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Barbara Harris, of food blog winos and foodies, was forced into early retirement because of her cancer diagnosis six years ago. These days, her days are spent reading, blogging, swimming and experimenting in the kitchen.
April Smallwood

23 Mar 2011 - 10:48 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Barbara Harris, of food blog winos and foodies, was forced into early retirement because of a cancer diagnosis six years ago. These days, her time is spent reading, blogging, and experimenting in the kitchen.

You started your blog back in 2005 in the middle of chemotherapy treatment. How has your health influenced your food blog?
As I started winos and foodies as a distraction to cancer and chemo treatment, my health hasn’t been a huge influence on the blog. My annual Taste of Yellow posts in support of Livestrong are the only times I talk about my cancer. I always celebrate my end of chemo with a special food experience (like dinner at Tetsuya’s and Aria) and I have shared those experiences on my blog.

How did life growing up in Margaret River colour your love for food and wine?
The Margaret River I grew up in was a dairy farming area. It was only after I left home to work in the city it became a wine growing region. One of the first people to plant grapes for wine was my grandparents’ doctor, Dr Cullen. After resisting offers for many years, my father eventually sold our farm to Xanadu wines.

However, growing up on a dairy farm, we drank and made butter from unpasturised milk and cream. My mother had a thriving vegetable garden and my grandfather took us on crabbing and marroning excursions most weekends. Those crabbing nights are some of my favourite memories as it included our cousins. After cooking the catch, we would all sit around our grandparents’ newspaper-covered table feasting on Blue Swimmer crabs. It is that feeling I try to recreate at my own dining table.

Are Margaret River wines the best in Australia?
One of my favourite wines, Howard Park Reisling, is from Margaret River, but I’m a fan of many wines from other regions of Australia. Margaret River does have some great cellar door restaurants. Trips home have meant long lunches at many of them. My last trip to the West included a couple of days in the Porongurup area, where we enjoyed some great wine and stunning scenery.

You recently relocated to Brisbane. What do you like about the food and wine scene there?
Brisbane seems to be an emerging as a foodie city, with many new restaurants opening up since we moved here. Unfortunately, due to my current round of chemo, I haven’t been able to get out and try as many of them as I would like. It is difficult to arrive in a new city with no background knowledge of the dining scene. However, thanks to Twitter, I’m learning more about Brisbane restaurants and chefs.

What trends in food have you noticed since you moved to Brisbane?
I’m probably not the best person to answer that question as I’m not really into trends. 'Quality seasonal and local produce" has always been my motto. I have noticed a lot of Mexican fast food outlets opening here recently, though.

What is 'Hay Hay it’s Donna Day"?
Hay Hay It’s Donna Day was a blog event I started back in October 2005, when a group of us made Donna Hay’s self-frosting cupcakes. I decided to turn it into a blog event based around a different Donna Hay recipe each month. In the early days of blogging, blog events were hugely popular as a way of building your readerships. Interestingly, I have never owned a Donna Hay cookbook.

In 2010, you embarked on Project 365. Tell us about it.
After starting winos and foodies, I became interested in photography. Project 365 requires a photo every day for 365 days. It forced me into using my camera daily. I gradually moved from auto to manual as I learnt. The more photos I took, the better I became. Since starting Project 365, my camera has remained on its manual setting. I love being able in control of the depth of field and light.

What culinary insights did you learn from opening your home to two overseas students when your kids were teenagers?
Of the two girls we hosted, only one had any serious interest in food. Diane, born in France to a Spanish mother and an Algerian father, loved to spend time with me in the kitchen. She shared some of her own family recipes with me, which were more French than Spanish or Algerian. Visiting her in France several years after her stay with us was a culinary experience. Her father was a real foodie and made sure we enjoyed all the best wine and food experiences in their region.

What influence have your overseas travels had on your love of food and wine?
I have spent more time travelling in Europe than Asia, so I tend to cook European style. When dining out, I tend to favour Asian restaurants.

Three months travelling in Spain gave me a love of jamón on every level, from jamón serrano to jamón ibérico de bellota. Every day included a plate of jamón served with a basket of bread and a jug of wine.

My current fascination is with Moroccan food. Yet it is a country I have never visited and am now unlikely to get the opportunity to travel there.

What was your greatest dining experience of 2010?
Possibly one of the best meals we ate in 2010 was at Restaurant Lurleens by chef Andrew Mirosch. However, my greatest dining experience was a homemade pizza. Thirty years ago our neighbour’s young daughter Sara asked me to help her make a brioche for a school project. In 2010, we spent a few days at the beach with Sara and her own family. This time, I cooked with her two young daughters. We made pizzas from scratch, first making the dough and then decorating the pizzas.

Do you have any food resolutions for 2011?
To eat at Philip Johnson’s restaurant E’cco. A foodie friend considers it the best restaurant in Brisbane. I’d also like to attempt making cheese this year.

Is there anything else you wish to share with your fellow foodies?

Through my blog, I have met the most wonderful people who have become good friends. I never imagined something so fulfilling would result from such dire circumstances.

Follow Barbara on Twitter.