink', and it didn't ... it had nothing in it. 'Where's the bathroom?' and we went to a tin shed, and oh, it had a tin tub in it, and a thing that you put chips of wood in it and you lit this up and this heated the water. But it was out in the cold, and, 'Where's the...,' you know. The toilet was a thing in a wee shed in the back garden. The laundry was ... was just a bit of tin - corrugated iron - over a sort of a thing, and then mother was shown a thing, rub a dub-dub. You know, it was a sort of a corrugated little wooden thing that you rubbed the clothes up and down to wash. I ... I think I'll never forget the feeling of the family, and looking at my mother's face. It just, you know, I sort of learnt to look at my mother's face for reaction and I could see she was in a state of shock.
Oh, three but you always remember something that's as dramatic as ... a strong emotion, as I sort of saw in my mother.
I think it is. No. And I don't know whether this is memory, but apparently I was very cute on the boat coming out, because I used to sit up and say to the waiters - because I'd never been waited on at the table, the waiters would come by - and I'd would say, 'Fish, please', and they thought that was very ... but that ... I think that's because it's been ... it was repeated. I think that memory of my mother in that Australian house ... because in Glasgow we had a very comfortable place, a very simple place in Glasgow, but it had comforts and we ... we had a person that came in to do the washing and, you know, it was - well, I suppose - more civilised than this little, very rough little cottage.
Oh, mother very quickly found a place with proper bedrooms and proper ... proper kitchen and a lovely home and we were immediately ... we were very, very happy. But mother wouldn't offend. It was the Scottish community, who were rather rigid ... They had found this place for mother, whereas Mother wouldn't offend them by saying, 'I'm not staying here'. I mean today I would have said, 'Look, I'm not staying here', and walk out but mother wouldn't offend the people who had found this little house, by saying, 'This is ... this isn't what I'm used to'. But she very quietly went ... just as she did really in coming to grips with so many things in Australia. She went about making sure that her family were in a proper place and we found a place nearby, a lovely home, and we were so happy, and it was just absolutely lovely and everything began to fall into place, because we had a proper place to live.
Father took to the life in Glen Innes, like he took to it immediately. But you see, it was quite a rich Scottish community and people with quite a bit of money had set up in ... set up properties, beautiful properties, in the outlying districts, and they had put money into ... There was a gentleman's club and it was just like being back in London, or Glasgow, because people with money have always made sure they were looked after the proper way. So Dad could go to this club and play his cards and play his, you know, whatever they do in these gentlemen's clubs that women are not allowed into. But it certainly ... Father loved it and he was always such a convivial person and people are drawn towards people who are bright and cheery. And father found his ... Father found a lovely life in this town. But it was very different for women, because there was nothing for a woman like my mother to do. You know, she could join the Country Women's Association, but they didn't really want, you know ... they weren't all that interested. Or she could join the Women's Guild for the church, or ... she ended up joining the Women's Christian Temperance Association. I don't know why. Except that in ... back in Scotland, you know, there had never been places for women to ... to go and meet in Scotland and they started lovely ... the Macintosh tea rooms and that would be a nice place, because you could have a cup of tea. So ... and also quite ... quite forward thinking women were doing that. So ... but for a woman like my mother, who ,you know, used to have lovely, beautiful bronze, gorgeous dresses and gloves and go to the opera and things like that, the Women's Temperance, we used to tease ... tease her. My father used to, used to tease her, because he liked his wee drop, and Mother would just sort of ... but she made a good ... good fist of ... she made a marvellous fist of coming to grips with this very alien community.
We had a lovely ... we had a lovely home life really. Mother was a very good cook. She found it extremely unusual in Sydney [corrects herself]... in Glen Innes, to find that meat was so cheap. Vegetables were quite expensive. Things like that. But she ... because she had always been a very good ... a good cook, not so much herself initially, but we'd always eaten well. And we'd always, you know, when we were up in the north of Scotland for example, mother would say to father, 'I think I've upset Mrs. Forbes'. That would be the house we were in. 'Why, Bella?' would say father and she said, 'I said, 'Look, just a wee bit of mince would be nice, instead of venison and salmon and grouse'', and father said, 'Oh, no wonder you upset her. They'd have to pay for the mince', because they'd ... of course, they were used to poaching, so we were actually used to the very, very best food and so mother set about doing it in ... in Australia. I was the youngest. My eldest brother, he went off to teachers' college. He would have been a doctor if we'd stayed in Glasgow. My next sister, Jean Hatfield, Janet Guthrie Hatfield, she would have been a ... she was going to school for gifted children. Instead, they put her to work in Mackenzie's, which was a local store, measuring elastic and counting out buttons. And my ... the next sister, she worked ... went to work with my dad in the tailor's shop, because she was good with her hands. The two ... my two next brothers went off to school. We all got very, very busy doing things and it was a lovely happy, happy home, except for Mother, who knew how life could have been back in Scotland. I think it ... I think it was hardest on my mother. But then I think it was hard on a lot of women who came to Australia.
I never, never ... my mother never complained. But I think that's what helped me to sort of assess situations for myself because her face would often tell a story. But ... that her lips didn't tell, you know. And when I would be sort of going through cabin trunks as ... as a wee girl, and seeing these beautiful paisley shawls, and these long white leather gloves, that came right up, and 'Mum, when did you wear this?' and she'd tell me when she wore it. I learnt a lot from being with my mother in that way. And also I thought, you know, it's so different wearing a beautiful thing like this, and mother pottering around trying to do things, you know. It ... it ... it brought it home to me that life was different.
Well, what was interesting, because there were wealthy graziers around, and people, he was making their lovely tweeds and their lovely ... their lovely suits. I went back to Glen Innes a few years ago for ... I was presenting some ... the cup, the Glen Innes cup, and there was ... when I say a young man, he was younger than I, but he ... he was very proud that he was still wearing the dinner jacket that my father had made when he graduated and he came to Sydney. So father was making a lot of lovely clothes and then his reputation did come down to Sydney. And people ... judges used to come up to get robes done by dad, up in the country, because he made the best ... he made the best lovely robes and the academic robes, and things like that. And he dressed ... he used to tailor and he would dressed the best dressed hack rider ... and you know ... of the Royal Easter Show. Things like that. So even though he was up at Glen Innes, his name spread and people recognised his ... his work. And it is interesting that clothes that he made for a young stud, as it were, coming down to, you know, do his university degree, he wore with pride, you know, forty years later, because there was something about the style of dad's clothes that just were timeless. So he managed ... he managed in his fashion very nicely.
No because one of the things that really did happen, people ... ready mades began to come in. And the ... the farmers, the ... the sheep and the people, were losing ... the wool prices fell. A lot of things happened. He didn't move with the times as it were, when people could buy ... could buy ready made suits and things like that. We ... we were always able to go to school and have ... have food and things like that and do whatever was needed to be done. But no, he didn't become well off.
No, I spoke ... apparently I spoke ... I break into Scots, as you've probably detected, every now and then. I ... I had a lovely pure accent that had no accent at all. I was quite ... I don't know what really happened. They say in Inverness the purest English is spoken. And I ... I can't say as a wee thing of three that I really was influenced by Inverness. But I did speak this ... the way they have in Dublin, of having no accent at all. I now have more of an Australian accent. But when I was young, I had this pure English accent. In fact, one of the turning points in my life was when a rather aristocratic, for Australia, family had ... I had overheard ... they used to invite me to play with their children on a property out of Glen Innes and I overheard them saying, 'Oh, we like Margaret Fulton coming. She's the only child in the village that speaks so beautifully and she's a good influence on our children', and I thought, oh what a terrible - I'm a village child, am I? And I then didn't want to play with these children. I wanted to go in and be with the cook, who was making lovely raised pies and that was the first time that I had seen very intricate cooking being done because this family had brought a cook out from England, and he used to make all of the proper food, you know, that they had in England. And I discovered this wonderful world. And her husband used to do the gardens for this home so he was growing beautiful, beautiful vegetables. And the combination of the lovely cooking and the beautiful vegetables ... The other thing I had to do was for this family, I used to ... they used to say, 'Oh, Margaret can play the piano', so I'd go in and play the piano because they were wanting their daughters to play the piano nicely. In fact, I was some funny transplant of a little girl lady, that could do things that these ... these rich people wanted. And I don't know where I got it from. But it ... it did actually take me into realising that cooking was exciting and was lovely and something very nice.
No, all my school life I was called 'Scotch' because I was a Scotch, a Scot. And ... but ... and my mother was horrified at me being called 'Scotch', and people ... my friends would come in, 'Where's Scotch?' and mother thought it was awful. But there I was, I was Scotch. And I was always very different to the children, because I wore a little ... my father being a tailor my little overcoats used to be like the little princesses: Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth, and I sort of wore shoes that weren't ... I ... I always thought it would be lovely to have some black patent shoes, or pink ... you know, sometimes they had pink shoes. But I had perfect little velour hats and this little coat that the princesses wore but they were tweeds and they used to say, 'Oh, you wear boys' clothes'. No, I was always quite ... I ... I suppose I was always quite different because ... because I was a Scot, and I was made to feel it too.
Yes, but then I thought, well, I'm something of your lot, and I've got a lot ... I'm you know ... I was so confident about my home life, I knew that you read books, you didn't go out and do things ... do the things that other people did. You played the piano and you sang and you ... so although I went through this, it never worried me that I was different. I was different! But I'd also seen in this small country town how the Chinese community ... We had quite a strong Chinese community. We had Lebanese, who were doing the Paragon Cafe, you know, which every country town has. But I ... I knew there were a lot of differences but I knew that there were more people who were calling you 'Scotch' and 'wog' and things like that, and they could do it but it didn't seem to worry us, because I think we just all had very secure home lives. I don't know if that's ... yes, I was never offended at being different because I thought, well ...
I remember when my mother died, the feeling in the township. Now, the ... the ... there were Aboriginals who came to the church and you'd never seen Aboriginals in a church at that time. The ... the Irish Catholic priest - we were Presbyterian - he came up our front steps, 'I'm coming up, I'm coming up. I have to, you know, give my blessing'."Then there was some women I wasn't quite sure about, but apparently they were the town whores and they came to the church, because 'Mrs. Fulton was the only person who was, you know, nice to us'. And so all of these other people, the Lebanese, you know, my father used to go and play cards with them. And then the Chinese also came. It sort of hit me that this was the first time I had seen everyone in the community coming out. And it ... it always reminded me of what an absolutely marvellous mother I had, that she rode across all barriers, which ... which ... and she was herself in spite of whatever was happening. And everyone related to her. It's lovely to have memories of your mother like that.
The biggest division that people talk about, that were ... was in country towns at that time, was a sectarian one. The Catholic and the Protestants were often divided in those country towns and yet, the Catholic priest came to her funeral. Was there not that same division in Glen Innes?
Oh, yes. In Glen Innes, my father being the local tailor, he ... he always was a bit naughty. He was ... the Presbyterian minister came in, and was saying that the seat was wearing out of his pants ... a little bit was rubbing. And he said, 'Yes, you know, Mr. Macdonald, I had Monseigneur Tobin the other day, but he was complaining about his knees wearing out', and you know, Dad would always have an answer for everything and a sense of fun. The only time I ever thought my mother might have been a bigot was when I took a fancy to a Catholic boy and I ... and mother said, 'What! You're not seeing that Sammy White, are you? He'll not be coming to this house', and she didn't like the fact that I ... I'd even spoke to a Catholic boy. And we used to sing out, 'Pommy whackers', or 'Something whackers, jump like crackers', and they used to sing out things to us. The sectarian thing was very strong. Everything was actually very strong in the country town. Socially, you were this or you were that. I mean a school teacher wasn't very good. A bank clerk was good. But then you see the bank clerk knew your bank balance, so he had to be good. But yes, there was a lot of ... a lot of undercurrent of feeling.
And snobbery. But that's why, I think, I always thought my mother was so marvellous, that she was able to override this. She would have ... back in Scotland, she wouldn't have been doing the same things that she was doing here. And I became aware that life for Mother was very different, but she, again, didn't complain.
We ate ... the thing is that it was the kind of food that other people were eating, as far as meals were concerned except it was done better. It was ... if it was a piece of steak, it would be seared in a pan and it would be just nice. And if it was vegetables, they were never ... they were always tasted good. Everything she ate ... she cooked, tasted so good. The food was the same, except when it came to ... the thing that Australian women are so good at, and ,other didn't put so much ... she put the importance on cooking, not baking, whereas a lot of Australian women became so good a baking. I used to envy my girlfriends, you know, who would go home and their mum would have made some jam tarts or gingerbread cake or a chocolate cake and things like that. Things seemed to be baked for the kids coming home from school whereas my mother didn't do that. She thought I should have an apple when I came in from school. And we knew that there would be a Dundee cake sitting there and I adored Dundee cake. But I would no more have gone and cut myself a slice of Dundee cake, at that time of day, or ... or I wouldn't have broken off a piece of shortbread. If I did, I would try not to be caught, or anything like that because that for when people came and it was afternoon tea. I ... children ... I was encouraged to eat fruit after school. But I used to long for a jam tart or something like that.
Oh, yes. You see, being brought up in a family that ... for your entertainment, you sat around and sang and played the piano, yes, I ... I was considered a local talent. I always won the local eisteddfods. And I think ... although I was a very shy child, I think I loved performing. I loved sort of being in front of people and playing there and I could get lost. I've always been able to get lost in things and I could get lost in music. And yes, I used to ... my mother thought it would be lovely if I took over Jessie Scott - she was the local music - if I took over her practice when she got married and those were the plans for me. And all seemed to be going swimmingly along, you know. I was practising, ultimately, eight hours a day and I was just about to sit for my - what we called Cap and Gown - and I was playing hockey and the school hockey mistress, who didn't like me at all, she said you know, 'Attack, Margaret Fulton'. I was always a small child but, 'Attack, Margaret Fulton', and I look up at the eyes of the school bully, and she ... she told me what's going to happen next. And she goes whack on to my thumb, on my hockey stick. Then the school mistress says ... the sports mistress says, ;Attack, Margaret Fulton, attack'. Whack again. I ended up with a pulverised thumb. And this was just a few months before I sat for my final exam. It was heartbreaking for my mother, who ... to put ... to keep a child at music lessons at such a bad time. Just ... you know, the pressure ... She'd got through the Depression and to see this career just go up in smoke. I always say, you know, my brilliant career was banged on the thumb. But one thing, the world lost a very second rate piano teacher or pianist, and got a good cook. So all's well that end's well, I suppose.
Yes, and also I was good enough at ... with music to know that I ... what talent was and what ... what real ... what real music was. I think that's the lovely thing about being reasonably talented, you can recognise that you ... you're not ... you're not ... you're not what dreams are made of.
I sure wasn't. But I could have, you know, in a country town, I could have been a good music teacher, and I could have inspired people. But I think it would have driven me crazy, because I also haven't got very much tolerance for people thumping away at pianos. When my grandchildren thought they would like to be musicians ... you know, take music, I thought the sound was so dreadful. So I bought them a lovely ... I thought that they ... you can't play on that piano so I bought them a beautiful piano. And then I realised they were just as bad on a beautiful piano. So the piano's sitting out there, and sometimes if they want to play for me, and I say, 'Look, I've just got to, I've got something on cooking. I've got to go'. I can't bear to listen to, you know ...
Not too bad. I sort of got there. I had a gift, and that was if I was ... If I had to write an essay of say 100 word or 200 words, I could do it exactly. I could get to ... on ninety-nine, if it was going to be a hundred, I could finish on a hundred. And I realised later that this is an ability or it was something. So my ... my compositions were often read out, you know, as 'This is how it should be' ... whatever a composition's got to have. The beginning, the end, the ... all of the things. I could do it without ... without even thinking about it. Years later, I wrote an encyclopaedia of food and cookery that had, you know, 450 pages, and I was always so thrilled. I find it one of my great achievements, that I actually had about that much column space left to finish. But to be able to write thousands and millions of words, and get it to that. And that was from A to Z so I had to start on abalone and I had to end on ... no, I started on, yes abalone, and ended on zabaglione, or something. But to get it all fitted in, I suppose it's just like an architect can see what a building's going to, you know, do. But ... but my school career wasn't brilliant. I think that mother showed great ... Mother and father, both, showed great faith in keeping on. But like a lot of Glasgow people, mother used to say, 'Margaret, in Glasgow you put it between here and here and nobody can take it away from you'. She said, 'The Scots and the Jews know that', and that's why education is important to a Scot, and to the Jews. The Jews know that also: that you've got to get it between here and here. [POINTING TO TWO SIDES OF HER FORHEAD]
Yes, and it the dread of my father that I'd cook something for him. I can remember saying, 'Now dad, you know ... Mum I'm going to cook dad's breakfast', and she would sort of look a bit dazed at me. And I'd say, 'Now, we're going to have...', and poor dad would come in and I'd do this ... whatever it was. When I was doing invalid cookery it was awful because I learned to make brains in white sauce and I think father thought he'd never tasted anything like it in his life because mother used to do brains in a little butter. And she even knew then about black butter sauce, and you know, mum's brains were certainly weren't anything like my brains. I really don't know how I ever thought about food, from the food I learnt to cook at school. I learnt to make doorstops, you know, which would have been a loaf of bread intended, but you could have used it as a doorstop. Mad things ... mad things they taught us. For my final ... when I was doing my Higher School Certificate, or Leaving Certificate, you know, to leave school, I was presented with a big twelve foot damask table cloth, which I had to iron with the flat iron. And this was part of an exam. Now, if you're learning to iron damask, a little napkin would do. You know, you've got to get it damp. But you couldn't do this stupid thing, you know. I think the Education Department has a lot to answer for, for my period of education. It was just ... I mean there must have been good teachers, and there must have been other ways of doing things. I think they were just like treating us like we were kids in reform schools, and had to be taught a lesson and the lessons weren't very sensible. I learnt to cook so badly, and I learned what could have been, you know, cooking really awful food. I remember we were taught how to make soup and you made stock and you just put the vegetables in. And I saw this carrot going in with a clod of dirt on it. And I said to the teacher, 'Do you ever wash the carrots first?' 'Oh, if you're very fussy', I'm told and I'm looking at this big clod of oh, it's best forgotten ... best forgotten.
Well, when you're the youngest of a family of six and dinner's coming along, and say for a dessert you're having a custard, that custard has to be stirred. So guess who gets the job of stirring the custard? The youngest member of the family, who can just sit there and stir away. And you know you knew not to let it get curdled, and you knew not to ... you know, all of those things. I was taught to care, and watch, and, you know, everything like that. Mother would sometimes send me down to the greengrocer to get some tomatoes, and if I bought back a squashy tomato, I had to take it back because, you know, you can't ... you can;t use that. 'Go back, Margaret, and learn to watch what you're doing', so at a very young age, I learnt that the first thing you had to do was to have good ingredients, to shop carefully, and to be ... to be careful. If I went to the butcher, and he cut a piece of steak thick that side, ... you know, that thick and then it went down to that thick, I would have to go back with that. 'Watch what you're buying, Margaret. It's good money that's going into this. Now it's got to be the same thickness right through'. So basically, I learnt there. And then when the food was ... when the food was being being prepared for the family, yes, I ... I would be part of it. I also learned an important thing from Mother. We'd be sitting down and eating and we'd all be saying, 'What happened, you know, during the day?' and Mother would sort of get rather stony faced, and we'd think oh, what's the matter with mother? She's not ... you know, she's not a part of this and then we'd realise we hadn't said anything about the food. We were talking about us, our exciting days, and what the teacher did and what somebody else did and then somebody would wake up: 'Oh mother, this is lovely. Where did you get the recipe?' and then she'd beam and she'd say, 'Well, I was listening to the radio today and this came over the radio. This would be from Inverell. And they said...', and she would tell us what ... what the recipe was and she was part of it. And I think all of these things make a mealtime a happy time. And it also makes you ... being a bit careful about watching what the reaction of somebody, and being aware that somebody's feeling left out of it. So we were being taught manners, as well as the joy of the food, the joy of the family together, you know. In ... in my very first book I write about the importance of a family dinner ... dinner table and how a good day, you know, turned into a celebration when you could go home and tell the family what had happened. And then a bad day didn't seem so bad when you shared it with the family because it was one of the things that I always felt, that you went out into the world and things happened to you, and things didn't happen to you, you know, a whole lot of good and bad, but when you share it with the family, and I learned later, when you share it with a friend, a good day does turn into a celebration, and a bad day doesn't seem so bad. So it was a lovely memories of my childhood and my meals and things.
It was very interesting, my early memories in Glen Innes, because being on the New England Highway, I hadn't realised, but there was always ... Dad would be sending someone up to the house from the shop: 'Oh, would you like some wood chopped', or, 'Would you like some...', 'Mr. Fulton sent me up to say could I do something in the garden?', or do somethingand I was aware of these people, who, you know, I would wonder where they slept last night, or where they were going to sleep and sometimes they were allowed to sleep in a sort of an area we had. Food was always plentiful in my home and things seemed to be rolling on. But I began to realise that we had this passing parade of strangers, who had a look of desperation in their faces, which isn't lost on a ... you know, when you're the youngest of a family of six and you're used to looking and watching people, I could tell that these men had a very, very different look in their faces. The Depression went on and we still had food to eat, and clothes to wear but I remember when one of my brothers left school and went up ... he went on the road. And I hadn't realised what this meant but one day mother got a postcard from Cairns, which is you know, the northern ... northern Queensland, and this postcard had a funny looking fellow looking dazed, and a coconut had dropped on his head and I thought it looked a little bit like John. That was my brother's name. And when the other side was turned and mother read it and John said, 'Things are going fine. The food drops from Heaven in this part of the world', and mother looked at it and burst into tears and it was one of the few times I saw mother cry. But I suppose the thought of one of her sons, you know, waiting for something to drop on his head from Heaven ... It was very touching. And it hit home to me that gosh, John's like these people that pass by and come to chop wood and that was my brother.
Well I think, he was always a terrible scamp, and I think he thought it was, you know, going to be fun, [laughs]oing up there. I don't think he thought of it as a tragedy that it happened to him, which you don't know that it's going to be a tragedy. Because when you've come from my kind of home, you think this is adventure. I'm going off in search of adventure. He wouldn't be the first boy that had left home to search for adventure so that was what he did. But mother, of course, saw it differently, as any woman ... I suppose as any mother would.
Oh yes. If you ... if you can't see that ... people ... I'd heard the expression 'It's not fair, it's not fair', and I know that it's not fair. Yes, it's ... you see it and you see it and you see it again and again. No, it's not ... it's got nothing to do with fairness. And it's awful. I don't know how people ... everyone can be equal. I've tried ... you know, I've tried to do things that are going to make things equal for people. Or ... but I remember a few years ago in Cairo, we'd gone to a mosque, and there was a little kitten running around playing with things. You know how ... little tiny weeny little kitten. And it was playing and it was so happy and then there was another little kitten [which] had been run over by a cart, and it's back had been broken and it was crawling ... crawling around and it was again a reminder: it's not fair. It's awful that things can happen to some people and some animals and some things, and not to others. Not that it ... yes, it's just not fair.
Oh, I went to ... in those days it was called my Leaving Certificate. It was also an interesting time when the government was realising that they needed to know more about nutrition and I was ... I was given a scholarship to go to Sydney University, specifically to study nutrition. I don't think it ... it was considered in my family circle a great ... 'Oh, Margaret's made it to a university', which surprised everyone but I think it was because they were looking for the right kind of people for ... to ... to make a study of nutrition. But yes, I finished, and I came down to Sydney, from Glen Innes, at this time.
No, I wasn't intending to take up any scholarship, or ... or ... it wasn't ... no, I was more excited about ... I wanted to be a dress designer. But of course, during that time, you couldn't be a dress designer. You had to work in Turner's parachute factory. It was all essential industry so you had to do something essential so ...
The war was on. They were making parachutes so that we could jump out of aeroplanes and we were also sending planes up into the air that were falling apart in the air and my sister felt that I should be doing something instead of this playing around that I did, or I looked like I was going to do, I ... she made me apply for a job at Commonwealth ... Commonwealth something Laboratories, where I became a radiographer because I'd done science, or had done ... you know, they were pushing people into the silliest ... putting ... making daft decisions, except they were ... they wanted somebody to x-ray these nuts and bolts. And I used to ...
Because the aircraft were falling ... the aircraft were falling apart in the air and they had a suspicion that it was the nuts and bolts [that were] deficient. You know, there were a lot of deficient things made during the war and these aeroplanes were falling apart. So I just used to ... yes, nuts and bolts was ... that was my job, x-raying them for ... for defective ... and of course they were finding that a lot of them were very defective. And it did put a halt to this ... this terrible thing that was happening to our airmen. But after a while I began to hate it and I didn't think it at all a worthy ... you know, I knew it was worthy, but I felt somebody else could do the worthy bit. I got out of that job by telling a lie. I said I was pregnant. And ... they said, 'You can't leave, this is essential industry. You've got to stay here'. I said, 'Well, I'm not going to be able to come for much longer, because I'm pregnant', and they were terribly shocked at this and there was great silence all around, because in those days girls didn't get pregnant. Or if they did, they didn't talk about it. And here was this perfectly nice little young person, boasting ... not boasting, but you know, making a statement, 'I'm pregnant', and so they said, 'Oh well, we'll have to let you go'. But what I'd got my mind on was a job ... I'd decided that or I'd been told that what would be very good ... there's going to be three big things after the war, for women. There's going to be cosmetics, there's going to be the energy. I didn't know what energy was. I thought it was something you had in you. But ... or there's going to be food. And I thought, food is the thing. I had a vocational guidance test that said I was ... I had got maximum marks for colour, design, form and I was good at English. I could write twenty words if I had to write twenty. And I thought I wanted to get into food and in advertising was the place to be. And to get into advertising, I had to know more about food - food advertising. And I went to the gas company. I got a job ... because it was an essential industry, I could work in the office. And so I'd sit in this office doing, looking at ledgers and things, and somebody gave me a tip: 'Margaret, if you really want to progress, just don't fall asleep after lunch'. I used to fall asleep after lunch. So I'd have to remember, oh don't fall asleep, because I was so bored. But then they did move me to the cookery ... where we had cookery classes. And then I became ... I didn't fall asleep ever again at work because I just ... I just loved it.
Well, they were a degree better. What you did get is terribly good at making scones. You got very good at making little patty cakes. You got very good at making sponges. And you got all right at making ... you got good at making pastry. Because in those days they were wanting people to use ... cook with gas, and also they were trying to say that gas was better than electricity and that it could produce these beautiful results. And they're still the things that show a person's skill at baking, or a good oven, or a good thing like that. I got terribly good at doing those things, because I did them, you know, four times a day, every day of the week.
Well long enough. One of the things I ... I progressed pretty quickly and they ... one of the interesting things I did at that time, [was] The Blind Society. They were thinking, if people who were blind could learn to cook ... And I was the first person to teach blind people to cook. And it was lovely, because these people came to my class, and I said, 'Well, I don't know how it is to be blind, but I'll teach you ... I'll tell you what I'm doing and you can tell me if you're getting the message or not', and it was just lovely, because at that period, if you were blind, people ... your family hid you. They didn't want anyone to know that they had a blind daughter or a blind son. You weren't allowed to go out in the street. You weren't allowed to do anything. You weren't allowed to touch anything. From these blind people, I also learned how awful it is to be dysfunctional in any way. And you were made to feel that. So what happened with the cooking classes, I entered ... I sort of entered into this like, well, 'Let's go', and off we were. And they ... they were telling me, 'It's just been marvellous. She's made us feel like, you know, you're a bit dysfunctional ...' - we didn't use the word dysfunctional, because it wasn't around in those days - 'But, you know, you're making it feel that we're learning from you and you're learning from us', and I'd say, 'Now, this is what you've got to get: a cup of flour. This is how you do it', and they'd feel around and feel for the cup of flour. 'And then you've got to get a cup of water. Now you've got these little ridges', or whatever it was, milk. And it was lovely. And then when ... when I'd say, 'Now you can feel that dough', and they'd all be feeling the dough. And then I'd show them how you patted it into a shape and made cut-outs with these scones and they thought it was marvellous. And then I'd put it on the tray, and 'How do you know the oven's hot? You do this, and put your hand in and don't burn yourself'. All of the lovely things. And then when they came out of the oven, I said, 'Now, I know they're cooked, because I can tell. They're golden brown on the top, they're this', and I'd tap them. And they said, 'Yes, we can hear ... we can hear that sound', and then they said, 'Yes, and they've got a smell'. So it was a lovely experience, because I learnt from them and they learnt from me, and also it helped take them out of their selves, being told they couldn't do anything. And it also taught me to actually express what I was doing, so that anyone could understand it. It was a ... it was a big ... a big turning point in my life, because I learnt what teaching is, what it can be.
Oh, too long. Very soon I was offered a job ... or I was offered a job when after the war, when we started making pressure cookers. And Sir John Storey, who had been the head of the aircraft corporation, he got a whole lot of women to give their saucepans for the war and that was for making aeroplanes. And then he was left with all these scrap saucepans, and he ... they learnt about pressure cooking. And so he made pressure cookers, and he wanted somebody to be the home economist, as we were called, for these ... these pressure cookers. So I went into the company as the home economist for these ... telling people how to use these pressure cookers. Anyway, he met ... he was very impressed with what I did, and he said ... somebody had got the sack, and they were looking for a new sales manager for New South Wales, and all of the salesman were saying who was going to get the job and then Margaret Fulton got the job. And I said, 'I can't sell', and Sir John Storey said, 'Yes, you can. You've sold me'. So I got the job of selling pressure cookers to retail stores and I was so naive. I was told if we could get orders six months ahead, it would help them with the supply of aluminium. So in all innocence I went off to, you know, leading retailers, and said, 'Look, if you can give me an order for six months it would be such a help', and of course, these men who'd missed out on the job, were laughing at this silly girl thinking she could get six month orders. And I got the six month orders and I came back. And said, 'Yes, well they've done it'. It ... it is amazing what, when somebody believes in you, what can happen, you know. You just need somebody to believe in you, and I had Sir John Storey. And then he'd say to me, 'You're not spending enough, Margaret, on ... you've got to entertain these ...'. I sai, 'How I can take this pompous businessman out to lunch and pay the bill?' because it was so against anything that ... he said, 'Of course you can', so I learnt to pay the bill. And I learnt to ... all of the things that you have to do in business.
But I did actually meet my Waterloo, when I went to Canberra, when I had to see a man who was the secretary to the ... the Treasury, you know. He was ... because we were wanting to get to buy raw ingot aluminium from America and from Canada and so we were having a meeting in Canberra. And this was big time. We had dinner one evening with the head of the Melbourne Stock Exchange and we ... it was very nice. There was Sir Percy Nette and this man and myself. However, they wanted to talk further, and I went to bed and about two o'clock I got a telephone call, telling me, 'We don't have that sort of thing in the hotel, Miss Fulton. You'll have to get out tomorrow, you know. This is ... we don't ...', and I said, 'What sort of thing?' I was in a deep sleep. 'Entertaining men in your bedroom', and I said, 'There's no man in my bedroom'. 'No, he's gone', says this night watchman. However, I phoned Sir Percy Nette in the morning and said, 'Look, a terrible thing's happened', and I told him and he got the head of the Melbourne Stock Exchange, and we had a confrontation with the ... with the manager of the hotel, who quite ... he wasn't giving any ground. 'No, we don't have this in the hotel. We don't have these kind of women', and here I was doing a big deal and getting ... getting a sort of a ration for big industry. And I came back to ... There was no apology at all and I came back to Sydney and my sort of boyfriend met me at the airport with a bunch of flowers. He said, 'What's the matter?' and I told him what had happened and he said, 'Oh, look, I'll take you away from this. We'll get married', and I said, 'Good', and he gave me a bunch of flowers. So we got married and that was the last bunch of flowers I got. And you know, yes, it was ... It was a very interesting thing, because I ... it was just hopeless trying to be a business woman. You could do it, as ... you know, they had confidence in me, and everything I did I was successful in, except the established attitude of people to women in business.
I got married. Well, when somebody says let me take you away from all of this, it seems a nice thought.
Trevor Wilfred Price. I'd met him. He was a soldier who'd passed through the town on his way up north. He was ... the ... the wonderful thing that of course did happen out of the marriage is I thought I'd leave him, but I left him with ... I left him, really, with a surprise package. I was going to England. My mother had died and I was going to Scotland with my father, because I had planned to go with my mother, but of course when she died I went off with my father and I ... travelling through the Great Australian Bight, on a big ship, I thought I was seasick. And I thought was still seasick when I got to Colombo, went through. When I arrived in London, I was still seasick, and then I found that I was pregnant. But I'd really left him. I left him well and truly. I think I got careless and sloppy and didn't think about that he ... what he was leaving me with. So I got to England, and I'd been offered a marvellous job in England. But when I realised that Australia was the place to ... just as my father thought that Scotland was a place to have - Nairn was a place to have children - I thought Sydney ... I'd go back to Sydney. And I had my only daughter, Suzanne. So although it seemed like tragedy at the time, it ended up being, you know, wonderful, because I got the most wonderful daughter who ... you know, who's given me great happiness. But, you know, even then, it was awful, because in hospital she had a little face that was just like my husband's and he said, 'How do I know she's mine?' because I'd gone off. He said, 'How do I know she's mine?' and I thought, 'You cad! You nasty person'. I hadn't realised that ... that all in the animal kingdom, the animal world, of which I'm part, that a child will look like the father, they know who the mother is because they've come from a mother, but there has to be this identification, so that the male does know that it is his child. And what ... what I thought was amazing that she had his blue eyes and square jaw and blonde hair, instead of my black ... black hair and brown eyes. But I sort of ... it was the beginning of the end when a father, you know, saying he doesn't want to recognise his child. And I left soon after that.
Very soon after, yes. Because it be ... be ... bcomes impossible. When you've got strong instincts about people's rights and I thought how can a child go through life with a father that really wanted to deny that ... you know, that she was his child?
Oh, it had got ... my marriage was over.
I mean, there was I in bed with him, dreaming of what I was going to do in Scotland and England and I should have been dreaming about what I was doing right there and then. But sometimes, you know, bed's bed, and sex is sex. I don't think the sex bit was all that big in my mind. It was just how long ... how soon can I get out of this situation that I don't like at all.
Oh, well he played a guitar and he sang. And, oh, for a country girl, you know, to have somebody that can strum away and say ... sing 'moonlight becomes you, goes with your hair', it was just lovely, you know. You know, I ... just the whole thing of you know, a good song and a good strum, and a good ... yes, and someone from another world. It was just ... seemed exciting. It was silly as anything.
Reason. Reason was missing. You know, any kind of sensible approach to life was missing on my part. ni, it was just reason. It was the silliest reason for marrying. If I'd ... when you go through life, and life's a bit of a ball, you don't ... and you haven't really had any hitches, you don't think there's going to be a hitch in your life. You just think it's something you do and it was something I did.
I think first of all that he ... he was a mummy's boy. His mother adored him. He was shielded from everything. He ... he had no good ... apart from the fact that he could play a guitar, he had no ... no moral strength. He just had nothing. He had a pretty face, and a body that worked for me and, you know, he ... he could hold a tune. That was all. But you know, if ... that is pretty heady stuff when you're a country girl. It's pretty heady stuff. And you know, you can't ... it doesn't last for any length of time, of course. And my young nephew ... my sister was absolutely distraught at this, and my mother was distraught. Everyone was distraught. And this little fellow, Billy, who was ten, said, 'Look, she'll get a divorce. Don't get so excited. She'll get a divorce'. And this is this little thing of ten, when divorce wasn't all that common in those days. But he could see that it wasn't, it wasn't really a great tragedy. It's not the end of the world. Because mating, you know, we ... unfortunately he didn't have long legs, so my daughter's a little wee short thing like me. And, I mean, if I'd been thinking genetically, and for a whole lot of other reasons I wouldn't have married him anyway. He wasn't a good ... he wasn't a good .... except that ... that she's ... she's got nice things about both of us.
No, it wasn't, because my sister was married to an author, William Hatfield, who'd written some lovely books, Sheep Mates, Australia Through The Windscreen, so it was a literary household and they had a tiny, tiny wee cottage on the Hawkesbury River and they said, 'Come up and live with us'. And I shared a bedroom. You know, it was a tiny, tiny wee bedroom, that could just squeeze between two single beds, and my daughter's cot ... Suzanne's cot went into the ... into the space. But it was just a lovely, lovely period because my sister loved food. She loved ... she loved ... She had ducks that stayed up underneath certain pens. We had ... we used to do deals with the local fisherman. They would give us fish and we'd give them oranges from our orange trees and we used to ... My daughter, Suzie, was brought up, you know, on oysters from the foreshores and then what we used to call spinach and asparagus that used to grow wild. Food that used to grow on the foreshores. We used to go out in our little boat and row around and ... and do things and in the evening, we had a little gas light. And I ... I had got a job and there was a book sale at Angus & Robertson's, and I bought a book, The Way Of All Flesh for a shilling - one shilling and ten cents, you know - and I came back with this prize. Because what I used to do, I used to scale trains and use tickets that ... oh, because we had no money. We had absolutely no money. But I used to get off and I used to hitchhike up on ... from Mooney Mooney, which is near Brooklyn, down to Sydney and I'd hitchhike. And a funny thing happened recently. I was going to buy my granddaughter a car, and she wanted a black car and I said, 'No, you're not getting a black car', and she said, 'Oh, but ...'. My daughter said, 'But Mum, it's nice and it's black', and I said, 'No', because one time when I'd been hitching ... I hitched ... put my hand up for a hitch, and this big black car ... and it had a hearse in the back. It had a dead body in the back, and I thought, oh, my gosh, what have you come to, Margaret Fulton, going up and down the highways with a ... a dead body.
Yes, they did. But I also learnt that it comes in fives or sevens, so this was the fifth thing. I learnt a lot about, you know, burying your dead at that time. At any rate, I wouldn't ... I wouldn't buy my granddaughter this black car. So she got a dark navy blue one. But they all thought, 'Oh mum, that's not like you to be superstitious', and I said, 'No but the memory ... the memory of that was awful'. But I've gone ... I've gone off track.
Well I was a very ... you see, I was a very pretty young girl, and ...
It's hard to think of how I felt when Suzanne was born. I ... I wasn't thinking of myself. I suppose I wanted everything to be right. And I didn't count her toes, and I knew she had all her toes. And I just felt I was going on a lovely adventure with someone that I was responsible for. It was a marvellous feeling. I wanted to be ... for example, I didn't want to have any aids to the birth. I felt that this was the one time I might hurt, but it was going ... it was for some cause, and some reason. I was absolutely interested from beginning to end, and when ... I remember when she was sort of lifted away from me, I saw the little vagina, and I said, 'Oh, it's a girl', and, you know, I was interested right from the beginning, and I've never lost my interest in her and her life and everything that she did, and everything that, you know, was ... was for giving her birth.
And yet you were facing, at that moment, a rather sort of difficult stage, where you were going to be looking after her. Your relationship with her father had broken down and you also had had urges back towards your career. So given that, you know, you were a young woman at a time when you'd already had demonstrated to you that a career was going to be difficult, what were you thinking about all of that and how you would manage it?
I think I always had faith in my ... in my mother's teachings, as it were, because people used to say to me, like my husband's aunt would say, 'Oh what's ... why bother about an education. Look you're just doing what the rest of us has done and had children'. And I said, 'But an education isn't just to be ... an education is for what goes on in your head, your mind, your way of thinking'. I have never felt that education or career in itself was some great virtuous thing. It was something that you wanted to do, because you knew that it did make a difference how you thought and felt. I didn't ever think it was necessary for the career or the financial situation. You see, I was brought up a time - I observed the Depression - but I was brought up at a time that once I was in the workforce, it was a full workforce. Everyone ... everyone who wasn't tied to something could get a job. So I was just ... I always felt this is what life was about. This is living, and I was taking my daughter with me on this ... this passage through. I didn't ever think that it was ... that I wanted a career, as such.
Look, I was a young, a girl, five foot. My ambition in life - I knew it was a dream fantasy - but I wanted to be a Bluebell Girl. You know, six foot tall, kicking my way across the stage in Paris. Of course I'm going to reject something serious like nutrition. There was a big, wonderful, exciting, glamorous, scintillating world out there waiting for me. I wasn't going to do nutrition. [Laughs] I can so nutrition when I'm seventy, but I can't ... couldn't have been a Bluebell Girl other than then. And of course, I couldn't have been a Bluebell Girl anyway, because of my wee Glasgow legs, and all of the other things. But, you see, I think dreaming and fantasy, is as much a part of life as, you know, the serious business of getting a degree. And yet I admire most of all ... now I admire the people who have got these brilliant minds that can shape and change the world.
I knew I had to sort of earn my money, because my husband didn't think that I should have any money. Or he didn't think that was important. So I started doing a funny thing. Because I was a good needle woman, I started making babies' clothes, which is like sweatshop labour. And I used to lay Suzanne down, and I'd treadle away on this machine making ... putting little lace and threading ribbons through. It was the maddest maddest thing I ever did, because you got paid practically nothing. But I realised that I ... I had always been independent, and I suppose, yes I did a silly thing like that. But it was very soon after that, that I was offered a very good job, funnily enough in David Jones. It was when soft goods: you know, washing machines, dishwashers, and all of those household appliances were coming back into the market, and they had to get clever people to sell them. And I wasn't a sales girl as such, but I was showing people how to use these. So I went back to David Jones, you know, the big retail store, managing the ... this home service section they called it. Because service became a big thing then. And I could do that two or three days a week. Two days one week, three days the next week, with another person. So I was very soon back doing things at what I was, you know, quite good at.
I suppose it was. It was quite unusual to do this, because I knew I couldn't ... I had left my husband at this time and I was living up with my sister and her clever husband, her lovely husband, who was a writer, up at the Hawkesbury River, and that was when I was making - what do you call it when you put your hand up and show your leg and get a lift, you know?
Hitchhiking. I was hitchhiking from Mooney Mooney to Sydney and so two days one week and three days the other week, just was enough money to ... to live on.
Providing I didn't have to pay fares. It is awful. I ... I realise if the department of railways gets on to me that I had a ticket that had, you know, what week it was. And I used to smile at the ... or I used to hop off at a railway station, somewhere where there weren't very many attendants. It was the sort of country then. I think Mt Druitt. And I'd hop off and then I'd get on to the road way and hitch. But it was a ... it was a time when really I suppose things were pretty neat for me. When I say 'neat', there wasn't much room for a movement either way. Because I was living ... my sister and her husband didn't have a lot of money either. We had a great life, but not much money and they had said, 'Put everything you have ... Margaret, keep it and put it away, so that you can get established', and it was just marvellous. I was able to save all of my wages and then I said, 'Well, I can leave now. I can go on my own way', and ... which I did. But it was a marvellous time, but also a very ... I suppose if you like to look at it, difficult. But when you're young and when you're full of hope and when you're full of belief in yourself, nothing is really all that too difficult. There's a way to solve every problem.
So in fact, it was a period in which you were living fairly close to the edge in terms of money. And as someone who'd always liked nice things, and been brought up to appreciate those things, it was all in the future for you at this stage, was it?
Yes, but then I was ... I've probably ... I've probably never lived better in my life. We were having lovely fresh prawns taken straight from the river. Oysters that we knocked off the shores. Wild asparagus. Until the ... the awful thing happened to our life up there, was that New Australians came to live, to build the bridge on the Hawkesbury River and they too knew about wild asparagus and all of these things. So there was competition to get these things. We bred our own ducks, we bred our own goats. We grew artichokes before people had it. We had got some seeds for capsicums before they were ... we were living so well. And we had time to read, we had time to explore and when we got a good book by the one little lamp that we had, we used to take turns in reading the book to each other. It was a charming, marvellous existence. Even although we didn't have much money. But what you can do with a ... with a buoyant disposition and imagination and intelligence, and you know, hard work and milking the goats and things like that, it was all ... it was a marvellous time.
I think it lasted until ... from the time my daughter was probably eighteen months until she was about three or four. It was ... it was a lovely time. And a lovely time to have with a little child and get to know ... know them. And you know the child, and get to know your own feelings, too. You do need time to be able to spend, when you haven't got much money to go off to the shops. And you know we, for example, one of the things I went to a book launch. It was for a book launch for the Garrulous Gourmet and this was bringing the world of Paris to Sydney. And we were reading how you make this marvellous pot au feu and it ... it told you that what they did in the fields in ... in France: they put this on in the morning, and then they went out and worked in the fields and then when they came home, dinner was cooked. And we'd be ... My sister and myself would be cooking away and thinking, when are we going to get, you know, out into the fields? Or, I think the book had said if you live in the city, you can go to a movie, but we'd be so busy making this one dish from this lovely French cookbook and that's the way we entertained ourselves. And you know, years later, when my first book came out and it ... it was an immediate success, I was in Perth and a little family came up to ask me to autograph my book and this little boy, a little boy of ten or eleven, was clutching the book. And his mother said, 'Oh, it was his idea that we get this. My young ... my mother has died and my young brother has come to live with us. He's studying for his final exams, and we only live in a two bedroom house, and there are six of us so we're going to have to be quiet so that he can do his study'. And they thought, what are we going to do? We can't turn the radio on, we can't turn the television on, and this little boy said, 'We could buy the Margaret Fulton cookbook and stay in the kitchen and cook'. And it ... I thought this is what I'm working for. It's working to bring a kind of a joy that I've experienced from someone else's book, into ... into their life. And I've always remember that little family, and I autographed the book to the family.
Not ... not very ... not very long. I suppose a couple of years. It was very ... it was very useful for me at that time. But the girl I was working with was rather jealous of ... of me. And the man who had backed me had gone to America, and he'd had a breakdown in America and he didn't come back for a long time. And this girl used to spend her time looking through the 'positions vacant' column and she would say, 'Here's a good job for you, Margaret, pastry sorter'. And I thought, oh you know ... But it did ... it sort of kept on. It got at me a little bit, because I realised she wanted to get rid of me. But then she was such a dope, because we'd be talking about things, reading. I remember one time we were discussing reading Ulysses and I said, 'I just can't come to grips with it. I can't quite ... I've got to reread', and 'Oh', she said, 'Margaret, of course, you ... you know, you aren't an intellectual. I read it in a whole evening and I just mopped it up', and everybody at the table was so aghast that this girl who could read Ulysses in one evening and mop it up like anything. So it was a funny period, and I was quite glad when it was over. Actually I ... I was with a ... a curator of the ... he became a curator of the New South Wales Art Gallery, but we were sitting around a grand piano with a bucket in the middle to catch the drips from the roof that fell above. I mean, it was a funny mixed existence. And he'd seen an advertisement for the job at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and I saw a job advertised, and somebody said, 'Oh, you won't get the job'. It was Hal Missingham. He became a very well known ...
He was the director of the art gallery, yes. He ... he said, 'It's only going to be a tuppence ha'penny stamp', and so I said, 'I'm applying for this job and it's only going to be a tuppence ha'penny stamp', and we went together, and posted our letters, except I forgot to put the stamp on. And when they read that I was Scottish, and had forgotten to put the stamp on, they said, 'Oh, we must see this girl'. But it got ... yes, I moved on from then.
My career, I ... the job that I ... I had seen advertised was for a cookery editor for a women's magazine. And I went along and applied for the job and a marvellous person interviewed me. It was Elizabeth Riddell, you know, the famous Australian. She was the editor at the time. But it was so funny about this job. It wasn't whether I could write or understood cookery all that much. But could I make brown rolls, brown bread rolls? Because the directors of the company had a board luncheon once a month and they liked handmade bread rolls. So I got the job on the strength of making handmade bread rolls and a few other things. But it started my career in newspapers and women's magazines, and writing about food and I used to write the daftest things, you know. How to have a cocktail party. And I'd been to one, so I knew how to do it. And ... and ... because people at that stage were very fascinated by cocktail parties and they knew it was the smart thing to do. And the kind of food you served. And I would be telling people to have ... how to have dinner parties, six courses, and the wines to serve with them. I mean, I'd never been to a dinner party that had six courses. But I was taken out by some people who ... some of the French who were in Sydney at that time. There were French wool buyers, you know, buying our beautiful wool, and there was a French, a man, who was the head of J.Walter Thompson's, a leading advertising agency. He was married to a French woman. And they wrote a marvellous book, Oh, For A French Wife. Anyway they discovered Margaret Fulton as a lively little person, and embraced her into their world and of course, then I did learn all about French cooking. And I did learn how to do things in that wonderfully sophisticated way of the French in those days. And of course, when I started writing about those things, I ... I could do with much more, you know, authenticity. I learned to make things like mayonnaise properly. And I also went to East Sydney Tech. [It] had a food school. And a lot of the ... the main chef was ... he cooked for the Shah of Persia, and he'd done ... he was a marvellous chef. A lot of those wonderful people in Europe who were servicing the high ... you know, the enormous wealthy and powerful, came to Australia and discovered they liked it and they stayed. And it was they who influenced the food, not to the world ... wide world, but to little people like Margaret Fulton, who then wrote about it. And I sort of brought this magic world of the French wives and French food and the way of doing things to the Australian public, in a way that they were just dying for. They just lapped it up and they loved it.
I learnt enormous skills. I learnt enormous skills in discipline. You see, I already knew how to make pastry and the kind of things for home cooking. But then I learnt the refinement ... the refinement. I, for example, I chopped vegetables for six months. I did brunoise, which is a tiny, wee little dice, and dice which are bigger, and cubes which are bigger. And I learnt to ... I learnt to control that knife, and it seemed awfully ... I used to get so cross, thinking all I'm doing is cutting up vegetables. But what I came out with was enormous skills with my knife, with the ... with my saucepans, with everything that I touched, because I was working with a person who had reached the heights and was taking us with him. And it was just lovely.
Oh, being loved from the time I was a minute old. Being adored by everyone that surrounded me. That gives you confidence. You know, when I say 'adored', it didn't stop them tying me up under a bed. My brothers and sisters were doing all kinds of funny things to me. But basically, I think love is so important and it gives you a feeling of self-confidence and assurance. And everything that you ... everything you do when people love you, is all right. And so I'd started my life that way. And so that anything that I ... I took on, I always felt I was going to be triumphant. You know, I can remember when my daughter was having a Brownies' day at Centennial Park, and then it was the mothers' race. And I was a wee, short, five foot. And you know, these gorgeous Australian mothers with long legs and oh, so athletic and I was never athletic. And it was the mothers' race, and Suzanne said, 'Oh Mum, you're not going to go in the race, are you?' and she went and hid behind the bush. And I thought ooh, the little monkey. And so they described me running this mothers' race, and my little legs were going like wheels, because they were going so hard. And I won the mothers' race, because you know, I felt how dare she think that I can't win the mothers' race! I mean if you'd looked at me and you'd looked at the other athletics Australian. But I think I've approached everything in life, that, of course, I can do it.
I continued at the women's magazine, and then I met ... it was at a time when J. Walter Thompson said, 'Why don't you come and do ...'. They made me very quickly a copy chief, and also an account executive.
Yes, this man who'd married a French woman, he saw something in me, just as he saw something in his French wife. And they approached me and said, 'Come'. And it was marvellous those years, because I also learnt what ... what people really like to eat. Kraft Cheese, you know, was one of my accounts. And I also worked on the Kellogg's account. You learn marketing and you learn what's selling, and you learn ... you learn what real - when I say real people eat - you learn, yes, what people are really eating, rather than me telling them how to make a quiche lorraine or a beef wellington, or any of those fancy things. It was a very, very good training period for me. And also, when you work in advertising, you've got to ... it's not like writing a novel, or even a short story. You've got to get your message over in four or five words and it's got to sell, it's got to move that product. And I found that absolutely fascinating. And then I found it fascinating when I would have to be selling a campaign to these big multinational companies. And saying, 'This is the way we'll go, this is the we'll sell'. I had to do that with confidence so, I suppose, my confidence was important ... has always been important, right through my life, whatever I did.
Yes, I've only ever worked on food accounts. You know, things like ... one time they ... they ... Sugar, for example. The Queensland government was putting money into the sugar, and the cane farmers. And they said it was a time ... it's a time when a lot of the sugar used to be used for jam making. So it came out as a jam account. So I got the words ... or you know, look at all you can do with jam. So I was selling jam through the advertising pages. Yes, I only ever worked on food accounts.
No, it was very easy, because I had a terrible time at this, because my sister, twenty years earlier, had had a kind of a love affair with a ... with a journalist, who ended up to be chief of staff. And my sister and I are a bit alike, so when I walked into the offices, he ... he ... he got his eyes on me and he thought it was like having this love affair come back again as a younger sister. It was a dream for a man. But also his girlfriend worked ... she was the homemaking editor. I think he'd found her sitting up in bed with a little dimity night dress rather pretty. And he ... but she got very annoyed at this young girl coming in, who was reminding her boyfriend of, you know, the greatest love of his life. And he rather plagued me. He used to dangle me in front of the cameras and I really mean dangle. We had to walk up about a twelve foot ladder and look down at the food below being photographed. And he'd say, 'Look, lean over, Margaret', and he'd clutch me under my boobs, and I'd be dangling there. And she would be underneath holding a saucepan and it'd be shaking. And oh, it was, it was terrible. It was awful. It was sexual harassment. We didn't know it was sexual harassment. I just thought he was Jean's old boyfriend that was getting ... He would invite me ... I would get a call to his office to say, 'Oh, what are you doing here?' and I'd say, 'Well, you called for me, Mr. ...'. I won't say his name. And then he'd say, 'Oh well, now that you're here, as a matter of fact I have been watching you. You have got a ... I think you've got a great future ahead of you. Why don't you come to my office and we'll work on some stories', and I thought immediately, oh, this is the etchings thing, you know. 'Come and see my etchings, little spider to the fly'. So I was miserable. I was being plagued by this woman, who was the homemaking editor, and then she was put in charge of me, because every time this man wanted to walk out ... help me with my parcels out of the ... you know, I would be going the other way. No, it was awful. So I was very happy to get away from that.
Did you remember also that you'd been told, hadn't you, that - by the vocational guidance people, that advertising wouldn't be a bad thing for you to do. Was that at all in your mind, that advertising was something that had always been there as a possibility?
No, no. My clever brother-in-law, William Hatfield, had said, 'Margaret, go where the money is. It's the advertising that keeps a newspaper or a magazine going. Go closer to the source of money'. And of course, it's true. You know, without advertising going into these women's magazines or any kind of magazine, any radio station or television station ... It's the money that pays the wages. The money from the advertising that pays the wages. And by that stage I thought, oh, the ... yes, I'm being, you know, worldly wise, and I'm going to where the money is. So I went for that. And also it's that wonderful feeling of youth, of try something new.
But you had had rather a bad experience before, in the business side of things, with the incident at the hotel in Canberra and a sense that women were being kept out of business things. When, at the stage that you went to the advertising agency, and you were back in a position of control and power, managing accounts, was that an issue again, the fact that you were a woman?
I don't think women are ever in control, fully. I don't think I went from advertising or women's magazines to have more control. I don't think I have ever thought that I ... I would have control. You see, I wasn't really an early feminist, or anything else because I believed in myself. And there was no doubt in my mind that women could do things. It didn't occur to me that it was men doing this to me, or something else. I think at the back of my mind, I didn't like what happened to me. But I didn't ... but I thought it was letting somebody put it over you and not so much that you had control of letting someone put it over you, because you don't. It just happens.
When I started, I was copy writing and I was directing food accounts but at that period, television came, and I was there for the first day on ... on television. I think we were doing the Australian Women Weekly. We had that account and then Bruce Gyngell went on with a show called Name That Tune and I got involved with that. I had to go along for some reason. So ... but we did ... we did get into, then, television, which meant then we had to do the food for, you know, Kraft slices of cheese, and Kellogg's - throwing Kellogg's Cornflakes into bowls, and things like that and making sure that the television ... that the images that you saw, were lovely.
It ... it was a funny period, working at J. Walter Thompson's, because I was called a woman executive and it was in the days they didn't have women executives except I was one. And when they started bringing people in to do television, people like Paul Jacklyn, who had been very famous for doing radio, Lux radio something or other. And then we brought a German filmmaker in, Hans Von Adlerstein and he was very much the von and very much the German, and he resented very, very much that this woman was an executive, and he was, you know, doing the film. And I used to have to put rice ... corn flakes and rice bubbles into these bowls for the film we were doing and one time I got to ... to ... I was at the studio, and we had rice bubbles to put in the bowl. Now if it had been corn flakes, I would have understood that I had to be there because you had to find the biggest corn flakes to put in the bowl, but with rice bubbles - a rice bubble ... they're nearly all the same size. And I got a telephone call, and I was called away and they said - oh, it was a friend on the phone - 'Margaret, we ... we want you to ... to come to Woman's Day. We want you to ...'. I said, 'Look, I'm very happy in my job', and then I heard this German voice booming, 'Where's Margaret Fulton?' I had left a perfectly capable person, a home economist of great repute, to put these rice bubbles in the bowl and I thought she was quite capable of that, as would any ... anyone be. But he kept on bellowing for Margaret Fulton. And I [am saying], 'No, I'm really very happy where I am', and then this, a bellow would come: 'Come back, I need you to put these rice bubbles in the bowl', and I thought what is this ... this stupid man? And I said, 'Look, I'll come and see you next week'. But next week ... and they were very, very thrilled. And I thought I don't want anyone bellowing at me. He may be a German count and he may be a brilliant filmmaker, but I ... I didn't think it needed me to put rice bubbles in a bowl. So I said, 'Goodbye'.
I went back to women's magazines, which was the most exciting period. The editor of Woman's Day was very, very interested in food and I was able to do the most amazing ... They thought I was marvellous. They ... they told the world that they'd got Margaret Fulton and Margaret Fulton was going to do these marvellous things for them. And Margaret Fulton did a lot of lovely things for them. But I was only back there a couple of weeks. I'd met Elizabeth Riddell in the ... in the street, and she had said, 'Don't you go. You watch that somebody or other', because she had pinched her husband at one time and she said, 'Watch this woman', so I went in and watched this woman, and this woman was sort of gunning for me and I thought oh, I don't want any nonsense. So I went and said to the editor, 'I'm sorry, I've made a mistake. I can't ... I don't want to have troubles', and she said, 'Look Margaret, why don't you go away for a week and come back'. And I went up and I read Michener's Hawaii under a plum tree at that Hawkesbury River. And I came back refuelled and I realised this woman, who was twenty years older than me, wasn't going to pinch my husband. And I realise, thinking back in my life, how often, you know, this ... this sex thing, and pinching other people's husbands and boy friends, raises its head but it does, I dare say. So I went back to the job, and anything I wanted I had. And it was lovely because I could also ... they didn't think that every item, or every ingredient that I mentioned had to be at the local corner shop. It could be ... My editor believed that people could search around, and you know, take a bit of trouble to find something, as was true. Australian women just, you know, would go to any lengths to produce a great dish and get out of the boredom of cooking the same food day in, day out, year in, year out, you know. Women responded to that and, of course, it was lucky that I was given this wonderful job of telling them how to enrich and enliven and have fun and enjoy cooking.
The editor, at that time, was Joan Reeder who was just, I must say, a most marvellous editor. You know, I've worked with good editors and I've worked with bad editors and you ... you can only be as brilliant as your editor. If you've got a rotten editor, your pages are not going to be good. I mean, because even Elizabeth David gets ... used ... she wrote in her ... one of her books, how they used to edit her copy and change copy. And when you've got a good editor, it's just wonderful.
A good editor has faith in you. A good editor employs you because they think you're the best and a good editor knows that when it comes to what subjects you choose, and how you present it, that's what ... that's what they're paying you for. See, a lot of editors think they know better than you. I've had editors who have told me, you know, what to do to the most minute detail. I've had a recent thing of doing a Melbourne Cup that had to be a picnic and I said, 'We don't do picnics for Melbourne Cups', and they said, 'But we want a picnic'. But I said, 'They're only Melbourne people [who] take a picnic and then only a few'. You know, it was telling me. It's like telling your grandma how to suck eggs, you know. A good editor doesn't do that.
The women's magazines were extremely strong during this period in the fifties and sixties. Why do you think that ... what do you ... What need do you think that the women's magazines generally were meeting in the community at that time?
Women's magazines can be very good. Women's magazines can tell you ... for example, a woman's magazines told my sister how to finance her house. She had ... how to get a war service loan. It told you things like if you had something ... I have a friend whose daughter had ears that stuck out and I said to the editor ... the editor was saying you could have your ears pinned back. And so I said to this mother, 'You know, look, you can have your ears pinned back', and, you know, it was a pity Prince Charles mother hadn't sort of read this article. He could have had his ears pinned back. But a women's magazine can be ... can be informative about all kinds of things like that as well as letting you get into fantasy land. There's nothing lovelier than sitting back in bed reading the cookery pages and what ... you know, what you cooked for the Shah of Persia, or something. And I remember having this recipe for when Cleopatra was being made with Elizabeth Taylor and Burton and somebody said, 'We should do a Cleopatra cookbook'. So I thought, right, and I did this and created these marvellous dishes, from ... from proper sources. I was meeting people around Sydney who were saying, 'Oh, I made that marvellous Cleopatra's rice', and ... and I thought, oh my gosh, it wasn't really meant for cooking. It was meant for reading. But of course, they did cook it, and it did work, and it was marvellous. I think ... I think women ... women and people love magazines, because you're reading ... you know, it is a touch of fantasy. It can be reality. It's got ... but the information has got to be right, whether you're telling people how to pin their ears back, or how to make the Cleopatra's famous rice, you know. And that's what I think is lovely about women's magazines. I think today they've got far too much gossip of what's happening and a whole lot of silly things but a good magazine, women can learn a lot from.
No, I saw the practical side of women ... there is a practical side of women's magazines, but there is side by side is fantasy. You know, lovely clothes and lovely perfumesand if you're seventy you can still see what the girls of twenty are doing. You know, it's just a ... [the] practical thing is one thing, but don't forget we all live in this wonderful world of swinging, you know, from fantasy to security to service. It's got to be ... you've got to enter into a woman's mind and a woman's mind is not just being practical. It's looking for that elusive quality of fun of fantasy, whatever it is.
I think, I could ... when I answer the ... when I sort of think about what made people like what I did, when I was approached by Paul Hamlyn to do my first book, I said, you know, what ... because I was very sophisticated and I knew everything, and I'd written for markets. I knew about marketing. I said, 'What market will I write it to?' and this very nice book editor said to me, 'Margaret, if you write for yourself, if it's going to be a success, it'll be a great success. If you ... if you write for a market, you don't know'. So when I wrote my first book, I was writing it for my daughter, who was seventeen, going on eighteen. I was writing it for my Irish husband. I was writing it for my Scottish grandfather ... father, who was living with me. I was writing for - right across the barrier. Right across, yes, the barrier. I'm thinking of a starting barrier. I was writing for myself, if I were having a dinner party. I wanted to know what the kind of foods I would have for a dinner party. We were beginning to cook Chinese. I wanted to have a Chinese section. I also had been to Spain. I wanted to tell them how you made a Spanish paella, [how] you made gazpacho. So it was a book for everybody in my family and I think that my family would be typical in different ... in different degrees, with a lot of families. And I think it appealed, as I ... as I say, to the many faceted sides of being a woman, or a person.
Yes, well I was cookery editor of women's magazines. I always ... I was always entranced by that one minute you were quite happy to curl up with baked beans on toast, and another minute you were dreaming of caviar with a vodka chaser, you know. It's because I've been a kind of a dreamer, but a practical dreamer. I think ... I think what we've got inside us is a great ... it's a marvellous potpourri of ... well, not just the one person. We are a lot of people and it's all packed in this one little skin and it's ... it's going to emerge. It's like if you have a pimple on your face, something's erupting, or if you've got a toothache, or your body is, you know, doing different things. And I think you never know when a bit of it's going to pop out. I think it's because I didn't think that cooking was a straight laced affair. Where you got in and you did things. I know there are rules, and once you learn the basics of cookery, everything falls in place and it is much better to observe the rules. But I often break the rules with cookery. And I regret ... I live to regret it. You know, you think oh I won't bother doing this, I'll take a shortcut, and it doesn't work. But then if I weren't the kind of person that took a shortcut, I wouldn't get to the kind of ... you know, I wouldn't be the kind of person I am. I think we don't always stick to the rules. And the same thing goes with cookery. But writing the pages, I think I ... I have always recognised that I'm a very typical woman, with my feet on the ground - and like a lot of other women - and my head in the sky. And somewhere between there's a chord that you can strike. [INTERRUPTION]
My first book really was quite an exciting experience for me, because I had different ideas of what the first book should contain and I was told, you know, 'Margaret, if you write a book for yourself' - like the Victorian ladies used to do journals, you know, for their home - 'If you write it for yourself, if it's going to be a success, it will be a huge success. But it should be something you believe that you want', and of course that was easy. Paul Hamlyn had come out from England, and he was one of the most innovative publishers of all times. He'd had ... he'd had a lot of experience of publishing in Czechoslovakia, where they were doing colour printing and he had the idea that this book should be colour on every page, or almost every page. or photographs on every page. And Australians hadn't had that. So I was ... here I was just with an open book ... an open book to write, you know. And open, empty pages to fill. At first I didn't know where you started, and I said to the book editor, you know, 'Where do you start?' And she said, 'At the beginning'. Well the beginning for me was well, we'd begun to understand that you had little things to eat before dinner. So I wrote about hors d'oeuvre, and the ... the little canapés, and the little things that I'd seen around. But that hadn't been part of my life. When I got on to the next chapter, when I got on to soups, for example, it was just lovely, because I had my mother's soups to ... to remember. And Mother had very strict things about barley went into, you know, a lamb soup, because that was a Scotch sort of broth and rice went with chicken soup, and she was quite strict about her soups. And then I had been to the food school, where I was learning the more sophisticated soups. But it was a lovely chapter to get me going on because it was a subject I loved, and it was a subject I knew a lot about. And I had a lot of background in, so I went on. And then it ... when it came to a chapter say, on eggs and cheese, where I did sort of make a big breakthrough was ... we were making quiche, quiche lorraine was big in those days. But the recipe had always said for a quiche you had four ounces of butter and eight ounces of flour in the pastry. But we were getting ... we were beginning to get the little French flans. A lot of the importers were bringing in these nice little things. Before, people had made quiche in any old thing: a pie dish, or ... and the pasty was thick and the pastry was soggy. Whereas for my recipe for quiche, I got the quantity of pastry that had to go into it, and then the quantity of filling. And I did tell people that while quiche ... they thought ... everyone had the idea that quiche was ham or bacon, and cheese, and then a sort of a custard, I told them that the quiche ... the real quiche lorraine didn't have the bacon and bits in it. But then I said but this is the one we like and then we did variations. But for the first time people then were able to make a quiche that had just the right amount of pastry because I said, in the bottom of the recipe, this mightn't seem like much pastry, but it's ... it's quite enough to give the quantity that you need for this. And that was, in a way, a breakthrough because it was a cookery person understanding that if a woman was at home and had a big lump of pastry, she thought it all had to go in and then it would be too thick. So I began to know how it was and then bring the recipes accordingly. From this sort of thing, I got the reputation. People said, 'Oh Margaret Fulton's recipes work. They work every time'. And that was my ... that went on through the book. We went ... when it came to roast chicken, I wrote about how you roast a chicken. And then my sister, who had come back from living in France, they didn't always stuff a roast chicken and sometimes they did other things to it, and they cut it up, and sautéed it. Until that time, roast chicken in Australia was a plump, round bird with legs and everything. Not [the] head, because that was a Chinese thing. But it always was the same shape. But I sort of said, now cut the legs off a chicken and cut the breasts. And we ... we learnt to sauté chicken. And that was a big ... an enormous breakthrough, that a chicken wasn't just always this round thing.
It's very hard for us nowadays to realise, you know. Lord Byron, for example one time, he doesn't like dining with women, because they eat the best ... they like the best bits of the chicken, too. He wanted the best of the chicken, which incidentally was the parson's nose. So every chicken that was served, you know, previously, had one parson's nose. What happened as a result of this - and not as a result of this, as a result of the whole poultry industry - but you can go out today and you can buy ... I mean Lord Byron would have been so happy. He could have bought 200, or 2,000 parson's noses and had them all to himself if he'd wanted it. But in those days it wasn't ... it did start the poulterers realising that people weren't very good at cutting up chickens. So yes, they started selling chicken breasts and chicken legs. And to a day now, if you want ... people are doing things like chicken wings, where, you know, at a barbecue you are always being passed around delicious little morsels, which are chicken wings. But in those days, when you bought a chicken, you had a chicken. So there were two wings and there were two ... two of everything and one of something else. But it was, it was a big breakthrough in Australia, to be telling people to cut up a chicken and have just breasts. Or do something quite different about it. And it was quite exciting in that way. The whole book went on in that vein. I told how to cook a big rump of beef because ... I told to people how to boil an egg. Basically, I was thinking if my daughter needs to know something, she can look in the book and it'll be there. If my husband, my Irish husband wants, you know, something Irish, it will be there. If ... there'll be some highland dish for casserole for my dad. And then, yes, for me there would be the nice things that I would be wanting for dinner parties. And ... and when I saw me, I realised that in writing the book for my family, it was writing the book for a lot of families because there was something ... there was something in it for everybody. I think ... I think the Australians responded to this enormous excitement that I was feeling about food and they were feeling it too.
That's right. Yes ... in ... in my book ... in that first book, it was quite revolutionary because I was learning from my French friends, how the French did it. I was ... Then, at that point I was also learning Greek dishes. I was also travelling a lot. So I would go to a country and I would be introduced to the best cooks and the best dishes. So I would come back to Australia knowing that in Greece, for example, if it were ... a lot of ways with mince meat I was talking about - I knew how the Greeks would use a mince meat and I would, I would put it into ... I would do dolmades. I would do what you had at a nice little luncheon. You know, I would be rolling up little vine leaves, where were ... the Greeks ... the Greek community knew about them but the rest of Australia didn't know how to do these things. So I was really bringing the world to Australia: the professional cooks' world and also the domestic cooks' world. Because Australia had been starved. Of course, the whole world had been starved of the international feeling about food because of the war, because of the Depression, the world Depression and a world war. It had cut everybody off. They had other things on their mind. So when they ... when we began to get back to living, you know, fulfilled and normal lives, there was an enormous search and interest in the well being of the family, the home, the interest in cooking. And I was there at that right time, and I could bring a lot of lovely things, like cream caramel, and making a proper custard. And you know, I had learnt to make a proper custard from my mother, but I also learnt the little things. I was meeting a lot of interesting people, who were giving me a lot of interesting information.
My ... I was very fortunate. Just as the world was opening up on many things, airline companies were beginning to take flights ... new flights to new destinations, people were beginning to manufacture in Finland, in ... in Scandinavia, in Germany, in France, in Switzerland. They were beginning to make ... in Switzerland they were making lovely copper outside, and lovely stainless steel inside pans that were being used in the restaurants that were burgeoning right throughout the world. They wanted me to come and see their beautiful cookware. In Germany, they wanted me to see how marvellous their knives were. So I would be invited by these various people. It was always ... it was always really terribly exciting, because I was seeing what was happening in this wonderful excitement post-war [period], of people developing new things, and new designs. And I would be invited. I found that travel made me dizzy, so I used to say I only travel first class. And then I learnt to travel ... because I actually got ... I didn't like travelling at the back end of the plane. I learnt that very quickly. I think I've always been a fast learner. But it was lovely to go to these places and be celebrated. I was invited to Spain to ... by the Spanish ... Spanish olive oil industry and they gave me a gorgeous little spray brooch of olives and they'd given the first one to the Spanish dictator's wife. I thought it was a little sort of emblem thing, and when I used to leave the Spanish olive oil people, I'd take it off and stick it in my bag. And then somebody, when I got back to Australia, 'Your brooch Margaret, let me see it', and I delved in my bag, and they said, 'Margaret, that's three valuable emeralds in the shape of the olive branch. And platinum;. And it ... they had given me this brooch. I mean it was just so ... such an exciting period because I was one of the food writers to be feted in that way and the advantage was, of course, that I was learning straight from the horse's mouth: what was the best equipment, what were the best food, what were the food trends and also, what the good cooks of each country were doing. So immediately, of course, I was telling the women in Australia and they seemed to lap it up and love to know what ... what I was doing next.
For the first book, and for forthcoming books, too. The first book, yes, I'd already been doing quite a bit of travel at that time. And the first book, too, it was ... it was at a very timely time, if such a thing can happen. But people were starved, as I say, after the Depression and the war. They were starved. And cooking, I know, if you're doing the same thing, day in, day out, it becomes a chore. What makes cooking so exciting for a woman - in those days, a woman at home - is to enter into someone else's world. And actually do it. Sometimes not very well, but that's irrelevant. They got ... everyone gets better the second time they make it and the third time they make it. But they became familiar, and it was an excitement that was brought into women at home, who otherwise could have been quite bored with a lot of the ... a lot of the cooking that had gone on. There was something very good about the food that had gone on before. But doing it day in, day out, and just getting better at it, wasn't all that much of a buzz for women. What was a real buzz, and a real interest, was to be able to say to the family, 'Oh, look, we're going to have a Spanish paella tonight', and, 'Look, and Margaret Fulton says...'. I mean I'm only quoting this because I've heard, 'Margaret Fulton says you do this', and you know, whatever Margaret Fulton said. It sort of ... it was a lovely. It was a lovely time for both me and also my readers.
Oh, that book, it was ... it was amazing. My ... Paul Hamlyn ... I think the first print run was going to be something like 10,000, which was exceptional and then they kept on getting orders and it went to 20,000 and it went to 30,000 and then it went to 40,000.
This was before ... this is while they're still printing. And then finally it got to about 80,000, and they said, 'We've got to stop here because we've never sold 80,000 books ... cookery books, you know, by a first time author'. And, however, they did. And I ... I remember, I'd go into a store like Myer's, which was Farmer's in those days and there was a queue of people from ... to get their books autographed, outside the ... outside the shop, and right down the street and turning around the corner. Everyone said, 'Margaret, there's people there queued up around for blocks'. Everyone just was so excited about it and it was just so amazing. The ... the kind of faces that would come. Some society queen would come up and then next door would be somebody from, you know, come in from little ... some suburb or some place. It was just a most amazing time for me, to think that ... because when I'd written the book, I thought, oh it'll be lovely. I'll write it and when I'm having a blue day, I can go in and I'll see it up there and I'll think to myself, well I wrote that book. You mightn't know it, but I wrote that book. So it was ... it was ... I couldn't believe what was happening.
Oh, absolutely. I'd ... Because I'd always enjoyed doing things, and I knew that people were with me, because I knew that from the circulation of the magazines. They've always got survey people going on, and they can tell what works and what doesn't work and I was working. So I knew that I was working. But I didn't realise how hungry people were for this kind of excitement that they could cope with and that they could take into their own homes, and transfer to their own lives. Yes, I was totally ... I was totally taken by surprise. I was even more taken by surprise when the cheques started arriving. That was quite a ... I sort of hadn't realised that ... when I got my first cheque, I thought oh, what am I going to do with it? And my friend said, 'Oh Margaret, you could buy a refrigerator', because I'd had an icebox. You know, an icebox with a block of ice. The ice man used to come every morning and the ice kept all the food cold, and dripped down. And I used to take the thing out of the bottom. And everybody said, 'Well Margaret, you can an ice ... you can buy a refrigerator', and I thought, is that I'm working for?
Well, I hadn't much money. And also I was ... you know with refrigeration, I ... I ... I was able to keep my food cool and just the temperature I liked it and I was able to keep my bottle of milk fresh and so I didn't really need a refrigerator. But the thought that all of this marvellous money that had come into my life was going to buy essentials, which I really didn't need I didn't think. There was a wonderful exhibition of Scandinavian art came to Australia. I had helped select it actually. I'd been to Finland. And this beautiful bird in the running position. And I ... I ... I'd visited his studio. It had come out to Australia.
...a royalty cheque arrived and all of my friends were so excited because they had never seen so much money or they had never seen a cheque for so much money, and they said, "oh, isn't that marvellous Margaret, you know now you can buy a refrigerator." And I though, you see, up until that point I had had an ice box, an ice box, er you know with the big block, and the ice man used to come every morning and put a big block of ice in the thing, and it would keep my butter just the way I like it, and it would keep my milk just the way I like it. And I went "Oh why do I need a refrigerator? Is this what I'm working for?" I thought, "Oh if this is success, a refrigerator, really is it all that important?" And then there was a marvellous exhibition came to Australia from Scandinavia and I had visited this artist's studio in Finland and it was a beautiful bird, it was a big curlew, made out of little tiny wee beads, and it was in the running position, and inside were a set of clocks all set at a quarter past twelve, for some reason the magic of this bird the magic of the thing, that is what I felt... I wanted magic. If this was success it had to be something wonderful. And the wonderful thing about this bird is that the, Kaipiainen, is the name of the sculptor who made it, but he had been in his studio and at quarter past twelve he had walked out for lunch, and he was stricken with polio, it was at quarter past twelve. When he was a little boy somebody had told him that a curlew… have clocks inside them so they know when to slice out, and they slice out, and then they fly back in again, you know the clock tells them. So the imagery of this little boy being told that bird have clocks inside them, and then him doing this clock, these clocks inside this beautiful bird, to me, I felt I would write another book if it meant that I could enter into someone else's magic. And you know writing books is... cookery books have you very involved with pinches of salt and bicarbonate of soda or whatever it is, and it is quite hard work, and I would be in the kitchen washing up after the work. To be able to go in and look at this bird and appreciate the flights of fancy of someone else, it sort of was a lovely balance to what I was doing.
There was also some symbolism, I guess, in that you had a running bird, a bird that was taking off but also with a clock in it. Were you conscious of the fact that moments of success have to be seized. That they're not going to last necessarily for ever?
Oh I don't think anything clever like that. Nothing clever like, you know, why I did it, [nothing] beyond the fact that I had seen something that appealed to my sense of imagination and poetry and all of the things that go to make up life. I knew that ... that that bird would enrich my life beyond a refrigerator. A refrigerator, yes, I couldn't live without a refrigerator now. But ... because the ice man doesn't cometh any more, but no, I never thought beyond the fact that this was going to be an enrichment of my life.
I think success really ... I didn't ... I just was happy. Just as if you were playing hockey, you got the ball and you ran with it. I think I was just happy to keep on doing what had given me an enormous amount of pleasure. But what was very interesting at that time was my daughter, who, when I wrote the book, I said, 'Look, you know, it's going to make a difference to family life'. And my daughter, who was sort of seventeen, eighteen, she said, 'Well Mum, I'll do the cooking and look after the house', and my Irish husband said, 'I won't complain', and I thought, well that's a fair enough deal. And then my Scottish father was just looking beaming, and waiting for his mext ... next whisky. What did happen, my daughter started cooking from the book. And she was going to be ... she had ... She was starting on a career as a dress designer and she had been given a range to do, which was marvellous for a young girl. But she discovered she liked cooking. People used to say, 'Are you going to be good cook like Mummy?' and she'd say, 'No, no, no'. But once she started cooking from my book, she discovered she liked it. And she also discovered that the boys - she had a ... the boys, who, you know, were ... began to realise that she wasn't just a pretty face. She ... she actually could cook. And she began to take a tremendous interest in ... in food. And then she said, 'Mum, I've changed my mind. I love food. I love it'. And I said to her, 'Well, I'm such an old bossy boots. Any woman in the kitchen is. I think I better send you to London, to the Cordon Bleu', and she went across to London to the Cordon Bleu. So the success was lovely in that Suzanne, who'd made it possible for me to write this book, I could ... I always felt that when the money started coming in, it had to be shared by the people who helped you make it. And Suzie, as I call her, Suzanne, she went off to London. And she spent two years in London at the Cordon Bleu and she worked in the Cordon Bleu restaurant. And she learnt to ... to cook properly. She got her full diploma, and then she learnt to be quick and professional in the restaurant. She came back to Australia. She married a New Zealand boy, who had met a Cordon Bleu cook as a little wee chap in New Zealand, and said, 'I'm going to marry a Cordon Bleu cook', and when they flatted in London, she was underneath and he was top and he met his Cordon Bleu cook. So I've got a lovely son-in-law, who's realised his dream of marrying a Cordon Bleu cook, and Suzanne's got a lovely husband. And he's got a lovely wife and a mother-in-law he likes. So it's ... success has brought those things, rather than ... Sure the money is lovely, because it did let her go to London. But that's success: to sort of make dreams really ... dreams that you didn't know you had, come true.
Oh well, I was doing what I loved. I was doing what I felt, you know, people wanted me to do. You know, they say when you're hot, you're hot, and when you're not, you're not. And I was hot. People were wanting me to do things. People were wanting me to visit their countries. People were wanting to show me what lovely things they were making and doing. And people ... people wanted me go because basically I was like a sponge, I was soaking it all in. And then I was able to do what people dream about, and that is tell other people what they know, you know. If people want to listen to you, it's lovely to be able to ... to have somebody to listen to you. Or in my case, it was buy my books and read my books. And so I just had a wonderful, wonderful life of doing things that I ... you know, I was ... it was like having a hobby - that you were actually paid to do your hobby and that was lovely.
How did you work out what you were going to do next? I mean, after having done, you know, a major book that included in it many of the things that you'd been thinking about, what was your next book after that one?
Well, people started saying, 'Could you write a book ...'. I was working for Woman's Day. 'Let's do the Woman's Day Cookbook. Paul Hamlyn had got ... trie ... got me to sign up for other books. And with them, we would discuss ... crockpots for example, came in. The electric slow cooker. I wrote a book for the crockpot, because it was an appliance that was being used. Then, of course, they wanted Margaret Fulton's favourite recipes. Then they wanted Margaret Fulton's recipes for entertaining. And it went on like ... like that. Later on, getting titles for books, because at that point, 'Margaret Fulton', they said, sold the books. So it was just ... say it would be Margaret Fulton's very special book. And Margaret Fulton's ... my very last book was Margaret Fulton's New Cookbook. And I said, 'I want this book to be called Cooking For Family and Friends because I felt that that was a nice title. But the big publisher said, 'No, Margaret Fulton's New Cookbook sound right and everybody likes it'. I wrote a book called Margaret Fulton's Encyclopaedia of Food and Cookery. That was cooking from A to Z and that was a lovely, lovely challenge because I had to write right through from abalone to, you know, bananas, to chocolate, to - all of the different things that go in anything from A to Z. And that was enormous fun. I felt that every ... every food I could have written a book, because I could have gone on for ever. It's like once you get that flag and run with it, you know, it's ... it's just so exciting to do research. Then, because at that time it was a sort of a research thing. Before it had been writing what I knew whereas this was a bit of research. You had to give the information about coconut or whatever it was. And I discovered research. I discovered that really, probably if I'd had a life doing research I would have loved it because I think knowledge of discovering things and the truth, is ... is a lovely, lovely, enlightening experience. Before I'd been drawing for myself, from what some Greek woman had told me, or some French woman had told me or a secret that had been given to me. I was writing from my experiences. But the encyclopaedia opened this ... the wonderful world of research.
I think one of the big changes that has taken place, and it has been through books like the Encyclopaedia of Food and Cookery, which of course the forerunner of that was Larousse Gastronomique, and it was my publisher, Paul Hamlyn, who first published Larousse, the famous French reference book. He first published it in English. Because he's always been very interested in food. And it was he who said, you know, 'We've got the Larousse Gastronomique, but we feel that it would be good to have Margaret Fulton's Encyclopaedia. And if you look at the books that are around today, they are more in that research. Within the last year there's been a book by Stephanie Alexander, which is a growth from my ... the encyclopaedia. And Charmaine Solomon, we've become very interested in South East Asian cooking. And she's done a wonderful research book on the ingredients. But I think my encyclopaedia was the thing that opened up the way for the new books to go. But then it ... the people who wrote before me opened up the way for me to do my kind of books, you know. Isabella Beeton, who listed ... she ... she listed ingredients. And there was a wonderful cook, Acton - Elizabeth Acton I think her name was - she put them in order, you know. Yes, Isabella Beeton used to write the recipes and the ingredients would be underneath but somebody else brought the ingredients up ahead. So all of these things, we all are a part of a marvellous food chain of food writers who have opened doors for others to come through. And the books that are happening today are just lovely.
Oh yes. Once I was in Italy, in the Uffizzi Gallery, and I'm ... the person trying to sell me a handbag was ... was ... I said, 'You speak Italian with a Scottish accent'. I said it in a funny ... I don't know. And he said, 'You speak ... you're quite a Scot', because I break into Scot at the drop of a hat. And he said, 'You would nae be Margaret Fulton, would you?' And I said, 'How do you know?' He said, 'Oh my wife, you know, has got your cookbook'. She was a Scot. When Bryce Courtenay one time came back from ... he was of course, the [writer of the] Power Of One book. He said to me, 'Oh, Margaret your books are on the black market in ...', some place. It was either Mozambique or some terribly funny place. And my books ... I was at a big book festival recently, and some people from South Africa, they knew my books. Because they always ... 'Oh, your books were always, you know, what we wanted in South Africa because your fruit is a bit the same as ours'. So yes, I've travelled throughout the world. And from ... you know, I hear from the most amazing places about my books.
The Americans are very, very much for Americans. A lot of people have said ... now, Robert Carrier, who is an American, but he's known as an English food writer, has said that America ... he's not known in America. Americans like the Americans. And they don't mind letting somebody come in a little bit. It's not as lucrative for a cookbook as it would be for Schindler's List, books that are written in a different ... I mean the exceptional books like that. The lucrative American market is not what, anyway, appeals to me. Because basically I'm an Australian now, and I want ... I feel that doing well in Australia is a very ... is good enough for me.
Elizabeth David was just ... has become even more loved now that she's dead unfortunately. When I say more loved, she was always loved. She was always ... she opened up the eyes of the English. But she was ... opened up the eyes of then English who were already ready for open eyes. She wasn't bringing recipes that the housewife, the average housewife knew. What ... Elizabeth David was ahead of her time in some ways. Now she's of course the darling of the ... the darling of the ... well, of the world really. Because they all love the way she writes. They're now appreciating the way she writes. Why I'm saying this, and it might sound a little bit odd, I had friends of Elizabeth David, I know. I've met Elizabeth David. But Elizabeth David's success wasn't ... she didn't have what I had: the cheques coming in. People knew her and revered her, but she didn't make a lot of money. She was also very, very, quite definite about what she would do and what she wouldn't do. And she had an integrity that was just what she wanted. Elizabeth David certainly has changed the world food. But it didn't do all that much for Elizabeth David. She was taken down by people. She was taken down by the ... she opened shops everywhere, and it was her idea, it was her kind of things, but it all got out of hand.
I've ... I've been very lucky in that, because I didn't expect or want much, I got a lot. You know, it just happened that way. People ... because in Australia, people began to know about Margaret Fulton and began to want to buy my books. And one Australian publisher has said that when he ... this was about two or three years ago, things are changing, but two or three years ago, I had sold more cookbooks than anyone else in the world on ... on the kind of level that I had been working on. Now you've got people who are doing television shows and that's boosting sales enormously. I think I'm going to be surpassed very, very soon and very quickly. But well, for a book publisher to say that I was the top selling author ... They agreed in America. They said, 'Oh, I don't think she's the top selling author, but mind you, she must be among the top'. So that was ... that was the okay I got from America.
Before you wrote that first book, you'd had a background in writing, in cooking, and in advertising. Now clearly the cooking and the writing was important in going into the book. How important was your understanding of marketing and promotion to helping the success of the book? Did that come in handy?
Ah, not ... I learnt about marketing, but I didn't ... I began to understand that for a book to be a success, everything's got to be right. I wrote one book and when it was launched, it was out in [Port] Phillip Bay, out of Melbourne. And I ... I learnt that a book's got to be there. It's got to be in the bookshops when it's ... when people are wanting it. For a thing to be a success, everything's got to be right. Distribution's got to be right. Well, but I didn't know ... I didn't know it at the time. I've learnt an awful lot about things. For example, my publisher Paul Hamlyn, I think he was called Octopus at the time, he fell out, or there was some disagreement about distribution, and they started holding my books back and Paul didn't want to bring out a new edition of the book, because he knew that somewhere there were ten or twenty thousand books ready to beat him at his game. I've been the victim of a lot of ploys, a lot of marketing strategies that have been absolutely beyond my control. I've lost a lot of money out of one ... one ... bookshop told me that a publisher told him, 'Sell ... you can have this Margaret Fulton book, because she's not going to get any royalties from it'. I was horrified.
Just something in the contract. And also because I had once combated the legal aspects of something, and I was torn down by this man - this person who's a big international publisher now. But I couldn't take him on, because he was just so horrid. And there's no ... I felt, well, let them go their evil way. I can't fight evil, or I can't fight ... fight these big business deals. It just is too much for me.
It was a very complex thing. And when ... when some people, authors who have been approached by a company to ... a publishing company to do books, ask for my advice, I really want to say to them, 'Look, you're asking the wrong person'. I've never had an agent. I've never done the clever things that ... that perhaps I should have done. But I write books, I'm not a business woman. I've got a good business head. You know, I mean I'm something. But I could have been a lot better off if I had taken a more aggressive interest in my business affairs. It's just been not what I like doing. And I know it's daft. But on the other hand, if you're happy and you've got a daughter and two beautiful granddaughters, a lovely son-in-law, and you know, I mean if you've got a nice life, why want more? I don't understand the greed of the big Alan Bonds and the Christopher Skases and whatever. I don't understand that greed. Sure, I'm greedy. I want to have a nice apple and I want to have a nice meal, but my greed is restricted by what I'm going to eat for dinner tonight.
Well yes, Paul Hamlyn at one time, he ... he had been at his printers, and he had a big sheet of paper with printing, with pictures, you know, because when books are printed, they're printed on an enormous big sheet. And he looked at this, and while he was talking to the printer, he's folding this thing up into a shape. And then he put it in his pocket. And then he thought, when he pulled it out of his pocket, wouldn't that be good if ... if we did a recipe book that people could ... simple recipes. We could have a ... he worked it out that you could have a picture on every page and you could go shopping and put the recipe ... put this little book in your shopping basket, or in your pocket, as he did. And he then got his book editors to design, you know, how ... how it should be. And then they ... they ... they sold the idea that they would get different people to write this ... to give the recipes and he'd sold the idea. I think, to Sainsbury's in London took it on. And this was such a good idea and so he asked people to write recipes, or his editor asked people to write recipes to a formula. And this is how it had to be, and this is what it had to be. It was his idea, totally, which I consider, you know, it was his idea. And he got various people to do different things. So somebody would write a book on soups, and somebody would write a book on salads, and somebody would write a book on such and such. And this came out, under the Sainsbury label. Then I think he sold it to somebody else, and it came under ... under a different label. Then he found the Germans wanted it so he thought, well, Sainsbury's isn't known in Germany, or whatever the name that was on the mast. He would give it some local ... local name. And he did this in Japan, he did it in Mexico City. It was a terrific success because it was a new light formula for interesting recipes that were illustrated in colour. When it came to Australia, he wanted me to put the Margaret Fulton ... have the Margaret Fulton label on it. And I was explained that this was imprimatur. 'It's your imprimatur, Margaret, on these books', and I said, 'Well I can do my own books', and they said, 'But this is ...', you know, and because it was part of a seven book deal I didn't really want to do it. But Paul and I, by this time, had become very close ... very good friends. And I ... it's like being married to someone. You can't say no, you have to say yes. And I said, 'Yes'. And in the book, it had on the back, it said who had done the recipes, who had done the such and such. But basically ... and I wrote a little bit to say it's nice to be able to bring these recipes of ... I forget what I put on the back, but it was all, it seemed all above board to me. But one of the people who had contributed to one of these books, one of these thirty books, or forty books as it ended up, said, 'These my recipes and it's got Margaret Fulton's name on it'. And then some eager beaver from Australian ABC thought, ah, we've got ... because I'd been squeaky clean, you see. I was everybody's darling. But somebody thought, 'Right, let's get her', and my life was made very miserable by this person, who convinced, I think, I suppose, the ABC, that he was on to something hot. And he trotted off to England to interview some of the other food writers and they all said, 'No, we understood that the book was ... we understood that we were being asked to provide these recipes. It wasn't our book, really'. Because, you know, they hadn't ... they hadn't done much. Well, they'd done a lot. They'd done the recipes. But what was awful about this fellow, he, he instead of coming back and reporting that it was only this one dissident from New Zealand who had complained about this, that everyone else had said it ... we understood. But he sort of hung around and made my life very miserable.
He ... he was parked outside my back door. And you know, suddenly to become ... everybody's darling to become the villain of the piece, it was ... sort of, took me a bit by storm. Also, because I didn't feel that I was the villain of the piece. It was a ... I understood it was a publishing thing. People in publishing said, 'Margaret, this is an imprimatur. Yes, it's done all of the time', but it didn't help me. I didn't write another book for, I think, ten years. I couldn't ... couldn't face anything.
Oh yes, of course it affects you. Somebody making you out, you know, to be a nasty ... you know, a nasty person. When basically ... and I knew that he was being dishonest also, because he hadn't told the whole story. He hadn't said that all of the other people - who paid his fare to London I don't know - but I knew from my publisher in London that he'd contacted these other ... he was trying to stir up things. But he wasn't honest enough to come back and say, well, you know, 'It was just this one person'. And that's ... that's horrible. It's horrible. It makes you ... it makes you not want to work any more.
It was. When you're made out to be a villain and you don't feel you are, you don't ... there's no joy in ... in ... I didn't want to work in books for a long time. I was very ... I was very angry at the whole ... at the whole situation. It took the joy out of doing it. And you know, there's something about a book, a cookery book, any kind of book ... is that you've got to feel good. And that ... what's between the lines. You know, people talk about what's between the lines. And I think there is a lot in that. There is something between the lines, and what was between the lines if I'd written another book at that period, wouldn't have been the joyous, happy, you know, adventurous, full of enthusiasm me.
You had of course, fairly quickly after the publication of your first book, particularly, become a real food celebrity, you might ... might say, and appeared on television and so on. Did you enjoy your relationship with television?
Yes, I ... I ... I loved ... I had been a ... I must say, I had been a rather shy child. I had, but I had learnt, just like when I might say you run with the hockey ball or the hockey stick, once you've got the ball, you know, you run. And I had learnt that you've ... you've got to be ... be equal to the moment. When I sang at a church hall when I was a little kid, and I giggled my through it, and everybody got terribly sick of me singing - two of us singing - Two Little Girls In Blue, and giggling our heads off and thinking it was amusing. I learnt it wasn't amusing to, for people to be watching somebody being quite silly. So I learnt that if I'm on television, I've got to suddenly be bright. I've got to suddenly talk and say things and, you know, do it. I found then ... also it was nice, someone once said to me, 'Margaret, you've got something to say, so say it', and that was a nice thing. So on television I always responded with, 'Well, this is what you do, and this is what you do', and you know, whatever. But I never wanted television to be my main thing. I ... also, my chief at J. Walter Thompson's, the advertising agency, had said, 'Margaret, people make their money out of doing, or are successful at doing what they do best, and then they lose it at something else'. And I always felt, I'll stick with ... Really, the written word is what entrances me. Television, radio, I think is lovely but it's something else. I wouldn't like to stop, totally, writing. You know, I could stop television, and I can stop radio, but I wouldn't like to stop writing.
Oh, it's ... it's like being the straight man to a comedian or something. You the ... There's always someone else that really is wanting to be noticed too. And I suppose I didn't like ... I don't really like sharing the limelight. That's one way of putting it. But I'm not so terribly interested. If I ... My idea of relaxing, for example, is to read a book, not watch television. And yet I know the worth of television, and I know the worth of ... and I do watch television. When I think something interesting's going to be on I love it, and it does enrich my life. But my real ... my real love affair is with the written word.
I've ... I have done a few commercial things but not a lot. When Leggo's, for example, brought tomato paste to Australia, or they made it big. And I felt it was ...
Yes, I'm still ... I work on ... I do the pages for New Idea, which is, you know, quite a job. We have ... we have ... we have four photographs to do a week and four dishes to do a week. My daughter also, Suzanne, works on New Idea with me. And then I ... I do another thing. I've got some saucepans, which are lovely, beautiful saucepans and I'm involved with the ... every now and then I have to go and tell women how to use them. It's rather nice, because a lot of the people who buy these saucepans, are I should say, ethnic. They're the people that seem to be prepared to pay quite a lot of money for nice equipment. But what is lovely is to get into their world, and I get to know that in certain areas there are a lot of Muslims and other areas there are Greeks and Lebanese and Turkish, so I get a real feeling of what is happening around Australia through this. And they're ... they're so nice. They're so happy to have someone also, an Australian, to relate to and to talk about ... I like to talk to them about being a modern woman, and about nutrition. I find that these people are tremendously interested in everything that I'm interested in and they're interested in things for the welfare of their families. So it's ... it's nice to be still working at seventy.
Another element of your career over the years has been doing commercial endorsements on television and so on, for various products. How did you ... how do you go about doing that, and how do you decide what to do and what not to do?
I don't do very much involvement with commercial products. I think one of the big companies was Leggo, who were bringing out a tomato paste. And this was something, when I was doing it, that wasn't used a lot in Australian food. We used tomatoes in salads and things like that and we made the odd sauce that a tomato went into. But we were beginning to become interested in Italian food and I ... I thought this was a very good product. And it did a good thing for me, because it also brought ... Italian women began to relate to me. Well, I wrote an Italian cookbook. Some Italians said it was the best Italian cookbook out, you know. But ... and ... and so it's been a two way deal with ... especially with a product like that. And then the came company brought out whole peeled tomatoes, which of course everybody uses today. But they were fairly ... fairly sort of new to Australia when I started sort of talking about these canned, peeled tomatoes. But another product that I went commercial about was the crockpot and the crockpot sales apparently soared more in Australia than in any other country. But again women ... I could see that this crockpot, which was an electric pot that did the same thing as the French daube has done, you know, on the side of the stove, cooking long, slow meals. And at the time that the crockpot came into our lives, it was a time when women were going back to work, and were busy, and they could put a chicken on in the morning, and it would be cooked when they came at night. And they liked that. And the crockpot was really quite a successful period. Apart from that, I really haven't done much commercial. One time, somebody said, 'What about ... what do you feed your dog?' and I did a Pal dog food commercial, but really, that was quite silly, because really I don't think people believed that Margaret Fulton, you know, gave her dog Pal. A lot of people didn't think that I ... see me in relationship to dogs and yet I've always loved dogs and I've had them around in my life. They've played a big part in my life. But it wasn't how I was seen, so that was the least successful thing I've done [compared to] the crockpot and the tomatoe Leggo pastes and things.
Oh yes, I did that once. But there again, it sort of ... yes, it worked. But it ... yes, it didn't go on for long with Pure 'n Simple. That was one ... that I'd forgotten about that.
Did you make much money from the commercials? You know, when you see somebody like yourself doing a commercial, often the thought is, well this must be a good money-spinner for them, so they can get on with other things.
Oh yes. Yes, you can make more in a day doing a commercial. You know, you make a lot of money, yes, that's sure. You know, it gave me money to buy the latest fashions if I wanted them. Or ... you know, something. Yes, you do make a lot of money out of commercials. But on the other hand, I didn't want ... it goes hand in hand with what you're doing. If you're being good at what you really do, and you're known, like a footballer or a tennis player or whatever it is, you've got to be good. You've got to be at the top and you've got to be believable. And you've got to ... so that you can't be making a lot of money out of a commercial product, and not be at the top of what you are doing. And then there has to be a limit too. Or there was in my mind - there had to be a limit to what I would do. I had been asked to do a lot of things, that I would have made a lot of money out of, which I felt wasn't good for my image, as they call it, you know. But I've always been quite ... I've always wanted to balance it out. Yes, I've liked the money but not at the expense of what I considered was going to be a career. You see, I've been able to think. Unlike a tennis player or unlike a swimming star or whatever it is, [where] you know, you've got a time when you're going to be at the top, in my work, the older you get, the better you get.
Now you've also been in food long enough to see lots of trends happening. For example, you were talking about pressure cookers and crockpots and so on. Why do you think there is fashions in food? Where does that come from?
Fashions in food is interesting in that it does change a little bit with the times. Sometimes ... crockpot came in when women were going back to work and could put a meal on, go out to work and come home and get it done. What has taken the place of that long, slow cooking for a crockpot, is people discovering, say, the wok. Now the wok you can cook a meal in something like three or four minutes. But also, for people like the meat people, the Meat & Allied Trades people, or ... they started preparing their meat cuts in ways that could be stir fried very quickly. So women then got to a point where, instead of putting dinner on in the morning, they would drop off at the butcher, and pick up meats that could be stir fried quickly. Pick up vegetables. They were all driving around in cars, and they can pick up the evening meal very, very quickly from the grocer with the butcher next door and come home, and very, very quickly do this stir fry. The other that has happened say with stir frying, men also found they could do it. It was quick and it was easy, and because there were no terms of reference, as you would, say, like a grilled chop, lamb chop, had to be a certain thing. Potatoes that are going to be boiled or done something with, have to be a certain thing. You had a term of reference of how your mother did it. But with stir fries you didn't have - you very seldom had a Chinese mother or a Thai mother or a Vietnamese mother that was going to tell you how it should be. So you started with a fresh idea, and it didn't matter that it wasn't the way it should be because it was ... it ended up being the way you liked it. So men, all kinds of unusual people, started doing the cooking and doing it very quickly and doing it very successfully. It was the food they liked, and the people were telling them, you know the nutritionists are telling you, don't overcook your vegetables, have them crispy and have them this. And we were adding flavours like soy sauce and oyster sauce, and various things that we were a bit unfamiliar with. But we took, we liked the taste of and it gives the food a good ... a good taste. So what has been happening in the community, food changes with the needs and people are beginning to go to a Thai restaurant or a Vietnamese restaurant and they've becoming familiar with a totally different kind of food. And because there is no terms of reference as to how it should be ... there would be if you were a Vietnamese or a Thai, but when you're sort of Australian and have an Anglo-Saxon background, or a Spanish background, or something else, you're just enjoying this beaut food and you're not restricted by traditions, your traditions.
Why do you think it was, that starting out in food, in that period just post-war, that although there were quite a lot of other people who had been home economists - the gas company, had that kind of same start as you did, went into cooking - you were the one that emerged as being able to ride that wave to success?
When I started in cookery, my contemporaries, their proud boast was that they couldn't boil an egg. They ... it was also a time when the Yanks were in town, you know, the GIs, with all their money, and girls were painting their nails, and lovely, red long lacquered nails. And rolling up their hair, and they were going out with Americans. They were getting lovely silk stockings and, oh, it was ... that is what any bright young person was doing when I started. What I was doing was going off to a cooking school. My terms of references, the only silk that came into my life, was I learnt that a sauce had to be smooth as silk, a sauce had to be as light as chiffon. A sauce had to be as rich as velvet. So while these ... while my contemporaries were having a great time with these beaut guys from overseas and getting silk stockings to slip on their lovely legs, I was doing this crazy thing of cooking. But what emerged was, of course, I was left with knowing how to make a ... a ... a sauce. They were left either going back to America, or you know, the Yanks had said, 'Great, good time, goodbye'. So I was left with something more concrete. A lot of the bright people, of my contemporaries, were doing other things. And let's face it, there's many a time Margaret Fulton thought, what are you doing, Margaret? But I sort of got fascinated with food. Nobody else was really getting fascinated with food. They looked ... they thought, Poor Margaret, you know, you're the cook, aren't you? And they'd sort of stiff and sneer a wee bit. I was an oddity. I was an oddity to my friends, to my family because they thought I was quite crazy. When I could have ... when I could have gone off to university, when I could have gone off to America with a Yank or something but I just ... I just did what I wanted to do. But it meant that I was ahead of the other people who didn't think that ... weren't as sold on the fact that they loved food and they wanted ... I didn't know I was making a career of it. I was just happy doing what I was doing.
When I decided I wanted to cook, or I liked cooking, it wasn't an attractive ... it wasn't an attractive proposition to people. Like, for example, if you were to become a home economist, you were considered that you weren't the brightest. The brightest girls were doing other things. Let's face it, the brightest girls were - apart from painting their nails and catching a Yank's eye - were actually going ... it was the start of going to university, doing courses. We were beginning to get engineers. And the people with real brains were doing the things that ... you know, people with real brains did. The people who were doing what I were doing, were the also rans. You weren't as ... you weren't considered as bright. And very often you weren't. I think that it's just marvellous that it was that way, because it left the ... it left the coast clear for me to sort of rip ahead, because I was sort of half bright, and knew what I wanted to do.
Today of course, I've seen the complete turnaround. The ... the chefs for some years, have been the prima donna ... prima donnas of the world. You know, they've lauded it over people. People ... there's chefs in England that are really making a name for themselves, by being rude to their clients. There's chefs that are opening up the most enormous restaurants. The chefs are the most ... among the most lauded people in our society, you know. They're up there and they're making big money. In my days it wasn't that way. A chef still had a sort of a prestige, but only to be used by, you know, the Rothschilds, who ... they ... the Rothschilds employed Michel and Albert Roux, who are very famous in London. But ... and they were respected within people who knew. But a lot of girls who did food, if you said ... somebody might want a dinner party cooked. Well, they would make you go to the back door. You weren't considered a professional person. You were considered back door material. And you were made to be forced into that way. There was no glamour attached to it. Even girls who went to the Cordon Bleu, and in England would be ... to have a Cordon Bleu come and cook your dinner, you ... you realised that they didn't have to wash up, for example. You know, you would have to have someone in for wash-up. In Australia, if you wanted someone to come ... come and do a dinner party, they had to do the washing up, come in the back door and leave quietly. Apart from a few, there were a few women who ... Sue Duvall is a person who came from a very sort of upmarket family in ... in Newcastle and she used to cook for people. And they loved to show that Sue was cooking for them. But there's always been a bit of, in people's minds, until now, 'Oh yes, you're the cook. So you know, keep out of ... just do it and keep out of the way'. Nowadays it's a different story. Even to give my daughter a career in food, sending her to London for two years, sending her to the Cordon Bleu, it was quite an expense. It's quite changed today, and today's ... today's up market chefs, you know, they're lauding ... they really, they walk into a room as though they're cock of the walk, which is a Scottish expression. But they are cock of the walk. They're great. They're doing marvellous things. People have always ... good cooks have always done marvellous things, but they haven't been cock of the walk.
Could you just describe for us what you've seen change in your chosen profession, since you first entered it during the war, or just immediately post-war, was your first job in cooking, wasn't it? Or was it during the war?
During the war.
Yes. Since you entered cooking, during the war, what changes have you seen? Could you characterise in a sort of broad brush way, what you've lived through in terms of the food revolution that's occurred.
Since I've ... in my career, I've seen a cookery person being ... from being someone who went in the back door, really being received on a red carpet at the front door. I've seen the role of the cook grown from something that certainly would be called a trade, to something that is almost now a profession. I've seen the cook, who was disciplined to produce food to a pattern, a dish had to be exactly ... and it was a very, very exacting, an exacting trade. For example, if you were to go to say a restaurant like the Connaught Hotel in London, they make a fruit salad, and it's layers of these beautiful fruits and in the crystal bowl it looks so beautiful. But it ... there's a great deal of skill in doing this. And then for the maître d' or the waiter to serve this ... a serving of this, so that it doesn't become ... you know, all of the pieces of fruit can fall down if it's not done properly. But to see this, the waiter serve that dish, a serving of the fruit salad, and the fruit arranged in the bowl, is still as perfect as when it came out. A lot of the skills, those kind of skills, are being lost. Today's cooks plate food. They put lovely little things on a plate. You might have a pile. They're making towers of things, you know, and it is a skill in doing that. And they put, say, three asparagus spears around. But basically some of the skills are being lost. These ... today's young people are putting exciting new flavours together but sometimes you don't want an exciting new flavour, you want something that has stood the test of time, that has just ... people for generations and generations have loved. And it has stood the test of time because it's jolly good. I've seen the change in ... in ... Some of it's good, some of it's not so good.
Oh, of course there was. Because you see a lot of ... a lot of the people who came to our early restaurants - I'm thinking of Prince's and Romano's in Sydney - they were ... they had been top people who had actually come from Europe to get away from a worsening war situation. We had a very, very good backup of ... of ... of these top people, who could really show us the best way of doing things. And then we had other restaurants. We had places like Victor's, where you got the best fish. You know, to go in and get a snapper tail, with an oyster sauce, where the fish was cooked to perfection. We've always had that. We've always had places where top market food ... because there were a lot of wealthy people in Sydney and Melbourne, who wanted, and demanded the best. It was there. It just wasn't in every little street or every little milk bar, that was running a restaurant. But it was there, and it was there to a very, very high refined degree. You know, we had French wool buyers. Australia was leading the world with lovely fine merino wool. And French wool buyers were out here. They were bringing the sophistication of Paris to here. They were often stationed here and they were demanding this lovely food. So yes, it was here.
Well, say if you talk about ... when I one time drove down, going to Wollongong, and it's ... it's sort of down in the valley and then down ... The wave of, what do you call it? A roast lamb dinner, it just hit me. Probably every household was making a roast lamb dinner on a Sunday. Dad would be out washing the car, because they would have been going for a drive afterwards. The kids would have been playing with a hose but everyone was having a roast lamb dinner at one o'clock on ... on a Sunday. That doesn't happen any more. If you go to, say, things like the fish markets, people ... some people were buying things like squid. You could buy squid for practically nothing. The Italians were buying the squid, because Australians, frankly, didn't want to know anything about it. We knew that a lovely snapper was the thing we wanted. Now, of course, we know that squid's good. And we know that it's cheap. And it's getting less ... getting less cheap as ... but we had sort of ... Australians were beginning to be introduced to other ... other foods from the ... from our early people who were coming here. When I say [early], not all that early, but the Italians ... and they knew that the squid was jolly good. They knew that ... I think there's a funny story about someone seeing horse meat in a ... in a pet shop window, and they bought this horse meat, and they couldn't believe the luxury of having horse meat, and doing a carpaccio, which is very thin slices of this lovely meat, which Australians ... Australians now won't eat horse, but gradually we were introduced to different foods and different ... but what we had was very good. We overcooked our lamb, because we had to. We didn't have refrigeration and if you, if you cook a lamb sort of pink, it goes off the next day unless it's kept in refrigeration. Lamb has to be well cooked. Some of the things we did, you know, weren't done so well. And yet now, we know that long, slow cooking of a lamb is a ... a leg of lamb is a lovely way to go and we're actually going back to long slow cooking, as a wonderful way of enjoying food, rather than the pink lamb that we ... that we could do with the very young lamb. But you can't do it with our older lamb, which isn't so nice. We're learning an awful lot in Australia, from our French chefs, from our ... from our tourists. No. What I'm talking about? I'm getting tired now.
Given that your books, really, were in a way a kind of teaching, you know, like having Margaret Fulton teach you how to cook, and you'd always enjoyed teaching, did you do much teaching? Did you take classes at all at any stage?
At one stage I actually did cookery classes at Johnny Walker's Bistro Cellars and it was just lovely, because he had a round table, and ... We used to give people a glass of wine, which always helps to get through a cookery class and they would sit with their glasses of wine and their hats, and you know. The fashion of the day was to have a little hat on and I can always remember those hats, sort of sitting there. But it was lovely, because people were just dying to know. They'd started travelling overseas and they were coming back and they'd tasted marvellous things, and they wanted to be able to make these things. So it was a very ... a very happy time, teaching them. And the lovely thing about teaching anyone anything, you're actually, the person that learns the most is you because you're explaining to people why you're doing something, and what you're doing. And a lot of the things you do with food are, you've learnt it and you do it automatically, and you know it works but when you have to tell someone why you're doing it this way, it's ... it's making you think why are you doing it this way and why do we do this. So as a learning, a learning bend, I think I learnt more from my cookery classes than the people. But on the other hand, a lot of people say, 'Oh, I went to your bistro cookery classes, and you taught my wife to cook, and you did ...', you know, whatever it was. It was a lovely time. And it was early ... the early stage of people showing ... having a cookery class, who weren't just say the gas company, or you know, something like that. The gas company, later on, started having ... they learned from this, and started having international chefs come and cook because, of course, gas, you cook with ... if you cook with gas, they're selling gas, and it works. It's a nice ... nice round thing. But I loved the cookery classes. It was hard work and it was always at the end of the day. But it was just so exciting to see these rows and rows of smiling people with a glass of wine in their hand and then they'd put it down and get the pencil and write out. And it ... it was a great time.
I kept doing cookery classes, really, for a very, very long time but then I suppose I began to get busy. I went also from ... Johnny Walker had this wonderful bistro, which was down in the cellars. It was near the stock exchange and he moved up to Angel Place. And I think I stopped, really, when Johnny got ... got ... got sick or got something happened. Oh, I'd had enough. You know, you can't keep on doing the same things right through your life. And then I think I got busier also with my books. And I felt I was reaching ... you know, I was reaching something more permanent. Teaching sixty people to cook is ... I felt that I what I could do through magazine work, through my books, I could teach a whole lot of other people out there, who couldn't get to the classes. You know, I used to have at one cookery class. A millionaire's wife used to fly her little plane. And this is way back in the sixties, sixties, early seventies. She would fly her plane down from Mudgee to a cookery class. It was always so funny, because here was wee Margaret Fulton, who you know, couldn't ... well, was a country girl. But here she was telling millionaire's wives how to live and how to cook dinner, and how to entertain, and how to do things. I always remember once in ... there was a book Always In Vogue, and this Edna Woodman Chase said, 'Here we were in the New York office of Always In Vogue. We were telling Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Henry Ford how to dress, and we didn't have the price of a pocket handkerchief between us'. But I think that's the lovely thing about ordinary people sometimes doing extraordinary things. It ... and that's how I felt. I felt it was great fun.
I have never gone ... I have never gone to international classes, and gone overseas to do a class because basically that was a thing that came later. And I don't want to sound sort of smug or anything like that but when you have learnt cookery, learnt the techniques from one of the ... a real master, you've got those techniques in your ... at your fingertips. So what someone else was doing wasn't as intriguing to me as what ... what people, what women in countries were doing, the home cooks were doing: the clever things they were doing. I've always been a bit more intrigued by the clever, wonderful cooks that [are] country cooks and they might be cooking in Spain and in Mexico, or you know, in Greece. I was always a little bit more intrigued by what those clever people were doing, rather than the ... this new elite cookery school was telling you. At great expense, I might add. I'm a Scot, remember.
[Laughs] One funny time, I took a ... I took a gourmet trip to China, actually. But I went to Hong Kong and I did cookery classes at that YM ... YWCA. Yes, I have actually done cookery classes in the early days in Hong Kong and then I also went to Tokyo, and I did cookery classes with the Benedictine sisters, who ... They were in Peking, and during, after the ... when the war ... the big war was on in China, they had got out and gone to Tokyo. I'm forgetting that I had done that. You see, it's interesting that ... how things come back to you. But yes, I did take these cookery classes. But one time I had this gourmet tour in Shanghai - I think it was Shanghai or Peking - and the Chinese were very interested in sandwiches. And it seemed amazing. I showed them how you made a sandwich. And I always remember them, I cut it into four as we would do a sandwich. And they were eating it with a chopstick and I said, 'No, you don't eat it with a chopstick, you eat it with your finger', and that horrified the Chinese, because you don't touch ... chopsticks save you touching it with your hands. And they felt it was a very unhygienic way. So I said, 'Oh well, what you can do is have ... eat a sandwich and put a piece of paper', you know, the way the Italians [do]. Italians always eat their snacks with a piece of paper around it. Australians are inclined to just eat with their fingers. But it is ... it is funny when you travel, you learn from other cultures, the taboos and very often what other people do is very sensible.
Running a restaurant is something that's never entered my thoughts. I feel myself that it's a very special gift that you have, that you, you know ... that it's lovely to be out, to be behind the scenes cooking but it's very, very hard work. I've done a restaurant, in Australia. The course that I did initially was a hotel restaurant cookery course but I've never felt I wanted to actually do that. I never wanted to actually cook for people. I don't mind telling people how to cook for people, but I've never wanted to do it myself, and ... and I've always felt that what I love doing is cooking, getting into the kitchen, knowing what makes a thing work, and then writing it down, so that I could send that out to the ... you know, to people. Because after all, magazines were wanting me to do that, and publishers were wanting me to write for people. And that's what ... that's been the strong thing in my life.
Berida Manor was an interesting thing, because I began to feel that good health was important and someone said to me at a - I think I was at a wedding or a cocktail party or something - someone said, 'Oh, Margaret, have you ever thought it would be nice to do this?' And he put ... we ... together we found the money to do this. We found this wonderful place, Berida. We called it Berida Manor. But it had been a stately home in the - if you can call that in Australia - and then it had been, the Red Cross had used it as a hospital. So we converted it back to a health ... a health resort. And that was marvellous. We ... we had said we were going to have the latest in French food and we didn't know where we were going to get the latest in French food but a woman walked in, a lovely little French woman, with her husband and a child. And she ... she had come out with the French ambassador. And she ... I said, 'But we've got to cook lean food. There's a new thing about lean food', and she said, 'Oh well, if you cook for those French, with their Yves St. Laurent and their Christian Dior clothes, of course you cook lean food. It's what I know best because the French ambassador's wife isn't going to, you know, lose her shape'. So at any rate, we put her on, and she was just absolutely lovely. So immediately we were opening, we had this lovely French chef, or this French cook who knew about keeping slim ... lovely slim bodies and it was a great hit. But a terrible, but a good thing happened to us. Malcolm Fraser, who was the Prime Minister at the time, he was entertaining the Commonwealth Heads of Government. And he, they ... what happens at these big CHOGM meetings, they go and they have their very serious discussions about policies and matters, with Commonwealth heads and then they go on a retreat. But there wasn't a sort of a thing ... in other countries there are big hotels and big places to go for retreats. But the place they chose as a retreat for these thirteen Prime Ministers, heads of government, was Berida Manor. Well we weren't ... you know, here we'd been open two months, and here the most important group of people ever to be entertained in Australia, were coming to my doorstep. And so, we had to ... we had to make Berida Manor into a place suitable for heads of government. And it was suitable, but it was a tremendous amount of work. And then a dreadful thing happened. It was the time of what became quite famous, the Hilton bombing. And there was a bomb, you know, dropped in a garbage outside the Hilton Hotel so there was this enormous scare. And these people were arriving. You can imagine. Desai, who was the Prime Minister of India, and, you know, a fifth of the world's population. And then Lee Kwan Yew, who was strong. All of their carers and their ... whoever the people are that look after these very important people, they were all ... it was a scary time. And it made an enormous difference to the whole thing that should have been a pleasant retreat. We were covered by the special police and it was a nightmare. In the kitchen it was a nightmare, because different Prime Ministers, they would have tasters, or somebody making sure the food wasn't poisoned, and making sure the food wasn't a whole lot things and it was a ... it was a very, very interesting time because, also, I wanted to showcase Australia's lovely, lovely food.
And everyone got behind me. It was a great experience really. And we wanted to showcase Australian. Malcolm Fraser had said, 'We want only Australian wines', and I had a friend, Anders Ousback, who was just so good with wines. And I called and said, 'Anders, would you come and help me', and oh, he was delighted. And so we were able to showcase the loveliest food, the loveliest wines, and in the loveliest area: Bowral is so beautiful. So, on the plus side was this ability to show off to thirteen heads of government, and showcase our lovely countryside and our lovely food, and our beautiful, beautiful wines. And so it was a lovely ... a lovely experience. But it ... it shattered me, because of the responsibility because if anything had gone wrong, it would have been awful, you know. And we didn't want to have upset tummies. But the nice thing about all of this was that the Prime Ministers' wives were coming and saying, 'Could we ... could we have an autograph, please', of me! And so I got their autographs, and they signed my visitors' book. And they went away with a Margaret Fulton cookbook, signed to ... you know, and they were delighted. I think it brought a human touch into what was a very high tense ... a high tense experience for our country, for our government, and for ... for all of the people.
It is very interesting about Berida Manor, but after the heads of government had been there, I went into a state of shock. I couldn't believe that I ... that I went away on a ... I went away on a cruise with my husband, but I didn't want to go back. And I couldn't understand why I felt so shocked. But I have learnt that the people from, say, the Hilton Hotel, they were all in shock. And anybody that does look after thirteen heads of government, it's such a big ... the enormity of what you've done descends on you and basically, I didn't want to go back to that place, because it had suddenly hit me. It's probably very hard to explain to anyone that having that kind of responsibility, when you're just a ... you know, you're just you know, Margaret Fulton, the cook. It sort of hit me. And ... but I know now, I've spoken to people say on P & O liners, and they've said when a Prime Minister is on board, it is very different to anything else. I've spoken to big hotel managers who've said exactly the same thing. It's an enormous responsibility to have the heads of you know, thirteen countries, and their wives, and their entourage, in your care.
It's a funny thing. You think, yes, I ... I made a success of this but, I don't want to do it again, thank you very much. There's your lovely ... you know, girls have been giving engagement rings back to rich boys, or not rich boys and people have been saying, 'Yes, I don't want that', for a long time. And I'm no exception. I didn't want to do it again. I knew that what I really wanted to do was to get back to the thing I do best, which is writing recipes for people like myself.
Well, I suppose, you know, it's a funny thing, as you say. I suppose, really, sticking, if you're a cobbler, stick to your last, if you're a tailor, you ... part of us wants to try new things but it's very easy to know, I don't want to do this. And I think it's lovely that I was able to say, 'Now I've had enough of this, I don't want it', when I knew what I wanted, what made me happy. I think you've got to make ... I think when you are happy in yourself, that you're going to be very happy. It's ... happiness is a kind of a thing that I don't expect every day to have a big smile on my face and be happy but you do know when you are at peace when you're happy, and when a thing is [what] you want to do. I don't think you should do things that you really don't want to do, and are unhappy about for too long. It's okay to give it a go, and see if you like it. You've got to do that. Human nature tells you, you know, I wonder what is around the corner. And we're always looking. But if you think it's better doing the things that you love doing, in the long run, it's going to ... it's going to work for you as a person.
My husband loved the whole Berida Manor thing. He ... he thought it was marvellous, because it was right beside the Bowral golf course, and he loved the life. But he hadn't really made a great success of his ... of his business or life. And he ... I don't really think the same ... I don't think that how I felt and how he felt, had anything to do with each other, because after all, I was sure of myself in what I was doing. He would have liked to have stayed there. But he wasn't terribly good at it. He ... he was ... I should hate to say it, but you know, when Fawlty Towers came out, some people used to say, 'Oh, he's just like Fawlty Towers', you know. And I think ... I hate to say it to him because he was, he's Irish, and he was charming but he was also a bit like Fawlty Towers, you know. It was good that he came with me and got out of it.
My second marriage was just as stupid as my first marriage. I ... I was working at David Jones when we were trying to tell people how to use washing machines and the new things after the war. And one day they ... a girl was away, so I had to go down to the ground floor of David Jones and show how to use a potato peeler or some mad thing, and I'm doing this, and I was hopeless at ... I was hopeless at that kind of selling. I could sell big time, but I couldn't sell little time. And instead of giving the person their change, I gave them a carrot that I was peeling. [Laughs] And I put the carrot in the bag and gave it to the person, instead of the potato peeler and he was watching this, and he thought, oh isn't she lovely and he asked me out. And I thought, oh, well I was in Sydney a bit, because I was still living up at the Hawkesbury River at this time. And I was ... I was in Sydney for a week. And I thought oh, I could, I will go out with him, because if ever there's a person I could forget, it's him. So I went out with him, and I ... I thought well I'll forget you at the end of the week, goodbye. But he kept on following me home to the Hawkesbury River, and he kept on doing things. And he was a most unlikely person. But perseverance won out for him and I married him. You see, I've ... I've married most ridiculously, you know, without thought. Actually, what had really been happening, I lived with him. I ended up living with him. I had a dear little house in The Rocks area, which is now still there. It's got a plaque up. It's a hotel, and it's got a plaque up that says Margaret Fulton and her family lived here. But I lived there with him, and my daughter at this point wanted to come back from her ... come from school and I thought, well I can't have the two people in the house. My daughter shouldn't have to live with someone who is - I didn't know whether you called them lovers or whatever. And I said, 'We either get married or you ... you've got to leave the house. But Suzanne's coming home and you've got to leave or we'll get married'. And he said, 'Well, we'll get married'. So I got married. Again, for the ... I can't understand in life how I was so sensible about a lot of things, and I was so stupid about men but nevertheless, we had lots of fun. He was Irish and he was charming and we had ... we had a very ... we had lots of good times together.
I think that he ... he was fascinated by ... I think my husband was really fascinated by me, because it appealed to his Irish sense of humour, you know, giving a carrot instead of the product that the person had bought. But I think really ... I think people, you know, men feel, I think, secure with a person that they feel actually has something to say and something to do, and can get on with the job, and I ... I think he was appealed to me. I think that he ... I appealed to him, because yes, I probably was, underneath it, a capable person.
I've never ... I've never thought about how long I was married. I can only just remember the beginning and the end, and the happy times in between. I think I divorced him around about 1979 or '78 or ... it always seems irrelevant. But he was really quite a rascal. A nice rascal. But at one stage I'd found that it wasn't working, and I just kept saying every day, 'This is not working. I think we should separate', and, 'Have you found a place yet? This is not working. Have you found a place yet?' and then one day I found him a place. Oh, one say I said ... see the terrible thing was when he started looking for places, he always got off with the girl in the real estate agent's office or the solicitor's office or something. He was a frightful womaniser. Women found him totally fascinating and a lot of people couldn't understand how I ever left him because he was so fascinating. But yes, it just depends on what side of the fence you're on. But at any rate, one day we found a place very nearby and he ... he wanted the same views as I've got, because I've got beautiful harbour views so he wanted beautiful harbour views. And we got it. At any rate, knowing that he was an Irishman, I knew that very soon he'd say .. he would want to sell it for the money and I said to him, 'You'll always give me the first offer'. And my sister's now living there. So she's just around the corner in the house that I really got for my husband. So ...
Real estate. He was an actor. He came from a long line of acting ... actors in London. George Doonan, and the Doonans, who ... they'd done command performances. And he had a cousin who was a very brilliant actor. And a lovely girl cousin who, you know, was playing the lead in Annie Get Your Gun. But I think, probably that's the thing, I've always fallen for rather colourful people. I haven't taken it seriously enough, you know. I ... I've felt isn't it nice to be entertained by this amusing person instead of the proper reasons for getting married.
Funnily enough I had met, thirty years before, a person in London, who I was quite fascinated by, but I was married. And I was quite unhappy, because ... I was very unhappy really. You can't be with a person who's such a philanderer, and really, you know, pretend it's not happening. And this person from London had sort of said, 'Why don't you leave and come with me?' and I thought, oh, all you men are the same. So that was my answer then. But he came back into my life, and he came home ... home to dinner one evening. He'd had a young girlfriend that he'd brought out from London ... that was from London. And he'd been kept on meeting my husband in pubs, and saying, 'When am I coming to dinner? When I am coming to dinner?' And I thought I don't want him. And one day he said he was going back to England, and I thought well he can come to dinner. I'll have him and this girlfriend for dinner and they came to dinner. And my husband was quite, behaved quite badly, you know. Like I said, 'Dinner is ready', and he said, 'I'm busy talking'. So at any rate I thought well if I can't have the one I love, I'm not going to have the one I don't love. So you know, I just said ... that was when I started saying you've got to go. But then, what really did happen, this fellow from London didn't go back to London and he stayed in Australia. And we got together. I said ... he said could he take us out to dinner. And I said, 'Well, it's only me now', and he was rather surprised and so he came and took me to dinner. And then I discovered all men are not the same. For the first time in my life I had companionship, and I had the kind of things that some women have all their lives. I had for eight wonderful, wonderful years, with a mentally alert person, with a person who enjoyed things that I enjoyed: enjoyed travel and enjoyed theatre. So I had eight years of life of going how it should be. And I'm terribly happy about that. The only thing, he smoked Gitane cigarettes, and in one day he was coughing, and the next day he, you know, was being told, sixteen weeks to live. So we went off and said goodbye to his friends in Hollywood and New York and London, and limped back to Sydney and yes, he died.
Michael McKeas. He'd been a child star, you see. I'm attracted very much to something glamorous. I suppose he'd been a child star. One of the things he left, and he wanted me to have, was a marvellous programme of the theatre in London, signed by Sir Lawrence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Judith Anderson. All of the greats. All of ... Alec Guinness. And he was ... he was the boy in ... in whatever the show was, for the National Theatre, going across to New York. So as a young boy, he ... he had this kind of thing, that love of the theatre, love of the sort of the show business thing. But it was a very ... it was a very happy time because it reassured me that relationships are important and are good. And it's all part of it. Until that I think I'd sort of think, oh, it's not the best thing in life. The best thing in life is working and writing recipes, and chopping and stirring and all of those things but I learnt that life shared with someone, the right person, is simply great.
You see, I ... I ... you never know what makes you attractive to other ... other people. I think what attracted me to him, he always said he admires talent. And when he was in Australia, he said, ;There's three women in Australia who have talent. One is Nancye Hayes'. He adored Nancye Hayes. And there was a girl called Geraldine Pascall, who was a food writer. And she, you know ... and there was me. And he said, 'Talent is the most precious thing anyone has'. You know, talent is the rarest and most wonderful thing and I think he felt that I had talent. So I think he saw ... yes, as he said himself, he admired talent. And it's a thing that I admire. When I see talent, I think oh isn't that lovely, in a young person, you know. When he died, I gave his money to a ... I gave the money he had to a young boy who had written poetry. He'd seen me on television getting my OAM, and he was so pleased, because I ... I said that I loved dingoes and he wrote me a poem about dingoes. And I thought, oh, isn't that lovely. Michael would like this young boy to have some money and I sent the money to him. My family said, 'Margaret, what are you doing?' and he put this money to a ... one of those computer thing. And I found that he was a very disadvantaged ... a very, very disadvantaged child, with a lot of problems. And I thought, and it made ... it turned this boy around. And so we've been friendly. And I send him things. And I've made life turnaround for this boy that had too many problems to almost mention. But he writes the kind of beautiful, beautiful poetry, and he feels the way I feel. He feels about things in the bush, he feels about Australia, he feels about life and he feels that, you know ... He wrote a lovely poem about a tree that was cut down, a big, big tree that used to shelter the Aboriginals and people used to sit under, when the council just removed it, you know. His heart goes the way my heart goes. And so it's been a ... my relationship with Michael has had lots of extensions to it. And I think that's the lovely thing about when things are right, everything goes right. When there's one ... when there are little things wrong, a lot of things go wrong. So it's been lovely that I got together with Michael and when he died, I did ... I admired talent as he did, and this young boy's life has been turned around. And the mother ... They're in outback, they're totally, totally isolated. It's another story. But it also reminds me that it's ... it's very good when you follow your heart.
When you lose something like that, I ... I think when Michael died, I had my sister, who I'd always been close to and she heard me say the same things day after day and she would listen with interest. And I think it was wonderful that I had someone to talk to and then I began to feel at least I had Michael for the eight years. And just before he died, my accountant had got me to sign something that I shouldn't have signed. It was giving me ... letting my house go as part of an assurance for a big project he had in mind. Michael was terribly against this, and I said rather cheekily, 'Mind your own business', and I'm terribly sorry I said this, because it ended me in an awful, awful lot of trouble because the thing went broke and then the banks wanted their money and they wanted my house, they wanted my everything. And I hate to say it, but I was sort of saying, 'Oh, I'm glad Mike's not here to tell me I told you so'. Or I'm glad ... I began to live the days thinking, 'Oh, I'm glad Michael isn't here to see the mess I'm in', because it became a dreadful mess. And he really didn't want ... he didn't want this to happen, you know, what had been happening to me. And so it's a funny thing, you know, I was sort of glad that he was around at that ...
...I think we are going to have to put it in the public arena, and anything that's been in the public arena, it's very important for you to give your account of it, because it could be misconstrued. And now we've got your story, you know. So what was it that you'd actually signed with the accountant?
My accountant had this brilliant idea of a nursing ... a retirement village and it seemed ... it seemed a good idea. He kept saying, 'It's a growth industry, Margaret', you know, 'and you don't need income now. You need income later on', but what had happened, he'd been borrowing money, and he was ... he brought me papers which he sort of showed rather briefly to me. 'Just sign here, sign here. I'll explain later', sort of thing and I signed. I didn't know that I was actually signing for, you know, him to borrow ... I forget, it started off three million and then it went to six million, and then it went to fifteen million. But you see, he got greedy and he wanted my house as well because I owned my own house, which was right on the foreshores of Balmain. And I ... that was when Michael had said to me, 'You can't do this', and I said well instead of giving ... putting the whole house up as assurance, I would limit it to two hundred and fifty thousand. I thought that ... I could manage that. And however, I signed this, and then ... it's ... it's awful the way these things happen.
I signed it really for two years. Or I thought. He said, 'Look, in two years, you'll have the money back. In the meantime, I'll pay you interest for your home', and I said, 'Yes', and then I realised I should see a solicitor and he had said, 'Look this solicitor's very good. He ... he knows all about it', and I saw the solicitor and he told me, 'Look, you know, things can go wrong, but you're ... it will be all right'. But what had been happening, he had been doing the ... my ... my old accountant ... my accountant who got me to sign had said to ... he was borrowing quite a large amount of money, and it was the NZI bank that were doing it. And apparently the question had arisen, why is Margaret Fulton putting up her property and another doctor was putting up his property, when nobody else is and yet she doesn't have a very big interest? I hadn't invested very much in this. It was a very, very small. I think it was two per cent of the money involved was my money. But I was putting up my house, and this question had been raised by the banks. But I think it was a time when the banks were ... you know, they were lending money. It was 1987 and they'd been lending money right, left and centre and although it had been raised, they didn't do anything about it. They didn't say, 'Has Margaret Fulton got separate advice or proper advice?' However, the ... the crash actually came and I got a letter from NZI to say that they wanted my property, or the $250,000 and it was awful, because one of the partners who had borrowed ... you know, been in this business, jumped out of his twelfth floor window in George Street, and ...
Killed himself. Oh, yes. That's what you do when you jump ... when you jump twelve floors, you don't survive. But it was just ... it was just a terrible period, and it went on for eight or nine years. I was ... about eight years. And it actually came to court. There were a lot of court proceedings during that time. But my case ... by this time the bank, the NZI bank were wanting not only the $250,000, but the interest. It grows. You know, it had got to be double that and it went to court, and it was a very, very trying time for me. But there was a very good Justice Beaumont had sat through the ... these reams and reams of paper. The solicitor that I'd employed had done such a good job of really uncovering the ... the awful situation that I had been exposed to and the judgement came that I would have to pay twenty-five thousand. He said that it was unconscionable behaviour on behalf of the banks ... the bank and that I would pay two hundred and fifty thousand, and I would get from the ...
Twenty-five thousand, yes. Twenty-five thousand. And I would get also ninety per cent of my legal costs because they were mounting and mounting and mounting by the day. He said that, 'I feel that Miss Fulton is an honest and a fair minded person and would want to give them twenty-five thousand for that'. And then you know, as part of my ... as part of my involvement. And he felt ... there was a big judgement on it, which really is probably too intense to go into, but also the solicitor who advised me. We were ... we have a case against him. But the awful thing is that NZI bank now have said, 'We are appealing, even though it was unconscionable behaviour. We feel it was a wrong judgement'. And now they want two hundred and fifty thousand and another two hundred and fifty thousand, and also interest on that and they want my whole house. And they want me to pay all of their legal expenses, which now it's amounting up to something like, oh, gosh, it's getting close to three million.
The money's gone.
Well we ... if I keep ... I'm going to keep fighting. Because I feel that the judge ... I've got very good people with me. Mind you, it's costing a lot of money but I've got a very good solicitor, I've had a very good barrister. I've had very good silk they call, you know. I feel that ... I'm hoping that the right, as I see it, is going to come through.
I'm fighting for everything.
Well, I didn't invest millions. The cash ... see, it was a small amount of money that I invested. It was only, I think a hundred and seventy thousand. But then other people were investing a lot. This was a very, very big project. So I was actually quite a small investor. But on the other hand the judge very nicely sort of put it, that he realised that that was my - what would you call it - superannuation. That was what I was going to have for my old age. Heaven's above, old age, when you're seventy-three it's kind of old age, you know. You mightn't believe it, but it is. Paul Newman said that marvellous thing, 'How do you keep so young and sexy?' and he says, 'With great difficulty', and then he added, "Let me tell you, old age sure ain't for sissies'. Well, I feel as if I ... I'm like Paul Newman. I can ... I can say, 'Old age sure ain't for sissies'.
I think for the first time in my life, I have the feeling that I'm beginning to find it difficult to smile. I'm finding it difficult to be carefree. I'm finding it difficult to think, you know, why, why does, why me? But then I have to think of the little kittens I saw in Cairo. You know, one went unscathed and one ... somebody drove over one's back. I know that things are not fair, and yet I don't ... I don't want it to happen to me. I suppose it's a little bit like saying, 'Yes it does happen, but please not in my backyard'. But it is very difficult to keep buoyant. Now my solicitor says, 'Margaret, go to the children's hospital and see how people are suffering'. And I feel oh yes, I've listened to, you know, 'Eat up your peas because the starving children in Biafra'. When something happens to you, it happens to you. You can't ... it's silly to say, you know, I thought I was all right until I saw my man who couldn't see. I mean there are things you can tell yourself. But basically, happiness is happiness. It hits you. Tragedy is tragedy. It hits you. Whatever is hitting you is hitting you.
But you've been in a state of anxiety and uncertainty for a long time and that may be one of the hardest things that there is to live with. When will the uncertainty about whether or not you're going to keep your home, be finally ended?
I'm going to court again on the end of ... on the end of November, when the ... apparently under the appeal, it goes before three judges. They may say there's no appeal. So I might know on the 26 November. On the other hand, Justice Beaumont, who did feel that I'd gone on long enough because it is eight or nine years - it's a long time to be in suspension - he said it has to be expedited. And I'm assuming, if it is expedited, I think my case was brought forward a bit, probably in the early part of next year I'll know ... I'll know what it's about. I really do feel that the banks could have ... this could have been settled. But they didn't want to settle. They wanted my house. They wanted me. For some reason, because they've let other people ... they've let some of the bad guys off very, very lightly. But this is what I can't understand. Why me? You know, why are they going at me? But they are. And that's ... I suppose that's my lesson in life, that even although you've been, you know, everybody's darling in a way, all your life, suddenly somebody ... somebody thinks, oh, I've had enough of these people. Give her a knock on the head, and they're sure doing it.
Through your life, you've obviously had at least small troubles. You've had problems with your marriages, you've had difficulties. How do you deal with your distress? If you're confronted with ... with difficulties in your life, how do you deal with it?
I think ... I think dealing with life you've got to be honest about a thing. If a thing's not working, yes. You ... you ... you can't say a thing's not working without giving it a proper try. But when things have gone really wrong, I think you've got to be honest and come and face up to it, and say, 'Look, I'm not having this. This is not right', and I think that's why I took on the banks ... the bank. I felt they were wrong. And I felt that I ... I ... I had to. You can't let the bad guys win. You've got to ... you've got to put a fight in life, whether it's with a ... a husband that's doing something, or whether it's ...
Oh, my husbands. I wasn't a good picker, I suppose, of husbands. And I've had a time, you know, I've had a few little things like one time when the imprimatur thing that I put on books ... that people ... somebody tried to say I was using their recipes but it was a different scheme. That was rather nasty. I think I've had the biggest trouble in my life just ... well, when I say recently, it's recently gone to court but it started over ten years ago, when I signed something quite ... that I shouldn't have signed. And it's gone on for ten years. They want to take ... they wanted to take my home. They wanted to take everything. The judges advice would have been to me, 'Don't sign'. He ... you know, and I'd like to say don't sign until you're sure what you're signing away. So yes ... and that's been an enormous blight in my life.
You see, I could lose my home. They're now claiming that they want this property. They want my property. They want more money than I've got, which means that at my age ... my stage in life, it's awful to think that you've been successful and people say what ... success is good. But you know, when it gets all ... when there is the threat that it's going to be taken away from you, what are you left with? It's very disillusioning.
Yes, I was totally misled. People think ... you ... yes, I signed really against my better judgement, against the better judgement of my family and my friends. I was misled. So were other people. But I was ... what's happening to me, I was misled and yes, I shouldn't have signed it. But I got myself into an awful pickle.
I ... a lot of times I've been very pleased to get into the kitchen, and think right, chop away, slice, stir. I find it enormously soothing to get into the kitchen. When things seem really black, I mean when things are happening to other people, because in today's news we're always hearing about what's happening on the other side of the world, or on the other side of the fence, if it comes to that, and I find it very soothing to get into the kitchen and cook, knowing that my family are going to come and share this with me and things are going to be good again. I suppose, if you were to ask a gardener what they do, they'd say get out into the garden and tend the weeds or the flowers but what I find is enormously rewarding and soothing, and it's just wonderful, when you get into the kitchen and do something and then you can produce a lovely scone, a lovely pikelet, a lovely roast dinner, whatever it is you're doing. It's a ... it's a wonderful back-up we've got in our lives. Everybody wants to cook, everybody wants to eat so it's something that's not really going to go out of fashion.
It's so painful to see children starving, to see mothers holding children that they can't feed. The look on the child's eyes of trust, and the look of despair and love in a mother's eyes, that's awful. It's terrible when you see little baby seals being clubbed, you know, and you look at their eyes. And it's see terrible when you see so many things: when you see what is happening in our world and you can't escape it. It's terrible to think that people in Sarajevo are doing what they're doing to each other. It's terrible to think what's happening in Ireland. You know, Sean O'Casey wrote that thing, a lovely short story, and the ... he was saying, 'Look mother, I gave my right arm for freedom', and the mother says, 'Your right arm was your freedom'. I want to bring a bit of ... I'd love to bring a bit of sanity, the way mothers feel. If the rest of the world could feel the way mothers feel, I think it would explain a lot of things that we do. Why have a brave son that gives his arm for Ireland, when the mother knows your right arm is your freedom?
I've taken a tremendous interest in our Australian native dog. I think that it is the purest dog in the world. It goes back ... it's been untouched. Nobody's wanted to make its snout smaller, its leg longer. They've left the dingo alone. It is a pure dog and pure in the very, very finest way. And it's got all of the qualities that I admire in a person. They mate for life. They're loyal to ... to their ... to each other. They bring up their children. They teach ... the mother is with her ... its little litter. And it feeds them for as long as it can. It's not very long, because in the wild, the mother is usually in pretty bad shape. So she passes over to the dog, the father of the litter and he takes over. He teaches them manners, how to be nice to each other, and how to fight up for your own rights and he teaches them everything that we all ought to be taught: how to be, how to be polite. You don't walk into someone else's territory and sort of take an apple off of it ... you know, take over. You respect other people's territory. All of the qualities that we should be learning. If people learnt to watch a ... or could watch ... a dingo litter, and little dingo pups through their life, they would be learning as much as they learn when they go to school or to university because the dingo dog does teach its litter what life is about. It knows that life's going to be hard once they leave the litter, once they're kicked out of the ... you know, of that life and have to fend for themselves. But those little dingoes do go out prepared. I want the rest of the world to know just what ... what a treasure we've got in Australia, with our dingoes. Other people look after the koalas and the whales and the seals, and all of these things are ... are worthy. But my love is the dingo because it ... I do want to get the dingo a better name. I do want people to know what they have, what special thing they've got in their life, that can enrich their life.
Well, Michael, the love of my life from London, he'd come out to film. He was English and had come out to Australia to film Boney, you know, that Bonaparte series that was the Aboriginal tracker who became a policeman and he was in the centre of Australia, and he saw these beautiful dogs in the centre, and he fell in love with them. And I think he ... he sponsored the first dingo at the zoo. And then one day he saw in the paper, 'Come and walk a dingo', and he said, 'Oh Margaret, we've got to go and walk a dingo', and we went up to the dingo sanctuary that is now, and I was introduced to the dingo and it was love at first sight. The marvellous thing of the dingoes ... you know, I sponsor a couple of dingoes up there. And if I go walking with it, say there's a little puddle or something, it goes over the puddle, but it turns around to see if I'm going to make it because it knows that I'm getting a bit older, you know. Some of the early pictures of dingoes, of when the Aboriginals were being shot, and they'd all been killed, and there's little ... it's in the Mitchell Library - a little baby sitting at the campfire. But there's a dingo staying with the little baby because the dingo realised that the rest of the people had been shot. I could go on forever telling you what an elegant, what a beautiful, what an admirable dog, the dingo is, and I just want to tell everybody about how wonderful the dingoes are.
Because people ... when they don't know something, when they don't know a person, a race or anything, what they don't know, what ignorance ... the greatest shield for ignorance is kick it, you know. Or give it to ... don't ... don't ... don't find out, don't want to know. It's got a bad name. It kills our sheep. It does ... The dingo, mind you, is a predator, but not the way it's been given the name of. It's just been given a bad name because people don't understand it. That's why we want to educate people to realise what a wonderful thing the dingo is, so that they don't keep on giving it a bad name. They've ... dogs ... animals ... I wouldn't be an animal in anyone's home except mine because people are either loving and caring about animals, but often they're dreadful to them. And the dingo is no different. But with the Aboriginals, the dingoes move with them, they slept with them, you know. If it was a cold night, it was a one dingo, two dingo night, or if it was a very cold night, it was a four ... they slept with the dingoes. And you see early pictures of the dingoes around Aboriginals' shoulders. And they were companion dogs. They're not pets to be left at home or to be, you know, thrown a bit of meat when you feel like it. A dingo is part of the family. It's part of the community. And when it is treated like that, of course, it is a ... it is a ... it brings the community together. I'm talking about the Aboriginals as they ... they had it.
Well, for example, you don't have to feel sorry for somebody that's walking around with diamond rings and driving a Rolls Royce or being driven. They look as though they've got the whole thing solved. But there are people that haven't got the whole thing solved. If, when you read ... I've just read that McCourt's book, who wrote about his Irish childhood. You can't read ... you can't have read Dickens, you can't have read anything, or how people suffered in the Inquisition, or ... I mean whether you're a historical reader or a autobiography reader, you can't read and not know that terrible ... that life is terrible. So you know that you don't really have to be too worried about what's going to be happening to people who are at the top of the pile. But it does hit you that some people don't know what it is, how to survive. When you've been brought up in a happy home, that's had sort of the ups and downs and not ... not always a lot of money, I mean you realise that that wonderful happy home life that you had, other people have had home lives where the mother wanted to make a happy home life, but hasn't been able to do it. I just feel they're the people that ... that pluck at my heartstrings, because you do want to make a better life. We tried it with communist: people who joined the Communist Party felt that by sharing it was going to be good and we want everybody to be equal. When Whitlam said to us, 'The haves should share with the have nots', it was how I feel. Why is it that we can't share? Why is it that it can't be equitable? I suppose people are greedy and want more. And when you have ... when one person has more, somebody has less. It's just ... it works out that way. I haven't been conscious that I've ... I've always been for the underdog, but as I get older, as I read more, I realise I don't have to be sorry for, you know, Christopher Skase in Spain, living the life of Riley. I don't really have to be sorry for him at all, even if he limps around and puts on an act, like, you know, the way sometimes crows do it, they pretend they've got a bad leg or something. I don't have to ... to waste my time being sorry for the likes of him. But it is horrid, horrid to think of the people who don't have things, the animals that don't have environments and, you know.
I think when it comes to what you can do, one of the things I ... I felt very strongly, that the home ... I do think the home is the core of our living. I do think that if I can give a recipe to a woman who is going to make that, and it's going to turn out, you know. I say put it in the oven for ten to twelve minutes, and she does that and it comes out perfect in ten to twelve minutes, if she's followed all of the steps ... I still get amazed when I am following one of my recipes, say for biscuits, and it says, you know, do this and do that and then do this. And it works, you know. I never get over the pleasure of a thing working.
If I think of, say, the big change I made, someone said to me once, 'Margaret, you taught Australia to make mayonnaise', because before that, a lot of Australians, if they were having a salad, they would make ... the would have condensed milk and then they would add mustard and egg yolk and vinegar to it, and stir it up, and it would sort of go thick, and look like mayonnaise. My mother, who was better cook, used to have a prized dressing that she made, that she learnt from aunt somebody or other. But I had learnt to make mayonnaise, and so in this book there is a whole page devoted to how to ... what went into mayonnaise. You know, the egg yolk and then the little bit of mustard, and a little bit of salt and add the oil drop by drop. It seemed such a natural thing to know. But I was always ... I was always delighted at this woman saying, 'You taught Australia to make mayonnaise', so probably if I go down for being famous it's because I taught Australians to make mayonnaise, which is of course the most unctuous, marvellous, luscious, gorgeous dressing thing you can put on anything. It's a lovely thing to have been responsible for.
I was working at Woman's Day and I was a bit miserable, because my sister's old boyfriend's new girlfriend - it's very complex - was sort of trying to get me to go to his office and look at his etchings. He was actually trying to make me into a good journalist. He thought I had the makings of it. But I knew, because he'd said to his girlfriend, his current girlfriend, 'Every time I look at Margaret Fulton, I think of the great love of my life'. It was ... it was awful. It was sexual harassment. At any rate, I went to something and I met the head of J. Walter Thompson's, a man called Dick Coleman - he was an American - and we were chatting about something. And he said the sort of the classic words, 'There's a girl our organisation could use', and the next thing, I had an offer of a job at J. Walter Thompson's, in advertising. I was offered a job first of all in Melbourne, but I thought how can I go away and leave my friends? I love them all too much in Sydney. So I turned it down although I was miserable and I wanted to leave the situation I was in. But then they found a place for me in the Sydney office. And it was just lovely, because I ended up writing advertising, and, you know, thinking of cute things to say and bright ideas and it was a lovely sort of - I don't know how many - probably eight years of my life.
I think I went about the mid-fifties, mid-1950s, and I think I left early in the 19 ... 1960.
Oh, why I left that job, again it was a kind of a harassment. I had been a senior executive of ... an early woman senior executive in J. Walter Thompson's and it was at the time when television was bursting on the ... on the [scene], you know. And we ... they had a very clever filmmaker, they thought, in the form of Hans Von Adlerstein. He was a clever filmmaker, but he was a German, he was arrogant and it infuriated him that in the actual organisation I was more ... I was the senior person to him. But when it came to doing this new ... working on this new medium, we were working on the Kraft food account, and then the Kellogg's food account and one of the things I used to have to do was to go along and set up the scene for somebody eating Kellogg's Cornflakes or Rice Bubbles, but this day what I had to do was to put Rice Bubbles into a bowl ... into bowls, so that Bobby Limb and his wife could, you know, eat their Rice Bubbles. And I had an assistant who was also quite good at putting Rice Bubbles in a bowl. So the telephone rang, so I went to the telephone and I said, 'Oh Marie, just put the Rice Bubbles in the bowl', and then this Hans Von would call - I could hear yelling at that back of the big studio - 'Where's Margaret Fulton?' And this was Sally Baker. She was a wonderful journalist and she was saying, 'Margaret, we need you at Woman's Day. Will you come?' and I said, 'No Sally, I'm very happy where I am. I really am very happy', and then I'd hear this voice booming in the background, 'Margaret, where's Margaret Fulton?' And I thought, oh god, I wish he'd shut up. And then I'd say, 'Oh Sally'. But Sally said, 'But look, we'll give you anything, we'll pay you anything. We need you. Please come. We'd love you to come', and here's somebody telling me they'd love me to do something, and you know, and then this fellow in the background yelling out, 'Where's Margaret Fulton? Where's Margaret Fulton?' And I said ... finally I said, 'Sally, I'll come and talk to you'. I thought, oh who needs this? And, I think, it's been my attitude a bit. You know, who needs being harassed or ... and the thing is, it's quite simple, putting Rice Bubbles in a bowl. It's a bit more difficult Cornflakes, because you're supposed to find the biggest Cornflakes, but I think anybody can put Rice Bubbles in a bowl.
Yes, I think ... I think this is the thing that makes ... I think the thing that your background tells you that what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. That's why I love dingoes. I love the way a dingo dog will train the little pups to ... you know, to survive. I think I had a very good survival lesson when I was young and if somebody starts harassing you, or making life difficult, yes, you ... you jump off pretty quickly. Otherwise you're going to get it for the rest of your life. And I think that's why I feel so sorry for people who are in a terrible situation, where they can't ... you know, they can't sort of jump out and leave it. I've always wanted to keep my ... unlike a clever dingo - I want to keep my sort of escape hatches clear. Yes, don't put up with nonsense, for goodness sake. You've got to ... you've got to do what the boss tells you. It's got ... it's got to be a workable program, but sometimes there's a difference between what works and what is harassment. And do learn to recognise it, is my ... is my motto and my advice to anyone.
I got it from a long line of Scots. When you travel back to Scotland, and you know the history of Scotland, it is horrendous what happened to those Scots. It was passed on a bit from my mother. But I'm ... I'm a product of Scotland's history. And we are stoic, we are brave, we are fearless. We have our pride. No, I'm like a ... I'm just a long line of Scots.
My mother meant everything to me. I mean, apart from the odd boyfriend and the odd thing I had a crush on, or the odd whatever it was. But it ... my mother and I had the most marvellous, marvellous relationship. I did a lot of scampy things when I was young and I'm sure my mother knew what I was up to but she never said ... you know, she'd never ... she never said to me, 'Don't do that'. She set the pattern of behaviour which I could follow, you know. It ... when I was sort of sixteen and somebody ... We were ... we were having a party and there was a bottle of gin, and I thought, oh, that looks harmless. So I drank half the bottle, collapsed on the floor, and had to be walked around. And then I was told by this boy, 'Don't ... Keep quiet, because you're passing your house'. And I thought, oh I'm home, and I ran up the steps and ,other was the health and temperance person. You know, she was into that. And here was this drunken - she could only have recognised me as being drunk - but, you know, she didn't say anything. I got to bed and then I got sick, and I ran out and I had visions of passing mother and ... but the next day I got up and got myself dressed for Sunday School, and got to church and all my friends were saying, 'Oh, we're so glad to see you. We thought ... we didn't know what had happened to you last night'. But, you know, mother didn't mention anything, and I know that she was thinking: she'll get over it, she's learnt her lesson. But that was the ... the lovely relationship. I felt the guiding person was ... was there. But it never ... it never impinged on me.
She didn't sit in judgement. And I think that's one of the ... the nicest things about a person. Like mother set the pattern, she set the example of a wonderful person but she never sat in judgement.
My mother, I think, is a ... what happened to mother happened to a lot of women. Neglect. She died of cancer of the uterus and she should have been saved. She should have been ... things should have happened. It has been a lesson to me, that if I'm not well, or if I'm bleeding from unseemly parts, or anything like that, tell someone. My mother ... her dignity didn't allow her to, or I don't know what it was. She didn't tell us what was happening to her body. She didn't get the doctor to look at herself. I think it was just a kind of a selflessness and I think it happened to a lot of women of her age. It was neglect, because at that time we were beginning to know that, you know, certain signs were ominous. Something should have been done. But for a woman who'd led a selfless life, at fifty-eight or sixty, you know, you ... you're not ... yes, it's terrible. It was neglect.
I was ... I was about twenty-five.
No, Suzanne hadn't been born. My mother came to my ... my wedding, which was my first wedding. You know, that's the time my young nephew said ... everyone was so miserable about me marrying this terribly wrong person, but and young Billy saying, 'Oh, never mind, Grandma, never mind Mum, she can always get a divorce', which, from this wee boy was ...
At my wedding, yes. And mother ... mother again ... I think, it wasn't the happiest day of her life. But again, she didn't say anything. When ... when before my mother died, and I knew that she had cancer, and I was working, people would asking me, 'What is the best way to make fruit cake? Do you think it needs this?' and I thought, oh what the hell. My mother's dying, why should I be bothered about your Christmas cake? And for a long time it turned me right off because I thought how can we be so busy about these little details of life? But, you know, and then I ... after mother died and I sort of got back into the swing again, I realised that it was those little details that do matter in life.
Having my first - yes. Having my first baby without mother, yes, it probably ... it was hard. But don't forget I had been brought up by a woman who wanted to make me independent. So I didn't feel the loss, because I felt that what mother had given me was inside me and nobody could take that away. So whether she was alive, or whether she was whatever, she had given me the resources to have a baby on my own. Or she had ... she gave me the resources to do anything I wanted to.
No, because I ... I always ... I had seen what had happened to women who'd had families, and were in impossible situations and could do nothing about it. I knew that with one child ... I knew that I hadn't made a good marriage [and] I knew that with one child I could manage. I knew that with another child, it would complicated matters. So I never wanted to have a second child. I think if I'd married a couple of lovely men I could mention I would have been happy to have had six children. But I didn't do it that way. So one child, and then of course with Suzanne, it's just lovely, because we ... we have ... I think we've got something of the relationship that my mother had with me. Suzanne tells me that when there's been a few hitches in her life, she said, 'Oh Mum, you're so marvellous. You didn't ... you didn't ... you sort of were there when I needed you, and yet you didn't panic and you didn't get excited, and you didn't say, 'Oh dear', and all of those things'. So I'm very happy that you know, through the line of Scottish ... the Scots, both male and female, there's something that's passing on to a little Australian family.
Oh, I've had the best life. I've had a wonderful life. Imagine ... imagine how I feel, you know. I've been able to tell people how to make things work. I've been ... been able to tell people how to be happy. I've been able to tell people to look around the corner, think of what the little Chinese people, and think of what they eat in India. I've sort of felt that people have come with me on this marvellous adventure that I've been on. And gosh, what is a good life but that.
You are interested, as well as in the presentation of food, and so on, you're interested in nutrition, aren't you, and at one stage you wrote a book about healthy eating, and you ran a health based ... Berida Manor was health based. What's your philosophy of the relationship between eating food to be good for your health, and eating food in the normal way that has been the tradition of cook books over the years?
Although I've been interested in good health, I firmly believe that food eaten in a joyous, a happy kind of atmosphere - that means with family or friends, and there's a nice relaxed feeling - this isn't a proven theory - but I just believe you are better for it. I sometimes think the Japanese have got it right. They say eat thirty-two different things a day. And that's easy, if you make a soup you've got a whole lot of things in it. And if you make a salad, you've got a whole lot of things. Don't worry too much about what you're eating. If there is a ... if you eat a variety of foods, and a varied diet, you're going to be all right. We need nutritionists, and it is very important that human research, or research into nutrition for human beings is ... is essential. And it's interesting to know that a lot more money gets spent on what our cattle eat, or what our pigs eat or what our hens eat. I mean, a lot of money goes into that. Very little goes into research on human nutrition. It is very, very important. But I think the simple things to learn, that a varied diet is the way to go. I think it's the simplest message to get through. Make sure children do know what a piece of fresh fruit is. Make sure that children know how to chew and use their teeth. It's like babies in my day used to be always given a little chop bone to eat. But they don't do that so much nowadays. Whereas that gnawing and pulling and tugging away at a ... when I say a chop bone, you know, if it's a very tiny baby you take the meat off the bone and just give it and it chews away but starting to enjoy the feeling ... to see a little baby with a chop bone is a good start to having a think, oh isn't that good. And learning to use your mouth, your teeth. It's very important, because it gets you eating a piece of steak or chewing at an apple, or ... If we're not careful, babies who started off on pap, you know, the little ... the things that mothers putting food through sieves, but nowadays they go out and buy a little jar of stuff. It's very easy and you can sort of suck it in, and it's lovely but if you stay like that, and some people do. Some people never learn to chew or bite or gnaw. All of those things are as important as the actual vitamins, the minerals, the nutrition. And one of the most cheering bits of news that has come through in recent years, is red wine has the most marvellous antioxidants. And you know, me and my eighty-five year old sister, we open a glass of ... a bottle of red wine, and we say, 'Well now, let's have our antioxidants', and we sort of enjoy the fact that we're doing something good for our bodies. And certainly good for our spirit.
It's - this sounds a bit corny - everything in moderation. But for example, if you are eating, if you say I'll go the Japanese way and eat thirty-two different things a day, you're not going to each too much salt because you're eating other things. You're eating herbs, you're eating other flavours that are not going to make you want to have too much salt. If you're eating a lot of vegetables and again, a lot of fruit or fish, you're not going to be eating too much fat. It's when you make, as happened in probably in Australian past, where beef was wonderful and comparatively inexpensive, but you were eating half-pounders - you know, half pound steaks. Or even pounders, you know. That's terribly bad for you, because basically if you ate a half pounder or a 250 gram steak, you couldn't eat all of these other things. I think it's better to have a balanced diet, and really, as I say, we do need nutritionists to tell us. You know, you've got to know somewhere that it's not good to ... to eat a lot of animal fats, or a lot of salt. But if you eat ... if you're eating an interesting, varied diet, then it all falls into place anyway.
You taught households how to cook and how to cook nice, fresh, varied food at home. But now so many people are going to fast food outlets and eating food that isn't varied and so on. What's your feeling about the current situation with what people are eating in Australia?
I think ... I think it's very sad that people are buying ... are going to the fast food outlets. Because basically, there's nothing quicker or simpler than, say, an omelette. But we're being told don't eat more than, you know, two eggs a week, whereas an omelette would be a simple thing to do. But on the other hand, on the positive side, if I'm very tired, I will often put, say, a lovely potato into the microwave oven and prick it with a fork, cook it three minutes one side, three minutes the other side, and I've got a nice ... a nice food. There's a lot of nutrition in just one lovely big potato. There are a lot of ways that people don't have to go to this ... these fast food outlets, and bring the food home. I myself believe that we're getting so much done for ourselves: we don't knit garments so much more, very few people make their own clothes and people are even not mowing their own lawns and what are you going to do with your time? Certainly you can sit back and become a couch potato and watch television. Certainly you can read a book, which is enjoyable. But part of living is learning to look after yourself, learning to care and find that the things like cooking a meal is ... is enjoyment. It's a way to relax. It's a way to get the family around. You can get the kids, you know, peeling the ... shelling the peas. And you can say, 'Stop eating the peas, otherwise we won't have any'. But all of that's a nice thing in a family and I just hope we don't say goodbye to that aspect of living. Because I think it's terrible self-sourcing. You're sourcing back into yourself a joy of living, and what living is all about and that means doing things for yourself: the person and the people that mean most to you. I think it's such a pity to just pick up something from the fast food shop. It's been in a bain marie too long. It's ... it's a whole lot of things are not good about picking up food. But it's not only what you eat, it's your attitude to living. And at the same time I understand, if you're tired and you've had a big day at the office and things have gone wrong, it's so easy to think, oh I'll just pick up this and take it home but that's all right as an occasional meal. But think a little bit how easy it is to cook, and how ... how enjoyable it is. And it's doing more than just providing the family with a nutritious good meal. It's providing the family with a time to be together. Like if you say to one of the little girls, while she's shelling the peas, 'How was it at school?' and she's telling you. It's sort of the interconnection. It is a very, very good thing and I hope we don't give it up totally.
Oh I don't really think I want to think of it as art. Beyond that I think that art is going to change. I think art has a place in our lives. It's not something we put on our walls, or something that we buy that somebody else has done. Art is living. And yes, cookery is an art if you call it living, because I don't think it's any more special than a painter, a musician, but without the Mozarts, without the Brahms, without them you know, Dalis and ... everything, every art form opens our lives up, our minds up, to something that we haven't seen before. When I've seen, say, exhibitions in the art gallery of say Constable, and then I've been to that country, and I think there it is. And I ... when you see a lot of art it surprises you that you didn't see it that way. So it's helping us to see life, through eyes that are just looking for that. My eyes are looking at food, and I'm hoping - I'd hate to say it's an art form - but it is marvellous to think that other people can see food the way I see it, and give them a bit of joy, just as the great artists, the great musicians, the great dancers, have taught me something about movement and to seeing an aspect of life that's different. Yes, it's an art form if you look at that way. I don't to ... but I think of all art as being, it's just as important as the milkman who brings you milk and you say hello, and the butcher who cuts your meat. And you have a nice ... it's all part of life.
I've never thought of myself as creating a recipe. I had a wonderful chef who taught me so much. And I remember saying to him, 'Oh Chef, one day I'm going to create a dish just for you', and he said to me, 'Don't bother. All of the great - great dishes have been created, just learn to make them properly. Just learn to do them'. And I've always thought, rather than think of myself, I suppose it's like a musician as against a composer: a composer composes music, they do that, a musician plays an instrument or produces music. And Chef taught me that I was being quite vain when I thought I would create dishes for him. What I love to do, is to get a recipe for say like quiche lorraine, and get it right. A recipe for veal cordon bleu, but get it right, so that other people can do it. I take pride in the fact that I have taken other people's recipes, you know, great dishes like the Caesar salad. It was a tremendous joy to go to Mexico City and being made this wonderful salad. And I said, 'What is it?' 'Oh, that's the Caesar salad', and I became so interested. And after he'd made this wonderful salad for me, and he appreciated the fact that I appreciated it, he said 'Would you like to meet the man who created the Caesar salad?' and I said, 'I certainly would', and he took me to meet his uncle, who had created the Caesar salad. And the Caesar salad has been bastardised all over the world. People make all kinds of things. If it's got a lettuce, and if it's got a bit of an egg and a bit of anchovy, and now they've got bacon in it, they call it Caesar salad. But to me, getting to know how the true Caesar salad was made, and it was made for ... for ... He was at the San Diego racetrack, and he was missing his brother who was in London, who was missing the lovely bread of Mexico and he went on and he created this very elegant, very wonderful salad. I love to bring that kind of information to people, who think Caesar salad can be a hobnob of anything. And to me that gives enormous pleasure: to get it straight from the horse's mouth, and absolutely as it should be.
Oh, my friends - no, no, because you see, in my circle of friends, we all ... we all respect what the other person does. I've got a friend who's a filmmaker and I love to go to her place, because she'll be telling me what, you know, somebody said on the movie set, or what she was doing. I've got friends who are artists and they're saying, 'Oh, I'm working on this'. We all respect each other's what we do. And so they have ... it's very nice for them to respect me. I feel oh isn't that lovely. You know, they're enjoying my food. I can do something for them and they can do something for me, which ...
Oh yes. People get the funniest notions. I remember a few years ago, I was at a wonderful thing for ... it was a ... I know what it was. It was a ... what do you call it before you get married? A kitchen tea. And at this kitchen tea we were busy, you know, showing our presents and doing what you do at kitchen teas. Every time I went out to get a sandwich or a little cake or something to eat, they would ... the plate would disappear right in front of me, and I'd think I can't get anything to eat. And every time ... every time I went, you know, went to eat something, it was snatched away. I went to the kitchen, and I said, 'Look, I've got to get something to eat. Every time I go to eat something, somebody finishes the food or takes the food', and they all burst out laughing, because everyone had brought a dish to the kitchen tea, and they thought they're not going to let Margaret Fulton taste my - whatever it was - cream puffs. That was a funny occasion, which finally, you know, did sort itself out. But we all laughed and thought how stupid.
I think ... I think I love seeing my daughter, the way she copes with life because I feel that she's got something from me, just as I got something from my mother. I think seeing my grandchildren grow and develop is just an enormous sense of pleasure, to see what a new generation is ... is able to do. And I think when I go shopping and I'm looking over the apples, and somebody will say, 'Oh, what are you buying? What are you going to do with that?' Or if I go to the chicken shop and I buy something, and somebody says, 'What are you going to do about that', or the butcher's shop, you know, it's the lovely little things that happen to me day by day in my daily things, to know that people know me, and also think I'm going to be able to help them. And, you know, it's just that nice interrelation with people. I think that's a good thing too.
When you started in cookery, you were saying earlier, that it was considered to be absolutely one of the most ordinary things you could possibly do, and there was no status attached to it at all. And now, you're getting plaudits and prizes and so on, as this ... as this major talented cook. Do you ever sort of sometimes, when you're mixing with the rich and famous and being praised like this, get a little ... you seem as if you get a little bit surprised to discover where you are.
I think it's ... I think it's marvellous to think that yes, that I chose this career, which really was, as I say, people used to say, 'Oh you're the cook', with a sneer. And I was ... I was an oddity. And to realise that something that I believed in - and I'm not the first person, because there've been wonderful cooks right through history, who have believed in it - but it's marvellous to ... to realise that other people have recognised the importance of food and cooking in our ... in our lives. I was at a big awards last week, in you know, in Adelaide and there were famous people: Claudia Roden, who's brought Middle Eastern and Jewish food to us. There was Madhur Jaffrey, who's brought Indian food, and the exotic things to us. People from all over the world. And here I was being given an award in front of, I suppose, you'd call my peers. But ... and a standing ovation. I can't tell you how it meant more to me than anything, probably because I was there, and what they were saying, I had sort of helped start it. It's just a marvellous feeling to think that you can have faith in something that isn't very popular to begin with. But you have faith in it, and it's grown into such an important part of our lives. And I think, you know, I would say to people, young people, you know if you think something's great and you want to do it, you should do it, because you don't know if it's going to ... what it's going to grow into, and what ... what is going to happen. Just have faith in yourself, and it is important.
Talking and eating in Australia has changed absolutely dramatically in your lifetime and people say that you had a great deal to do with that. What do you think was your real contribution to that revolution in Australian eating habits?
I think my contribution has been that a nice ... you know, because when I was young I was a pretty young thing. Here was a pretty young thing being excited and being enthusiastic and loving and not minding doing something that had been previously considered a chore. I ... because cooking can be a chore, if you're tired, if you're ... if you haven't got much money, if you're worrying how to make ends meet, but when you can cook something differently, it's giving you a lift. I ... I've made people realise that it is fun. You don't have to be at the beach getting a gold suntan, as my contemporaries thought that was the thing to do. You can be in the kitchen making a chocolate cake or a roast dinner, or a something and it's as good. It's a good thing to do. I think I've just given people faith in that. And also, they always say my recipes work, because one of the things, when you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you're going to give people things that do work, because you know. And that's the thing I have ... the serious thing I've been able to pass on. But I've also, I think, been able to pass on a little bit of like Alice In Wonderland, you know. It's out there and there's exciting things happening. Come with me and we'll go down and see what white rabbit's doing, and we'll see what the Mad Hatter's [doing] It's a little bit of craziness. But I've always felt it fun. And I think I've been able to pass on to women that this thing they had to do, like get a meal for the family at the end of the day, can be like Alice's adventures in Wonderland. It's a little bit of a Mad Hatter's Tea Party sometimes, and it's a little bit of a you know, Queen of Tarts another time. It's just ... I think that they've enjoyed the little journey they've taken with me.
If I were to think about my book that I wrote in 1968, I did have Mediterranean cooking in that. I did have Chinese cooking, I did have Indian cooking. I knew ... I knew that it was coming, because I was fascinated by it and it was just a matter of telling ... telling people what was going on. Because in my first book, there's quite a big section, at the back of the book, on Scottish food, and, you know, French cooking, and Indian. So yes, I must have predicted it, to have thought of it, going almost thirty years ago.
I was born in Nairn, in the north of Scotland, very near Inverness: lovely highland country, and where some of the best whisky is produced. And it's a lovely ... Yes, it's a lovely lifestyle there.
My father was Alexander Fulton. My mother was Isabella Mackenzie Roberts. To ... my father was a very classy tailor. What you call a master tailor. And my mother had also worked as a tailoress. And when they ... they ... I'm told that when my father proposed marriage to my mother, 'Will we ... Will we get married now, or will be buy a business or start a business', mother said, 'Well, I think we should start our business, because our future is going to be that, and could be that and it would be better when we have a family'.
Well, what a master tailor did, he made the beautiful riding habits of the hunting, shooting, fishing crowd. He made opera cloaks for the people who went to opera. He made judges robes for the people who were sitting seriously judging. He made those ... those very special garments for those very special activities. He made lovely, lovely, lovely clothes for me. Little ... beautiful little tailored coats with velvet collars. He made those lovely special clothes that the English and the Scots have been, you know, quite famous for.
Oh, my mother had a very happy life, you know, going to say Paisley, where we had a couple of maiden aunts who used to work at the viola factory and used to do the lovely Paisley things. And she would be going off to buy oddments to come back to make clothes for herself. Father was ... Father and mother were very friendly with the Lord Provost's secretary. That's sort of like the secretary to the Lord Mayor. And they ... But they would be invited because of him, they would be invited to all the grand balls and all the important things that ... that went on in Glasgow. And because they were also interested in ... it was their home and their friends had all grown up. One was the head of a big chocolate ... Cadbury's or Carson's chocolate factory. And they ... among their contemporaries they had a very interesting group of people. Dad was the champion swimmer of Scotland at one stage and they led a lovely life. Mother was going to balls and to the opera. Dad would take her down to London for ... to see the theatre and things like that. She had a lovely life: a lovely mixture of having sisters, family, and doing things for her family, and also having a sort of a ... my father was a good time Charlie, and my mother was a good time Charlie's wife. She ... she enjoyed the lovely things. But she also enjoyed the practical things, and making clothes for the children, and things like that.
My mother ... they had six children. Three boys and three girls. And ...
I was the ... I was the baby. And it was lovely because I ... everyone loved me and I was pampered and adored, and kissed and cuddled and taken for walks and talked to and sang to and ... Let me tell you, it's a lovely ... it's a lovely part to be in a loving family.
I was spoiled in as much as I was given more love than I knew what to do with or, you know, it was just continuous love. I wasn't spoiled in letting me yell and squawk and do all of the things that you think of in spoilt children. I think I was loved because I didn't yell and squawk but then I didn't have any reason to yell and squawk. So, I think early in life I learnt that when life's going well, you know, and when ... when you've got nice things and caring things around you, life continues to just ... it just grows and gets bigger.
My father ... a business ... a friend of his had come back from Australia, and said, 'Oh, Alec, it's the golden land of opportunity. It's ...', you know. He'd started to ... he'd gone out as a tailor to this little country town, Glen Innes, in the New England district and he's started buying a few sheep. And then he ended up with a whole lot of sheep and he ended up making a lot of money in sheep. But he had this wee shop that he thought my father should come and bring his skills to Australia. So my dad wanted to come ... decided he wanted this adventure. My mother, of course, was saying, 'Oh Alec, please don't. I don't think it will be good for the children. All of our friends are here. All our contacts are here. All our everything is here for a future for our children. But we're going to a country, a land where we know no one', except Walter Riven, who was, you know, the person who had painted this golden picture. It was against mother's judgement to come but father couldn't help thinking of the, you know, terms like the land of opportunity, you know; home on the fleece ... the sheep's back and things like that. He was just ... he was just caught by that.
Well, I came ... when I came out I was three. So it was 19 ... about 1927.
No, I don't really. I ... I ... Because apparently I was kind of cute and ... well they thought it was cute because when the waiters used to come or the stewards used to come and say, 'What will you have?' And I would always pipe up, 'Fish, please'. So they always thought this was funny, this tiny wee thing wanting fish please. But it was my first ... I suppose it was my first experience with sort of food that was prepared and put in front of me by, you know, a thing like that, and I thought it was lovely to be able to ask for something.