Surprise, surprise, MaggieBeer, the Barossa’s most famous resident and advocate, is actually from here in South-West Sydney.
Little Margaret Ackermann, just 4, left her first home on Dover Road at RoseBay to move with her family to Lakemba and in time go to BankstownEastPrimarySchool and WileyParkGirlsHighSchool. It was “quite a change”.
“My father had a manufacturing business, kitchenware, and food for our family was absolutely the highlight. We ate an awful lot of meat, certainly more than I’d eat now. I left school at 14, with my older brother, to help keep the family, which struggled when the business went bankrupt. It gave me tremendous strength. Never went back to school, though my brother did to do engineering.”
Years later, she married ColinBeer, they moved to the Barossa in SA and he encouraged her to develop her food business, now a multi-million-dollar empire. Not that she’ll talk about money.
She’s “busier now than I've ever been in my life” and at 72 has no plans whatsoever to retire. Her new book, Maggie's Recipe for Life, has "200 delicious recipes to help reduce your chances of Alzheimer's and other lifestyle diseases".
I’d interviewed her at the Barossa for the final episodes of The Cook & The Chef. She remembered. Hi Ian, how are you? The marriage vote was just announced moments ago – congratulations to you both! And so it should be!
Thanks so much Maggie. And congratulations to you on your book. Speaking of which, some celebrity chefs use too much butter and sugar and salt because they taste good. Your book corrects that. I've always focused on the freshest ingredients and using what’s in season locally. There's nothing as wonderful as the fresh produce we have here in the Barossa. I've always emphasised that.
Can we still afford to have a little of the bad things? Yes! I don't believe in cutting out everything you like. Moderation, that's the key. I don't drink wine during the week, for example. But on Friday, Saturday and Sunday we have a beautiful wine with our meals and we really enjoy it. Moderation.
The Cook & The Chef just took so much out of us. We loved doing it and though we're opposites in the kitchen Simon and I are very dear friends.
Refreshing! You've given me permission to enjoy things. Oh, yes! It's not about taking away the enjoyment of good food. It's about the flavours, most importantly. I was never trained to cook, I just go on my own instinct. I'm a produce-driven cook and living in the country here with produce so fresh and ripe there's so little you have to do to it.
What dietary changes should we make? It's all about colour and freshness. Bright vegetables are so good for us. Take greens – so many varieties of green vegetables! Lettuce, capsicums, cucumbers, beans, parsley, All so good for you. It's never too late to introduce these into your daily diet.
Often a bad test result forces you to re-evaluate lifestyle, diet, exercise. Did that happen to you? Well, no. But a few years ago I got very sick, with pneumonia, and I lost a lot of weight. I decided I wanted to keep it off. Also, meeting Ralph Martins [co-author of her book] and talking with him made me realise there’s so much we can do in our attitudes to Alzheimer's. Know the bad things are there but also know we can do something about them. That's why we wrote the book. It's not just about Alzheimer’s, it’s for the elderly who can’t care for themselves any more. It's for all of us wanting to take good care of ourselves.
I don't believe in cutting out everything you like. I don't drink during the week – but on Friday, Saturday and Sunday we have a beautiful wine and really enjoy it.Maggie Beer
Has there been anything you've struggled to cut down or out? I'm not a great lover of sugar but I really enjoy pavlova! And I don't deny myself that pleasure!
When cooking for guests do you cater to them or serve what you and Colin would usually have? I just serve what I’d usually prepare. What we call a healthy diet is not boring, it's delicious! And people seem to love what we serve when they drop by. Taste is first and foremost so important.
Have you been able to get to the point where you might revive The Cook & The Chef with Simon? No! It just took so much out of us to do it. We loved doing it and even though we're opposites in the kitchen Simon and I get on so well, we're very dear friends. And we still present together at the Dementia Centre.
So-called reality TV cooking shows turn cooking into a race. But cooking is not a spectator sport. Yes, you're right. But what I can say is that these shows have a lot of value in popularising cooking and encouraging people back into the kitchen and that's a tremendous step. Just to inspire people to get in and have a go.
Some chefs are infamous for being rude. Look, in the kitchen, as in real life, it should be about respect for the people you work with. I have a rule in my kitchen – respect and calm and no shouting. I don't want meals coming out of my kitchen that’ve been put together with screaming and abuse.
Over the years, there must’ve been times when you said I give up. Ooh, yes. But it's fleeting. It never lasts more than an hour or so. You've got someone who thinks you haven't done the right thing by them or they haven't done the right thing by you. That gets you down.
Did being Australian Senior of the Year bring unexpected life changes? Lots! Importantly I met Ralph Martins in Canberra at the ceremony in 2010 and so began a wonderful friendship. I’ve learnt so much from him and it's been an honour to work with him on this book. And congratulations again to you and Dane. That's the way the vote should've gone.