Making the Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney

Over twenty years in the making (about the time it takes for me to chop up veggies) and my first children’s book has been released. It was written with my author mother and illustrator “Aunty” Donna, who have both been big influences on my creative upbringing.

The genesis of Martha goes back to my high school years. I was called into the Principal’s office, who at the time was Rita Fin, cellist and musical educator. I can’t remember why I was in her office, whether for a good, or not so good reason. But she had a few words to say to me, and after maybe a two or three minute speech (maybe longer), she asked me what I thought.

Either I had been daydreaming or was hampered by my hearing loss, or a mixture of both. Because I looked at her and said, “Pardon?” I remember she chuckled, so did I. This incident became the basis of a short story I wrote when I was about 14 which did quite well in a Sydney Morning Herald competition. And this story became the genesis of The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney.

Donna Rawlins (left) and Margaret Wild at the Norman Lindsay gallery at an event celebrating Australian children’s book illustrators

My mother was by then practically a full-time writer of children’s books, and she suggested we turn this into something bigger. Food has always been pretty big in my family – my sister Karen was a chef for a while, and I’m a reasonable cook from years of bachelorhood! I’m also a history buff.

So what better idea than to write a book about the history off food? And so Martha was born. Originally entitled, “The Marvellous Meals…”, we considered this alliteration a little too heavy!

So Martha goes on an excursion to the Museum of Famous People and daydreams her way through the lectures, imagining meals with Henry VIII, Marie Antoinette, Emperor Puyi and other leading figures from history.

Available at all good bookstores, because those that don’t stock it are obviously bad.

Donna did a fantastic job with the illustrations, which are rich in detail and humour. A lot of research from all of us went into this book, and my friend from history tutorials at Sydney University, Mark Stanley, also contributed.

Many an evening was spent discussing ideas, illustrations, who we would include and what might be controversial, or even historically inaccurate. The formal discussions eventually gave way to a deserved wine in the garden later in the evening, much like in the scenes with Emperor Claudius. It was here that I was able confirm that despite many years on the hard-drinking Sydney social scene, my mother and Donna still stayed up later than me.

So go out and purchase our book and reward many nights of drinking (I overstate a little here). And for those eager millennials, I believe you can get a e-version somewhere, but I’m not sure where. If you find out, let me know.

You can purchase the hardcopy version at most leading retailers. If Martha is popular enough, who knows, there could be a sequel in the works. Perhaps it might be called the Wonderful Walks of Martha Maloney where she accompanies famous people on historical journeys. Or the Magical Mysteries of Martha Maloney, where she explores cold cases like Jack the Ripper, the Mary Celeste and why Britain voted Brexit. Followed by Cosmic Catastrophes, where Martha gets sucked down a black hole.


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