First impressions: Prue Leith
As cook, restaurateur and food writer, Prue Leith has played a key role in the revolution of British eating habits since moving here from South Africa in the 1960s.
She established Leiths School of Food and Wine in the 1970s and has published several cookbooks. Her autobiography, Relish: My Life On A Plate, is out now. She lives near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, with her dog, Meg.
What are you working on at the moment?
Absolutely nothing. For the first time in years I'm free of the writing itch, which, as soon as one book is finished, bugs you to do the rest. But I know it will come back. And then it will be a saga, maybe a trilogy or a quartet of a 'restaurateuring' family over 50 years. Lots of scope for love stories.
When were you at your happiest?
In my 40s, I think. But I am generally happy. I have had and do have a great life.
What is your greatest fear?
Losing my marbles. Isn't it everyone's?
What is your earliest memory?
The birth of my brother, who was being delivered in my parents' bedroom while I was having an operation on my ear on the dining-room table.
Who has been your greatest influence?
My mum was an actress and my dad was in business. And my life has been a mixture of arts and business, so I guess both parents have been a great infl uence.
What do you most dislike about yourself?
My voice, which sounds horribly bored – which I'm not.
What is your most treasured possession?
Letters and a book of poetry from my husband, childish pictures drawn by my son and daughter – the usual sentimental things.
What trait do you most deplore in others?
Droning on about money, business, aches and pains and how dreadful the young are.
Do you have a fantasy address?
No, I love where I live. Though I'd like a few more lives, to live elsewhere. Burma is my latest passion.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My profile – no neck, and the unnecessary tyre round my middle.
What is your favourite book?
Anthony Trollope's The Warden. It's acutely observed, brilliantly written – and he's so good at women.
What is your favourite film?
I have terrible taste in films. I like soppy stuff like Pretty Woman.
What is your favourite record or piece of music?
Mozart's Horn Concerto No 4 at one extreme and Elvis at the other.
Your favourite meal?
Depends what I had last. If really hungry, bangers and mash with onion marmalade and gravy. If only slightly peckish, Vietnamese pineapple and prawn soup.
Who would you most like to come to dinner?
Peter Ustinov for the conversation, or Rory Bremner.
Which historical character do you most admire?
FW mde Clerk, the Afrikaans prime minister who gave up power to Mandela. Not many prime ministers do that when they hold the guns.
What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
introduced to her and complimented her on her dress, said, 'Do you always make personal remarks to strangers?' She then followed it up at dinner when I inadvertently caught her eye with, 'And do you always listen to other people's conversations?'
Do you believe in aliens?
I used to think Robin Cook was an alien. But he turned out to be rather a good egg - honourable and right about Iraq.
What is your secret vice?
Long, wasteful hot baths with all the trimmings: bubbles; the radio; a good book; a glass of fizz and someone sitting on the loo seat chatting.
Do you write thank-you notes?
Always. But I am ashamed to say sometimes these days they are quick emails rather than handwritten cards.
Which phrase do you most overuse?
The 'f' word. I wish I didn't, and I'm forever vowing to stop.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A guarantee of more of it.
What would you like your epitaph to say?
Don't want one. But if you insist: 'Caterer to the last: once she fed the famous, now she feeds the worms.'
Relish: My Life On A Plate by Prue Leith is published by Quercus, £16.99
Daily tip from the lady archive
“PEOPLE cannot help being influenced by their surroundings and their environment; therefore how all important it is that both of these should be healthy and cheery, for health and happiness both go hand-in-hand.”The Lady. The Blessing of Old Health, 18th November 1920