The Daily Telegraph

The food of love

Cookbook kept us together

- Also very strong and determined,” David says.

‘She turned up on our first date with some homemade yogurt bread’

Run off her feet with a house full of teenagers and a flourishin­g consultanc­y business, Caroline Jeremy decided it was time to write a cookbook. A collection of simple, healthy recipes to inspire her four children (and anybody else’s for that matter) to cook their way through university rather than fill up on junk food.

No one was better qualified to do it: she was a trained chef who’d written cookbooks for the New Covent Garden Soup Company and Green & Blacks, companies of which she was a founding director. This one would be more personal though, a gift to her children as they left home.

On Your Way, her new cookbook, is a shiny yellow hardback, dedicated to the four of them and to her husband, David, a criminal barrister and QC. Tragically Caroline never got to admire it. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that same year, in September 2013, and died in August 2015, aged 54, just as she was completing the book.

“The title wasn’t supposed to be some reference to Caroline but that’s how it turned out,” explains David when we meet at his chambers in London.

The pages are her legacy, a repertoire of her favourite recipes accompanie­d by wisdom and advice from a mother to her offspring.

“She channelled all her vibrancy and energy into it, gathering pace as death approached,” he says. Pancreatic cancer is the 11th most common cancer in the UK yet has one of the lowest survival rates, largely because it is often diagnosed so late. The risk factors include drinking, smoking and being overweight but none of these applied to Caroline who was fit, healthy and devoted to yoga.

Over that summer she’d suffered stomach complaints and at a hospital appointmen­t to collect some test results, she was told she had stage four pancreatic cancer and had just six to 12 months to live.

David explains. “In a 20-minute meeting we were told that it was cancer and it would be palliative care only – it was quite a day.”

While David was forced to take control of their new reality, gathering up Oscar, now 24, Edward, 22, Chloe, 20 and Ollie, 15, and telling them the news, Caroline refused to accept the diagnosis.

She spent hours researchin­g alternativ­e therapies and “repeatedly told me that the doctors were wrong,” David says. “There was no sense of preparing for death.”

She held on for two years, during which time she saw Ollie, who was 12 at the time, settled into senior school and devoted herself to the 140-page book.

Those who visited the Jeremys’ East Sussex home in those final months would find her franticall­y working on her laptop, her bed strewn with manuscript­s.

“Although she was gentle, she was

On Your Way chronicles her culinary journey from her native South Africa, through North America and Europe – she trained as a chef in Paris – to the UK, which was where she met David in 1985. “She turned up on our first date with some homemade yogurt bread, which I thought was a bit wacky but that’s what she was like – she exuded warmth and was very un-English,” he says.

At the time she was working as a food selector for Marks & Spencer, but when her friend Andrew Palmer asked her to help him set up a fresh soup company in 1987, she jumped at the opportunit­y. The next few months were spent cutting up chicken, testing recipes and designing packaging.

Every supermarke­t has its own soup line these days but New Covent Garden was the first, and in the book Caroline recalls the excitement of seeing the cartons in the supermarke­t chillers. Many of the recipes were her own, including the National Trust Wild Mushroom soup which has become a classic.

When the company merged for £22 million in 1997, she moved to the organic food supplier Whole Earth and relaunched their chocolate as Green & Black’s, which was bought by Cadbury in 2005. “She was brilliant at creating a brand on no budget,” David says.

But she was also juggling work with babies, school runs and nannies. Having grown up as one of four, it was always her plan to have a big family. “I don’t think I was ever consulted about how many children we’d have. She managed to replicate almost to the month her own family,” David says.

When faced with her terminal diagnosis, not once did she feel sorry herself but she was furious to be missing out on her children becoming adults.

It was the summer holidays when she began her final deteriorat­ion and David says he agonised over whether it was right for her to be at home with the children. Caroline insisted and, in hindsight, he is so glad she did. “As the cliché goes, you don’t understand life without experienci­ng death. We weren’t left with any guilt or incriminat­ion; we all did everything we could. The boys would carry her upstairs in the evening and my daughter would nurse her.”

He was the weakest link through the whole experience, particular­ly after Caroline’s death at the end of the summer. “The children were my heroes, they were enriched by the experience and able to look ahead,” he says. “The moment I showed any self pity they were on to me.”

It’s harder for someone his age to move forward, he says, as there is so much more to look back at. “You get to the point where you’ve cried so much you think you’re OK but sometimes you still crack.”

The younger children have inherited their mother’s drive: Oscar now works for Herbert Smith, Edward is at Exeter University with a job lined up at Investec, Chloe is reading physics at Imperial and Oliver will take his GCSEs this year. They all love cooking – and eating – and are making full use of their mother’s repertoire.

David, meanwhile, admits that he is still a work in progress in the kitchen. Caroline tactfully reminds the children in her book to “give your father a high score for a Sunday roast”. “I’ve been spoiled,” he says. “I’d open the fridge and see half an onion yet Caroline would be able to knock up just about anything.”

He’s dipped into her book, and has even made one of the recipes – tagliatell­e with smoked salmon – but he cannot yet bring himself to read the whole thing. “It’s still too difficult – you hear her voice on every page,” he says.

On her death, Caroline’s friends Claire Fry, her designer at New Covent Garden Soups, and Nora Carey, the American cookery writer, who she lived with in Paris, took over the project, testing the recipes and putting the book together as Caroline had directed, with six warthogs trotting across the cover, a nod to her beloved family and her native South Africa.

She’d even specified the venue for the launch party – Brady’s fish restaurant in Wandsworth, southwest London – and the canapés that would be served.

In her obituary in this newspaper, she was described as a “driving force” but Caroline, true to form, had her own views about how she’d like to be remembered.

“A few days before she died she asked me to tell whoever spoke at her funeral that she wanted to be remembered as a problem solver,” David says.

Which is exactly what she was.

On Your Way by Caroline Jeremy is available to buy at products.php. Proceeds are entirely allocated to the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund

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 ??  ?? Caroline juggled caring for her large family with a successful career in the food industry. Right, the family now – the children have inherited her drive
Caroline juggled caring for her large family with a successful career in the food industry. Right, the family now – the children have inherited her drive
 ??  ?? David and Caroline’s children use her recipes but David is no good at cooking
David and Caroline’s children use her recipes but David is no good at cooking

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