Since 2006, we have told the story, and stories, of our food-obsessed community. We have found the best recipes from the best cooks we could find. We have preserved recipes from the older generation for us, and from our generation for the future. And we have raised some money for charity along the way.
Our first book, Monday Morning Cooking Club – the food, the stories, the sisterhood (2011), shared the best of our own Sydney community, our home. Our second book, The Feast Goes On (2014), shared the best recipes from our community across Australia.
Our latest book, It’s Always About the Food, is a delicious, rich, story-filled snapshot of cooking in the global diaspora. In searching the world for the best cooks, we learned that it is a mighty big place, as small as we think our community is.
First, we had to think of ways to find those cooks in the world. Then we had to actually find them. We had to email or cold-call, or find someone to introduce us. They then had to respond and, perhaps most importantly, want to give us their recipes. And their recipes had to be different from the thousands already collected and the hundreds we had already published. And then we had to be able to recreate each and every one in our kitchen—perfectly. And of course, it had to be absolutely delicious.
We are wholeheartedly committed and involved curators. We are part of the journey that every single recipe takes, from the time it lands in our inbox until the time it does (or does not) make it into the book. We work alongside the person (or their family, if they are no longer with us) who has shared the recipe.
In this book, for the first time, we actually document our story—the involvement of the Monday Morning Cooking Club in the process. And it really is a process, one full of hope, angst, joy, worry and happiness. Each recipe now has our input, our take, our story, our emotions.
Meeting Anita Zweig was one of the many highlights of our testing year, thanks to an introduction by her granddaughter who happens to be a friend of ours. She is famous for her fried baby chickens (backhendl), and we were invited to her home in Sydney so she could teach us how to make it.
We arrived in the morning to everything prepped and ready to go, aprons laid out, ingredients on the benchtop in her small kitchen. The table was beautifully set for lunch with linen and crystal, complete with a bottle of wine. We watched, we helped and we learned. And then we ate and we listened.
Anita told us her rich life story, from the challenging early years in Austria in the late 1930s through the Anschluss, escaping to Holland with her family and then to Sydney in 1939 where she has lived ever since. The visit was a delight and a privilege for each of us. And we are so thrilled to have Anita’s backhendl recipe in this book, a delicious cross between a schnitzel and fried chicken.
Finding Gloria Pink from Nova Scotia, Canada, was a completely different story. A few years ago we received an email through our website from Gloria asking for some restaurant recommendations for an upcoming trip to Sydney. She had read about us in Tablet Magazine. Our correspondence continued for many months, mostly about recipes and restaurants, and before we knew it, Gloria was sending us her favorite—and fabulous—recipes.
We now have a superb blueberry tart, the likes of which we’ve never seen, and a hot gingerbread cake with egg sauce. As soon as we sorted out the difference between Canadian and Australian molasses, which is a story on its own, this cake was a resounding “yes.” We had never heard of egg sauce before, but once Gloria told us that her grandchildren sometimes ask her to double the egg sauce and skip the cake, we decided we needed to try it. And we did. And it was really, really good. It is simply a matter of whisking eggs together with sugar and vanilla to produce a perfect match for the gingerbread cake.
Thanks to the many wonderful cooks in this book, we are creating a snapshot of our food-obsessed community. It really is always about the food.
It’s Always About the Food by Monday Morning Cooking Club (HarperCollins, 2017) is now available in the US.