Political journalist, cookbook author and television host Annabel Crabb is adding another job title to her already rambling resume: Fringe star.

The Grilling Season With Annabel Crabb delves into the twin pillars of Crabb’s life: politics and food. In the Fringe-exclusive one-woman show, she’ll tell stories ranging from on canapes at the Lodge and “the scariest salad in politics” to late-night journalist vending-machine feasts.

Broadsheet sat down with the Adelaide native, who told us about her favourite food memories from childhood, the late-night meals that fuelled her cadetship at an Adelaide paper, stories from past festival seasons, and more.

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Your daughter’s impressions of you are some of my favourite videos on the internet. Did you have a similar dramatic flair when you were her age?
She’s 11. At that age, as a farm kid from the Adelaide Plains who was just getting over the miracle of colour TV, I didn’t have anywhere near the same performative flair. But I certainly had the same instinctive joy in pillorying the people I loved the most – my family. And all my kids have inherited that, to a savage degree. They just have access to more platforms.

Food and politics are two major pillars of your life. How did these interests manifest when you were growing up?
I grew up with great food, partly because my mum, Christobel, trained as a home economics teacher and – like my late granny and my auntie Liz – is a curious and prolific cook who loves growing her own food and experimenting with all sorts. We didn’t talk about politics a huge amount when I was growing up, but my dad, Mac, is exactly the sort of charismatic, chatty maniac who in another life could have ended up in politics.

What’s your favourite food memory from your childhood? (And is it a Smiley Fritz sandwich?)
Favourite food memory from childhood? How much time have you got? Fresh-caught mullet from Light Beach, scaled by Dad using a wooden spoon handle with longneck caps nailed onto it, dusted with flour, and fried in butter with a squeeze of lemon. White nectarines from my grandma’s tree, warm from the sun. Bienenstich [bee sting cake] in the Barossa Valley, made by one set of migrants. Spanakopita, made by a later set. Pickled razorfish at the Lower Light Hotel. Fresh peas from the garden. Mum’s homemade lemon cordial. And yes, there is definitely a Fritz-related memory, which is being handed a slice at the Two Wells butcher shop while waiting in the queue. It was before technology allowed the slices to feature a smiley face though, I’m relieved to say. If I hadn’t already stopped eating meat before that stuff was invented, that would certainly have done the job.

When you were a young journo doing your cadetship in Adelaide, what was your go-to post-work meal or late-night feed?
Late-night feeds in Adelaide have always been topnotch. What is wrong with these cities where everything shuts just when you’re getting hungry? Obviously, in that situation you can always feed yourself or hope for well-prepared friends like my old pal Darien O’Reilly, who always kept a deep-fryer and a bulk pack of fish fingers at a series of share houses. (Many’s the party that was enlivened at midnight with a piping hot fish finger in white bread with tartare sauce and extra capers. But I digress!) I was never much for the pie floater personally, but the BBC at Ying Chow, later at night? Magic. Anything at Ying Chow, really. Or falafel at The Jerusalem. Or hot chips at the Red & White burger bar [aka North Adelaide Burger Bar] on O’Connell Street. Or Amalfi for a Zingarella or a number two focaccia. Or, closer to the Advertiser building, La Trattoria’s glorious feta, olive and spinach pizza – they still do it, and I still love it. Or if it was really late, Marcellina’s margherita with olives. Really, really, REALLY late? Wait outside the Central Market for Lucia’s to open.

Do you have a favourite memory from festival season? And did you ever imagine you’d be back in Adelaide with your own Fringe show?
One of my first jobs was working as a driver to the then Adelaide Festival director Christopher Hunt in 1994, and in Fringe over several years I worked doing front of house for a few shows, and I wrote the odd review for On Dit, the student paper, and later for the Advertiser. This time of year in Adelaide – warm nights, new people to meet, new food to eat, shows to see, just the pleasure of wandering around – is the season of my happiest Adelaide memories.

In 1994, when William Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet was in town for the festival, I saw them perform In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. I knew nothing about dance, but when I saw that show – the way music, motion, and even the way the words of the title perfectly captured what was happening on stage – it was so powerful I can remember it very clearly now, 30 years later.

Anyway, a couple of days later, festival organisers threw me the keys to a minibus and said a bunch of the dancers wanted to go to Maslin Beach. So it was a pretty incredible day for me and my minibus, and my spotty-but-presentable Adelaide Uni German. (Vielen Dank, Lee Kersten! Ich habe viel vergessen.) I kept my clobber on throughout, but oh my GOD, the sight of those incredible humans cavorting around on the beach in the buff will never leave me. I like to think I am the only Australian to have experienced an open-air nude personal performance from one of the world’s great ballet companies.

Speaking of German, and moments at which speaking a bit of it has come in handy, I tell a story in my show about one of the most thrilling political-adjacent meals of my life, and it doesn’t have – for once – anything to do with getting a story. I was in Davos for the World Economic Forum with John Howard; it must have been 2004, I think. Bono was there, and Sharon Stone, and John Howard – obviously they were the three biggest names. I was there for the Age and Sydney Morning Herald. It was freezing, we worked literally around the clock, and I was the only Aussie journo there who spoke any German, so outside the conference I was sort of bumbling around trying to help out colleagues. (Swiss German is a little different from conventional German, but I find if you have approximately three beers you don’t even notice the difference.) Once the conference was over and Howard had left, a couple of journos and one of Howard’s staff caught the funicular up to the top of a mountain to have fondue at a restaurant with famous views. The story of how my patchy German nearly killed us all is in the show – with pictures!

Anyway, in answer to your question, no I never dreamed I would be back in Adelaide one day doing a Fringe show myself. I never thought I’d be an actor or a singer or a comedian. But I did end up in a job that generates crazy-good anecdotes, and I don’t mind telling stories that are a bit embarrassing for me, so the realisation that I had the materials to construct an excuse to be in Adelaide at Fringe time was a very sweet one indeed.

What else can people expect from the show?
The show itself – The Grilling Season – is a one-woman show. I don’t have any politicians on stage with me, which is weird because I’m used to interviewing. It’s basically a string of stories – with some slides – explaining what I’ve learned about politics and politicians through the medium of food. And encounters with political figures from Don Dunstan to George W Bush and a lot of people in between. Their strange eating habits. The delicate diplomacy of journos and politicians dining together. The time I correctly judged what a minister was about to do, just from what he ordered.

What’s something that excites you about coming back to Adelaide? Do you have a list of shops or restaurants you’re excited to visit?
Obviously, the best thing for me about coming back to SA is seeing family and friends. But my kids – who have grown up in Sydney – love coming and bringing their friends, especially at Fringe time. They’re so proud to show them around.

Honestly, where else in Australia can you start the day at an international-standard fresh food market, undertake a treetops rope course several hundred metres away, have a choice of startlingly good lunches, then in the afternoon choose between a genuinely glorious art gallery that always surprises, great and original shopping in the Adelaide Arcade or the east end, or an entire zoo? All of which you can do without a car? And all you have to do is get on a tram and you’re on the beach? I mean, come on. We’re all used to it but it’s pretty great. And I haven’t even started on the hills, or the wine regions. This is the sort of stuff I batter my Sydney and Melbourne friends with.

I’m a big fan of vintage clothing, and it’s a funny old visit to Adelaide where I don’t drop in to Dulcie’s HQ on Grange Road – or visit Dulcie’s Bus at Fringe. Push Pin boutique near the Central Market is also a magnificent source of treasure.