Home grown: Biddy White Lennon

FOOD writer and author Biddy White Lennon has always worked hard.

“I come from a family where the women have always worked,” she says.

Biddy played Maggie Riordan in rural TV drama The Riordans more than 30 years ago.

“Even then I was writing and when The Riordans went off TV and onto radio, my husband, Denis Latimer, and I wrote a lot of the Radio Riordans.”

The couple’s only son, Dairsie, designs computer systems for meteorology. When he was heading off to college in the UK, he asked his mum to put together some of his favourite recipes.

“I started writing them down and I thought ‘oh my God! Why don’t I write a book on this? My first book was The Leaving Home Cookbook and I’m now on my 13th.”

Biddy is set to be a judge on The Great Irish Bake Off, which will air in the spring. Her new book, Wild Food, Nature’s Bounty, How To Harvest, Preserve and Cook, is due to be published in February.

What shape are you in?

I’m slim, some would say possibly too slim. I’m pretty fit. I walk everyday. I don’t run because I have a knee that doesn’t like running. I garden rather vigorously. I grow a lot of vegetables and I have a poly-tunnel. I have to do everything because Denis has more than a gammy knee.

Do you have any health concerns?

My mother had a very obscure disease called Pagets Disease of the Bone. It’s a nasty disease that causes bone deformity. Now, it’s very treatable. I get blood tests to screen for it every year. I also have a bit of osteoarthritis in my gardening hand, which drives me demented. One finger is particularly deformed and sore.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

Home-grown vegetables. In summer, we eat our own salads for lunch everyday. In winter, there’s always a pot of vegetable soup simmering away on the stove. We have these, as well as other fruits and vegetables.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

Eating fatty bacon.

What would keep you awake at night?

I’m a worrier and I’m not a great sleeper so I find it hard to switch off at night. I probably take on a bit too much work at times. If I get behind with that, I can lie awake worrying.

How do you relax?

I have quite a wide circle of friends. I love nothing better than going out with them or having them here in my house. I’m a great popper-into-houses, where I’ll just sit and have coffee and relax. I love cooking. I love going to the theatre.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Very close friends and family – I just feel they’re enough. And maybe somebody who knows something that none of the rest of us know. I love watching people do a job who really know what they’re doing. I remember being utterly fascinated by a tree surgeon who was cutting down trees at our house.

What would you change about your appearance?

I’d like longer eyelashes.

When did you last cry?

I definitely cried the night my grand-daughter, Georgina, was born. She’s 15 months now.

What’s your favourite smell?

Sweet peas. I love citrus smells too.

What trait do you least like in others?

I don’t like intolerance. I’m tolerant. I cultivated it because a lot of people around me were intolerant and it was something, as a child, I didn’t approve of. I believe everybody has a right to their views.

What trait do you least like in yourself?

Maybe I should be more introspective.

Do you pray?

No.

What would cheer up your day?

My spirits lift when I see the sun.



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