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TV chef Jenny Bristow reveals it's not just her culinary skills she owes to remarkable mum Josephine

By Una Brankin

TV chef Jenny Bristow has paid a touching Mother's Day tribute to her mum, Josephine, revealing how she'd given her some very wise advice about love and romance.

Jenny also says she has inherited her formidable work ethic from her widowed mum, who is now 87 and still keeps busy at her home on the family farm in Coleraine where she lives with her beloved cat and dogs.

When it came to the world of dating, Jenny says her mum had clear views as to what characteristics her daughter should be looking for in a husband.

Jenny said: "She told me to marry a man like my father, and I did! I met Bobby a year before my dad died and they got on well."

The popular cook, who lives in Cullybackey in Co Antrim, close to her mum's farm, also says that as the years go by, she has realised just how similar she and her mother are.

She said: "Mum and I are clones. I get more and more like her as I get older. We both get the same fashion catalogue - she loves her fashion - and without realising, we both ordered the exact same two things from the last one.

"We have the same way of doing things, too, but I have more of dad's personality.

"Mum was blonde. She was the youngest of a family of six, and she is the only one remaining. She's very fit and healthy - she was on the phone this morning arranging for 50 tonnes of stones to be delivered, and the weeds sprayed, and the planting done."

Jenny shared a hard-working but idyllic upbringing on the family farm with older sister Rosie and younger brother Robert.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, she says her mum is an excellent chef - among her many other talents.

"Mum cooks and she loves it when people call," Jenny added. "She married young, at 18. She and dad were like Derby and Joan. They'd no money and they'd get up and work and were always busy.

"They built up a herd of cows and started a Jersey cream business. They had us out fishing on the Bann for pike and perch, and getting slaters from under stones to catch eels. We did a bit of water skiing, too. Mum also bred chocolate Labradors - I remember she had 22 in different baskets. She loved them. She was always inventive and creative."

The family was dealt a harsh blow when Jenny's adored father, James, died when he was just 49.

"Mum was 46 when dad died; I was in my 20s. After that, she became a father as well. She took over the running of the farm, and still does. Dad was the love of her life and she never considered marrying again; she never wanted to."

Jenny, who has three grown-up children, says she always knew when she was in trouble with her mum. "She wasn't overly strict and the rules weren't spoken, but you knew you'd gone too far if she gave you 'that look'," she adds. "My sister Rosie was the eldest and she cracked the ice in terms of the rules but we knew the boundaries and not to push them. We learned to keep quiet and listen.

"Rosie would be out on the tractor and I'd be left behind in the kitchen, so I learned how to cook for 15 men at a time during the hay-making. Lots of food for low cost. And I remember mum teaching me to make shortbread one snowy day.

"Mum still eats very well. She's always scolding, asking if we've taken 'that aloe vera and vitamin C I gave you'. She eats lots of fruit and veg."

Like many daughters, Jenny can't help but marvel at how youthful her mother still looks - and how that seems to have been achieved without hugely expensive skincare products.

She explained: "Mum has a good complexion - she loves the outdoors and the sun. She's going on a sun holiday at the end of April.

"She tells us she washes her face in cold water every morning. I remember her putting buttermilk on our sunburn, in the days before sun creams. We'd be going about in the heat, smelling of sour milk. She also taught us how to churn butter and use the gadget to make it curl."

Jenny added: "I'm very appreciative of mum's strength and the role she plays at the helm of the family. She taught me respect and discipline. She's surrounded by her family - my brother and sister live within 200 yards of her on the farmland in Coleraine.

"I'm in Cullybackey so I'll drive up and we scoot around and have tea. She still has her own driving licence and she'd be terrified to lose it, but she also likes being driven around her old haunts and reminiscing.

"She likes shopping but doesn't like to walk too far around shopping centres. She's very active though. She's up at 6am and gets the dogs fed and the cat organised, and the tomatoes seen to - she still grows them.

"I'm identical to her in my work ethic, and we both love a good party. We're celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary within a day of her 88th birthday in July, and we're having a nice party in out garden with all the family and grandchildren around us.

"I'm away on Mother's Day but Rosie will be cooking our annual lunch of simple family favourites at home - chicken pie and lemon drizzle cake, this year. It's wonderful to have mum with us, at 88. We appreciate her all the more, as life goes on."

For Jenny's upcoming cookery school demos and coffee mornings/afternoons at her home in Cullybackey, see www.jennybristow.com

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