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A ‘cooker and a looker’ from the Glasshouse Mountains

Feb 15, 2019 | Features, Food and Dining, Hinterland Life, People

From the heart of the Glasshouse Mountains, at the base of Wild Horse Mountain is a woman bringing farm life into homes and especially kitchens everywhere. Amanda Smyth is many things, but above all, she is inspiring.

By Rebecca Mugridge

Local author and farmer Amanda Smyth loves nothing more than to bring expertise from farmers to the general public, and she does this through her blog, in a humorous and delicious way.

“Being farmers and meeting lots of local primary producers, like ourselves, has given me the opportunity to be in the know and it is a unique kind of thing to share when you learn something cool and new,” said Amanda, who shares what she learns about on her popular blog, Cooker and a Looker.

The pages of her blog are full of delicious recipes, tips and interviews, such as a strawberry farmer who helps you grow the best berries, or an interview with a retired expert butcher from the land that makes the best pork crackling recipe.

Cooker and a Looker, that she refers to as ‘Home Cooking Served with a Side of Farm Life’ has become a hit right across Australia.

The quirky name of the blog name shows Amanda’s great sense of humour, and she came up with it thanks to her husband’s wedding speech, where he told the wedding party that as a young man his footy coach has told him, “You either get a looker or a cooker, you can’t have both.” 

Then he declared his coach was wrong because he had indeed found and now married Amanda who definitely was, “A cooker and a looker.”

Thanks to the popularity of her blog Amanda has been an awards finalist and had experiences cooking on stage at the Good Food and Wine Festival, and speaking at the Barkley’s Women’s Day.

Writing a blog has also helped her make a difference too, “I did a post about organ donation that went viral. It just ended up everywhere all over the internet and republished on all these websites,” Amanda shared.

Organ donation is something close to Amanda’s heart and something she says all families need to talk about.

“It is really important to have a conversation about it,” she said, “obviously you have to be careful about how you approach it and be sensitive to the children’s ages, but you can talk about the concept and your approach about it with them.”

And blogging isn’t just for your readers, it means a lot to the blogger themselves as Amanda has found over the years.

“Small crop farmers are always chasing a season and battling the weather, you are tied to your farm for irrigation and other factors, it can be quite isolating. We have the most amazing lifestyle, but blogging has added an extra layer for me personally.

“Through it I have also met some really interesting people and done some things that I never would have got to do without it.”

It even led to a cookbook! Amanda’s beautiful cookbook, published in 2017, is also called Cooker and a Looker and contains 76 recipes and over 300 pages.

It was a great deal of love and hard work in the making, but her readers enjoy it; especially the farm stories that connect to the recipes and add a little something special.

A highlight for Amanda since her cookbook came out was that her favourite chef, Julie Goodwin from MasterChef fame, left her cookbook a positive review online.

“There may have been some squealing,” Amanda laughed. “She is my favourite MasterChef. She won with a fish pie!

“I loved that Julie made really relatable food, especially as now a lot of MasterChef is more aspirational food, not what you feed the family every night and things that don’t make you sweat when you are entertaining. Things that are still impressive, but you are also able to enjoy entertaining at the same time.

“I made sure I put a section in the book called ‘Things you wished you had asked Mum before you moved out’. Handy things, like how to make jam or how to cook a crab.” And many of her readers tell her this is one of their favourite parts of the book.

Daughters, Lillian and Harriet, are a chip off the block as well, with young Harriet, eight, already cooking and planning to take over her mum’s blog one day.

“There are things like bliss balls that I can put her in charge of. I supervise that she is safely using things like the blender, but she does the whole thing, which is really cool.” 

It is also a special time for the mother and daughter, “They are more open I think, and they tell you things you would not have found out in the car on the way home from school when you are cooking together.”

But, it hasn’t been all sunny days for the hard-working mum and farmer. A couple of years ago Amanda was given the shock diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and Amanda had to decide whether or not to share her diagnosis and story…

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