Food may nourish your body, but Maggie’s Kitchen will nourish your soul. The book, which is part romance and part historical fiction, is set in 1940s war-torn London. We meet Maggie, cold and scared, crouched in a bomb shelter. Amidst the terror, the selfless protagonist and talented cook distracts her neighbour’s children by promising to cook them “A delicious creamy Welsh rarebit” as soon as they get home. It’s unsurprising that when Maggie hears about the new crop of ‘British Restaurants’ – government-funded commercial kitchens tasked with serving Britons one hot meal each day – she signs up to start her own. Along the way she enlists the help of Robbie (a 12-year-old boy who once stole Maggie’s rations), Janek (a Polish security guard who has a secret garden and a secret past), Rose (Maggie’s single surviving cousin) and Eliza (her closest friend and culinary ally). For a foodie like myself, the only things more compelling than the plot of Maggie’s Kitchen are the meals we witness Maggie make – nettle soup, Lancashire hotpot, rabbit stew with herb dumplings and apple charlotte, to name a few. Countless times I found myself jumping off the couch to cook my own hearty meal. The only problem was I couldn’t put the book down long enough to begin!
Raised in England, but now a Sydney local, Caroline Beecham completed a Master of Arts in of Creative Writing at UTS. Maggie’s Kitchen is her first novel.