Five minutes with: Monica Trapaga

By Alicia Hamilton

Monica Trapaga is an Australian TV personality best known for her stints on Better Homes and Gardens and Playschool. She has just released a cookbook titled "She's Leaving Home", on MiNDFOOD.

What role does food play in your life?

A huge role. I always consider food the best way of showing someone you love them and care about them. It’s a high priority in our family. I also believe food is so important in terms of energising and fuelling yourself and your family as well as being a wonderful way of showing your children different cultures.

What is your earliest memory of food?

My mother says she remembers me sitting in my highchair and stealing food off my sister’s plate! She tells of how I ate peanut butter sandwiches when I only had two teeth. Apparently, my brothers and sister would feed me their food, as I loved it so much. My parents were extremely into food, and we’d have competitions on what ingredients were contained in different dishes. My mother was always aiming to expose us to everything.

What has been your proudest moment in the kitchen?

I’ve made a few amazing wedding cakes for people. Also banquets for nine-course dinner parties for large groups is always a thrill when it comes off well. I also love cooking in other countries – it’s such fun going to markets, discovering new foods and ending up with something wonderful because you’ve pushed yourself.

Who is the best cook in your family?

Well, that’s a hard question, and my first thought is that I don’t want to offend anyone! But my grandmother was an amazing cook, and as head of the family, she would have to be the best – she’s passed everything she knows onto us.

Who has had the greatest influence on your style of cooking?

I’d have to say the local Sydney providores. I always buy what’s freshest and in season. At the moment, Galluzzo’s in Glebe is my main supplier as are the fish markets, which always get me inspired. Beautiful meat from the butchers, lovely fruit and vegetables from the greengrocers, there’s so much on offer. I don’t go to supermarkets, just the local greengrocers, butchers and fish markets, they’re the ones who influence me now.

Why did you compile the book?

I felt it to be imperative to document my family’s culinary adventures in some way. So when my daughter moved out of home (hence the title), it was important to me that she had the secrets under her belt, and the book was a way of recording that for the future and of passing it on to her.

How long did the book take to compile?

It took me two and a half years (or I should say “a lifetime of recipes from generations of my family”).

How would you describe the book in one sentence?

A reassuring guide to basic “good cooking” which lets the reader into secrets and tried and true tips in order to make your life in the kitchen a whole lot easier.

What is harder: cooking for fussy eaters or hosting a TV show?

My children ate everything and always have, so I’ve always loved cooking for them. When I met Simon (Trapaga’s current husband) and his children, I found it was certainly a challenge to cater for six children’s likes and dislikes. I’d just have to say that a TV show is a totally different “kettle of fish” because as long as you’re willing to put in the work everything is do-able!


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