We have only decorated one room in our new home so far. We wallpapered it and, owing to the shading of the pattern, made a bad job of the joins behind the door. An easy solution to avert the eye from our inadequate skills was to make a collage of photos of my career so far and there, right in my eyeline, is a picture of my friend and colleague Grace Mulligan and I on a Guild of Food Writers trip to Venice. Grace, the beloved presenter of Yorkshire Television’s Farmhouse Kitchen series, died recently and was one of the kindest, most genuine people in the food writing and television cookery world. Unknown to many of today’s younger foodies, she was gentle, generous and graceful, both in name and in nature.
A doctor’s wife and mother to four children, Grace came to the notice of Yorkshire Television through her association with the WI, in much the same way as Ruth Mott, the presenter of The Victorian Kitchen, was ‘found’. In fact, the three of us once had a sugar-rush afternoon sampling frozen desserts together. The desserts weren’t so good but we shared a lot of laughs and some good gossip.
Grace was a proud Scot and a willing judge at my friend Anna’s Young Cook’s of Britain/FutureCooks competitions, judging the Glasgow heats despite being based in Goole where her husband was in practice. A great baker and champion of Scottish recipes and ingredients, Grace was also a no-nonsense family cook who was always up for a challenge. I remember her leading a workshop on toffee apple making for children in a marquee at a food festival in Chichester that Anna and I ran. Risk assessments would probably preclude such an event now but Grace got the children through it safely and with a great sense of achievement at having mastered a really technical skill. While Grace was in Chichester for that event I remember her sheer delight when Anna’s husband took her for a spin in his recently acquired not-quite-vintage Mercedes convertible. I can see her now with a headscarf on and the widest of smiles, emerging slightly windswept from the passenger seat.
A holder of the Guild of Food Writer’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Grace loved the Guild trips and was always great company. Apart from our glorious trip to Venice I particularly remember her at a sourdough workshop at the School of Artisan Food and also at a wonderful trip, just north of York, to an exquisite garden which also grew some produce for the owners gastro-pub. I also remember her at Billington’s Sugar events when un-refined sugar was newly widely available and we were all keen to assess the effect of it on the flavour of our baking.
Grace was a kind host to anyone needing B&B and I particlularly remember her warmth and welcome when I became a Catholic as her faith was so important to her. She met me in York once and took me to a fascinating house run by a religious order where we ate in the cafe and toured the building rich in history from the time of the persecution of Catholics in York after the Reformation. After we split up to go our separate ways Grace had a bad fall and I felt awful that I didn’t know about it for several weeks. But that was Grace - she was never one to make a fuss.
My friend Grace was graceful, knowledgeable and unflappable - and the common link there is ‘able’. Which she most certainly was.