First impressions: Mary Berry
'My ideal guest? Dame Judi Dench'
MARY BERRY has written over 70 books during a career that has spanned more than 50 years. She is a TV cook, AGA expert, and has most recently been seen on the BBC’s hit show, The Great British Bake Off. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, Paul. The new edition of Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook recently topped the bestseller lists.
What are you working on at the moment?
We’re doing a new series of The Great British Bake Off – on a bigger scale, with a longer run and lots more masterclasses.
When were you at your happiest?
When Paul, my husband, and I had our third child. We had two boys and a girl and I just thought ‘Gosh, we’re a family now.’
What is your greatest fear?
Losing any of my family.
What is your earliest memory?
When I was five or six years old, we had baby chicks. A lamp caught fire and they all died. It was a horrible shock, which is suppose why I remember it.
Who has been your greatest influence?
My cousin Robin Buchanan has always had a tremendous influence on my career. When I ask him if he thinks something is a good idea, he’ll discuss all the points with me, but always says, ‘You decide.’
What do you most dislike about yourself?
I can get ridiculously nervous or anxious about things I shouldn’t.
What is your most treasured possession?
My husband. Am I allowed to say that?
What trait do you deplore most in others?
Do you have a fantasy address?
Right here. I’m very happy at home – my young are around me, and I have Lucy and Lucinda, my assistants. We’re a good team and I wouldn’t have them if I were anywhere else. Fantasy is reality; I’m very lucky.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
It used to be my bottom. The children used to say ‘You’ve got a big bum, Mum’, which was very rude. I lost quite a bit of weight a few years ago so now it’s my hair. It does all sorts of things that I don’t want it to.
What is your favourite book?
It would have to be The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.
What is your favourite film?
Mamma Mia!. I saw it with six girlfriends and totally escaped for an evening. It is good old-fashioned entertainment.
What is your favourite record or piece of music?
Sailing by Rod Stewart.
Your favourite meal?
So many meals are favourites! I enjoy all different food, according to the time of year. I love the seasons, and especially the fi rst asparagus.
Who would you most like to come to dinner?
Jamie Oliver. I think he's done an awful lot for school meals and I'd love to have a chat with him. Dame Judi Dench, too. She's the same age as me, so elegant and always on top form.
Which historical character do you most admire?
Our Queen, although she's not historical yet. She's given her entire life to our country, through thick and thin. She has set a wonderful example for the next generation.
What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
When I was at school my headmistress said, 'There really isn't any career that I can recommend for you. You haven't passed enough exams to do anything.' That was a terrible thing to hear.
Do you believe in aliens?
What is your secret vice?
My guilty pleasure is Lindt Lindor chocolates. I have a secret stash.
Do you write thank-you notes?
Absolutely definitely. I always write - not email - on every possible occasion, briefly but sincerely. I think it's very important. It is always touching and worthwhile, and it doesn't take long.
Which phrase do you most overuse?
'Oh, so delicious!'
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Being more efficient on my computer.
What would you like your epitaph to say?
'No soggy bottoms!'
Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook is published by Dorling Kindersley, priced £25: www.dk.com
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