$350,000 donated to charity – Merelyn Frank Chalmers turns passion into fashion

November 19, 2012 by Odile Faludi
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The cookery book, Monday Morning Cooking Club, (MMCC) has had phenomenal success with $350,000 already donated to charity and over 13,000 copies sold worldwide. Odile Faludi recently interviewed Merelyn Frank Chalmers, a member of the Monday Morning Cooking Club…writes Odile Faludi.

Merelyn Frank Chalmers with her late mother

The other members are Lisa Goldberg, Jacqui Israel, Natanya Eskin, Lauren Fink and Paula Horwitz. These talented women have converted their passion for cooking into a must have fashion accessory in all Jewish households. If a book’s success is measured by how many coffee tables it resides on… this book leads the pack.

These days, it is unheard of that 100% of all profits of anything goes to charity but that is the case with this book. Merelyn candidly reveals, “Judging by the excited applause we receive, we have to presume this level of giving by a cookbook is quite unique. There are two main charities we have given money to, Wizo and OzHarvest but many others have also been given amounts. MMCC have formed a Not-For-Profit company and have successfully achieved tax exemption thanks to the very generous pro bono work of Arnold Bloch Leibler.” With a second book in the works that is great news!

So what is it about this cookbook? Even the men want to read it. Merelyn recalls, “I remember in the first couple of weeks after the book was launched we received an email from a husband saying, ‘I used to always complain about my wife reading cookbooks in bed, but now I’m reading yours!'”

Merelyn and I met in a neat little hub on Sydney’s Bondi Road at Panama House. I knew if Merelyn picked the café two things would be right. The coffee would be great and the food would be good. I have known Merelyn forever so interviewing her was like slipping into a comfy pair of shoes. I guess it’s the same feeling people get when they pick up this book. It’s a touchy feely highly emotive “comforting” book. Full of beautiful recipes and pictures that come alive to tell the reader a thousand stories.

Merelyn describes herself as a “mother, wife, friend and after that someone who loves food. I only use cookbooks not recipes from the net. I have a huge emotional bond with my cookbooks.” Her love of food came from her mother which began at an early age. Constantly hanging off her mother’s apron strings, always together in the kitchen. Her late mother’s legacy lives on by her “secret” recipes which were unveiled in the book. Merelyn reminisces with me how she often finds herself talking to her mother whilst cooking for her family. She often re-lives the times they spent in the kitchen tasting, laughing, arguing and debating the flavours and textures of all her unique dishes. At times like this our memory is our best friend. Merelyn has used her appetite for food and channelled it to do such good work for the community. She openly says, “It has added a special dimension to my life.”

Merelyn met Ronni, her husband of 23 years, at a single’s function. Her suggested romantic dinner menu is simple and easy. She suggests Ronni’s favourite meal, a Slow- Roasted Fragrant Spring Lamb with Pomegranate. It’s funny because there was an ad in the early 90’s where actress Naomi Watts passed up a dinner date with Tom Cruise to eat her mum’s lamb roast. It must be the way to go when cooking for someone special. Merelyn suggests lamb because it requires little preparation served with Majadara rice and a green salad it is a complete tasty meal.

For decades women and men have found themselves moaning from the sheer pleasure of chocolate. There were no surprises when Merelyn suggested chocolate mousse for dessert. Let’s face it everyone loves chocolate and if not they are probably lying.

As a food lover, Merelyn enjoys dining out at a swanky restaurant as much as she enjoys dining at home. She fondly recalls, “Ronni cooked me a beautiful meal on our first Valentine’s day. I remember every detail about that night.  It was the first and the last meal he ever cooked for me. But, it was enough for me to want to marry him. Romance and food definitely go together. It certainly takes you on a memorable journey.”

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