It’s hard to imagine what the Australian dinner table would be like today if it weren’t for Margaret Fulton. Her first publication, The Margaret Fulton Cookbook, released in 1968, has long been loved by at-home cooks. “The first print run was going to be 30,000, and then within a few weeks, it went up to 60,000 and then it went up to more,” recalls Fulton. “It was immediately an enormous success, which was really quite interesting…to have this first book go so well.” This classic cookbook numbers just one of 20 that the food icon has authored in her long career.
Fulton moved to Sydney from Scotland at the age of three as the youngest of six children. Her first foray into food was as the cookery teacher for the Australian Gas Light Company in 1947 “making scones, making pikelets, making little butterfly cakes”. She went on to become a cookery writer for Woman magazine before becoming an account executive at advertising agency J Walter Thompson Sydney. In 1960 she made the move back into magazines and worked in the industry up until 2000, when she was food editor at New Idea. At 91, Fulton is no longer so hands-on in the kitchen, yet, remarkably, remains a member of the Human Nutrition Food Committee and is a supporter of Greenpeace in the fight against Genetic Engineering within agriculture. Often considered the matriarch of Australian cooking, her contribution to the nation’s culinary landscape has seen her awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1983 and added to the National Trust of Australia’s list of Living Treasures in 2014.
Yet, Fulton admits her long and successful career comes down to life’s simple pleasures: “I think I enjoyed being in the kitchen most of all.”
On her earliest memory of food “[It was being in] my mother’s kitchen. She was a very good cook.” The little things “Whatever you’re doing, you have to pay attention to the details and actually work on them. Don’t be fooled by getting lazy about assessing things. Just keep your mind on track all the time.”