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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry: Lee Tran Lam quizzes chefs, critics, bar staff and other people from the world of food about their career highlights and lowlights, war stories and favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney.

Nov 29, 2015

Annabel Crabb once put a laptop in the oven and it wasn’t even the worst thing she’s ever cooked.

Rare culinary slip-ups aside, the host of Kitchen Cabinet is brilliant at mastering recipes (she’s just released an excellent cookbook, after all). And her food-transporting game is pretty strong, too – for her ABC TV show, she once carried a honey fig semifreddo cake to Senator Nick Xenophon’s place, with zero melting tragedies. Getting serving implements through airport security is another matter, though. “You try and take a cake fork anywhere – you’re in massive trouble,” she says.

Despite this obstacle, it’s impressive what Annabel is able to achieve on her cooking show, despite not having a traditional studio kitchen set-up. She’s so savvy that she once managed to make ice cream in a hotel room.

Taking dessert to someone – the premise of her show – can act as a great Trojan horse for getting into sought-after places (such as Joe Hockey’s “notorious” share house, where former opposition leader Brendan Nelson lived in a shed for $80 a week; “it’s the funniest, weirdest story,” she says).

Food to make and take is the focus of her great new cookbook, Special Delivery (Murdoch Books), which she’s co-written with her Kitchen Cabinet recipe consultant and life-long friend, Wendy Sharpe.

Food offerings can be a not-so-secret code, a direct message that conveys a lot – as Annabel explains in the book, sometimes it can mean ‘Congratulations’ or ‘I come in peace’ (to politicians) or ‘Lord, this meeting might be grim – let’s have some cake while we’re at it’.

In the podcast, she says: “Often when you’re in situations where you can’t think of anything else to say to somebody – like when maybe they’ve had a death in the family or they’re very sad about something and you’ve run out of the constructive things to say – sometimes you take something that shows, in a wordless way, that you’re thinking about them.”

It can also be fun, too. And her cookbook includes a recipe for a soufflé you can travel with and advice on how to present haloumi without the ‘am I eating a cold thong?’ feeling.

During this podcast, Annabel also covers the extreme lengths she endured in making a relevant dessert for Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir for this season of “Kitchen Cabinet” (donuts, as it turned out, were impossible to pull off). She also shares a funny behind-the-scenes revelation about serving Clive Palmer a cake that would have been served on the Titanic.

It was delightful to chat to Annabel – and I love that a Canberra journalist who landed a “accidental second career as the host of a political cooking show” would end up being the person who talks most extensively about food out of everyone I’ve interviewed on this podcast.