Dinner at our house, in suburban Melbourne, in the 1970s seemed ordinary to me and my sisters. Only when we stayed over at friends’ houses and ate the bland food made by our mates’ mums did we get a hint that something special was on the table at our joint every night of the week. It’s well known in our tribe that my mother, Mary Manning, is a rare and exceptional cook. She shrugs it off and prefers we focus on her many other talents. Good food is hard to ignore though and the taste buds have a habit of trumping more prosaic skills when we play “remember when”. Along with the range, quantity and always perfect presentation, what really impressed me then and now is the way Mary can move across virtually any cuisine with unconscious skill. It’s uncanny and unfair. I’m not exaggerating at all when I say that Mary can cook any cuisine like a native.