Co-Conspirators: Pomeranz

Kate Parry

Margaret Pomeranz

Margaret Pomeranz

With her trademark gregarious laugh, Margaret Pomeranz was ready for a raucous Co-Conspirators session with daughter-in-law Philippa Whitfield Pomeranz, ostensibly about their collaboration on a beautifully produced cookbook, Let’s Eat, stuffed full of stories of family, the film industry and food.

But after nearly 30 years as a critic on ABC TV’s At The Movies ­– Margaret the chaos and fun to co-host David Stratton’s sense and sensibility ­– and a large and adoring following, it was perhaps predictable things would veer off-track.

ABC Radio National’s Cassie McCullagh was more eager fan-girl than facilitator as the conversation turned to movies and scandalous behaviour. Margaret’s life has been full of adventures: “I may have had a few too many tequilas, but it was late one night in Cannes and I couldn’t find my keys,” she confides. “I worked out that I had left them on the floor of the Palais and I had no way to get them until the next day. The only person I could think of to help me was David, who used to stay in this terrible bachelor hotel where the toilets didn’t work properly.

“David’s room had these two sad single beds; one he used for sleeping and the other was full of neatly piled notes about the movies we had seen. So, I roll up and bash on his door ­ – it’s now about 3am, mind you – and David answered in his underwear; if only you could see his face. He was horrified,” she laughs.

“So, I barged straight past him to his toilet. I just had to go. I then proceeded to strip off, swipe all his neatly stacked papers off the spare bed, and fall asleep. Really, you should have seen his face!” Margaret is in fits of laughter as she recalls the night.

With At The Movies ending its long run late last year, she is enjoying a little more free time. “I was watching about 17 movies a week during my time on the show,” a statement that drew genuine shock from the audience. “So it has been almost a relief to have time to watch TV and read books. I am totally addicted to MasterChef and Australia’s Next Top Model.

It seems that this freeing up of time is what sparked the whole book idea in the first place, though Margaret admits she really wasn’t that keen on writing a book, let alone a cookbook. “It was Pip’s initiative, this book,” she says. “Pip wanted us to share a journey and it has been a glorious thing, this mother-in-law, daughter-in-law relationship.”

Pip quickly adds, “Let’s face it, the mother-in-law, daughter-in law relationship is one loved by moviemakers. It usually features the crazy, controlling mother-in law, the daughter-in law who’s trying to figure out her role in the new family, and the man they both love stuck in the middle. Luckily, I scored big time in the mother-in law department.”

A film producer and director who is now based in Sydney after 20 years in Los Angeles, Pip is married to Margaret’s son Josh. Her recent series for NBC Universal, Fashion Bloggers, has been aired around the world.

Margaret was soon persuaded. “I don’t even remotely pretend to be a chef but I love to cook for friends and family,” she declares, “and I am good with a deadline. I’m not a morning person, but I’m happy to work through the night.” That may be just as well, as she has plans to get back to writing for film and television and possibly a series of crime novels, “I want to have fun killing people,” she jokes.

But what about those persistent requests for an autobiography? “I’m sure the publishers don’t know what they have on their hands with that one,” she says, and all three women erupt into laughter.

Margaret Pomeranz and Philippa (Pip) Whitfield Pomeranz have collaborated on “Lets Eat: A Cookbook Celebrating Film, Food & Family”.