| 3.1°C Belfast

Rachel Dean's Big Ask: Food writer Aine Carlin on growing up in Derry and the loss of her father


Close

Award winner: Aine Carlin has picked up prizes for her cookbooks and blogging

Award winner: Aine Carlin has picked up prizes for her cookbooks and blogging

Undated Handout Photo of Aine Carlin. See PA Feature FOOD Carlin. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Handout. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Carlin....F

Undated Handout Photo of Aine Carlin. See PA Feature FOOD Carlin. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Handout. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Carlin....F

Devoted daughter: Aine with dad Hugo

Devoted daughter: Aine with dad Hugo

Fun time: Aine (second right) with (from left) her sister Mairead’s husband Ronan Scolard, Mairead, Aine’s husband Jason Robbins and her mum Marie

Fun time: Aine (second right) with (from left) her sister Mairead’s husband Ronan Scolard, Mairead, Aine’s husband Jason Robbins and her mum Marie

Award winner: Aine Carlin has picked up prizes for her cookbooks and blogging

In this week's interview, Rachel Dean talks to food writer and former actress Aine Carlin (38), from Londonderry. She lives in Cornwall with her filmmaker husband Jason Robbins and their rescue dog Whinnie.

Q Tell us about your childhood.

A. I grew up in Derry in the Eighties and Nineties. I had a pretty idyllic childhood, to be honest. My parents both doted on me and my sister Mairead Carlin. she's a singer in the ensemble Celtic Woman.

There's about a seven-and-a-half-year age gap between us, so I would say when we were younger she was probably the annoying little sister, but we're very close now.

My mum's called Marie and my dad was Hugo - he passed away a few years ago. There was a family business they both worked in. My grandfather owned a number of businesses in Derry. The main one that most people would probably know is the City Hotel, which he co-owned. He also owned a number of shops, like Fiesta Blinds and one mum my would have worked in, Celebrations, a gift shop.

My dad went back to university and got qualified in a completely different area. He would find young people for apprenticeships and things like that.

My mum now works for my uncle, who's a solicitor in Derry.

Our lives were filled with music. That was our main focus in life. My sister and I both played piano and sang, and I played the violin.

My dad was really musical, and he was in an Irish showband called The Trend and he played the bass guitar. He played right up until he passed away really. That's where the music came from. And my mum was musical as well - she sang.

We just had a really wonderful life.

Q What are you most proud of?

A How fearless I was and how open I was to any experience or opportunity.

I've had a number of different career changes. I studied music at university and I taught music and drama as a secondary school teacher. Then I left to go to drama school and I became an actor, but I left acting to go into the magazine and newspaper industry. I interned at various different places, mostly in the fashion department, then obviously I ended up being a food writer.

It's all been in the creative sphere and I think I've finally found my niche.

I started blogging in 2009 and my first book, Keep it Vegan, was published in 2014. I've written two more since.

In 2014 I won the Peta Award for Best Vegan Cookbook and in 2015 I won a Gourmand Award for Best UK Vegan Book and Best UK Blogger - I blog at www.peasoupeats.com.

The one constant throughout all of that was storytelling, whether it was through music, acting or writing.

My little rescue sausage dog Whinnie is one of my proudest achievements too.

Close

Aine Carlin's dog Whinnie

Aine Carlin's dog Whinnie

Aine Carlin's dog Whinnie

Q The one regret you wish you could amend?

A My husband Jason and I lived in Chicago for a while and we probably would have liked to have stayed there for a little bit longer than we did because we were both just finding our feet.

Certainly, with the acting, I was finding my feet and I'd met a great group of actors.

The atmosphere is very different there in comparison to London - it was very much about the ensemble.

I would have loved to do the summer school at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.

Q Do you have any phobias?

A I suppose my biggest phobia is networking - being in a room with lots of people you don't know and having to sell yourself. I've just always really struggled with it, but the drama does help in some regards. It certainly helps with my book career because I do a lot of demos, and obviously I'm myself in the demo, but the drama has definitely helped with that.

Q The temptation you cannot resist?

A Probably the same as most people - carbs.

Q Your number one prized possession?

AI have a Wolff Brothers violin that was made in 1891. I don't play it enough, but it's still my most prized possession.

Q The book that's most impacted your life?

A It's hard to choose because I think at every stage in your life you've got a different book that almost signifies that little era.

I guess more recently it would be Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brene Brown. I'm not really into self-help books, but that definitely had an impact on me. It teaches you how to be vulnerable and it also talks a bit about imposter syndrome, which I definitely suffer from.

Close

Aine Carlin, sister Mairead and mum Marie

Aine Carlin, sister Mairead and mum Marie

Aine Carlin, sister Mairead and mum Marie

Q If you had the power or authority, what would you do?

I don't have any interest in having any power or authority, but I guess I would just want the world to be a bit fairer. I'd like everyone to be treated fairly and to have equal opportunities.

Q What makes your blood boil every time without fail?

A Anything to do with Brexit. I was just really disappointed, having lived here (in England) for 20 years of my life. It opened my eyes to a few things that I hadn't really seen before.

Maybe it's not that my blood was boiling, but I was really surprised and disappointed by the whole thing.

With back home in Derry being on the border, it's a real concern for me. A lot of people I know here who voted to leave obviously hadn't considered Northern Ireland at all. It just wasn't even a factor when they were voting.

When you explain to them the impact it's going to have on your family, they're quite shocked and you can almost see a look of regret, but, unfortunately, it's too late.

Q Who has most influenced you in life?

A My mum. She's always been there. She's the one constant in my life and she's always been my champion. She gave me the confidence boost that I probably always needed. She still lives in Derry - she's lived there her entire life.

After my dad passed away, she did consider moving to Cornwall and we actually looked at a few houses because we were going to move in together, but I think she just realised that her heart is in Derry - that's her home.

I still speak to her every day, more than once a day, and we're still really close. Thank goodness for FaceTime.

Close

Fun time: Aine (second right) with (from left) her sister Mairead’s husband Ronan Scolard, Mairead, Aine’s husband Jason Robbins and her mum Marie

Fun time: Aine (second right) with (from left) her sister Mairead’s husband Ronan Scolard, Mairead, Aine’s husband Jason Robbins and her mum Marie

Fun time: Aine (second right) with (from left) her sister Mairead’s husband Ronan Scolard, Mairead, Aine’s husband Jason Robbins and her mum Marie

Q Your top three dinner party guests, dead or alive, and why?

A Cartoonist Charles Schulz because I'm really obsessed with (the comic strip) Peanuts.

Actress Doris Day because she was a great animal advocate and also a wonderful entertainer. I've always loved her.

And Bobby Kennedy, because I think the world would be a very different place if he hadn't been assassinated.

Q The best piece of advice you ever received?

A That would be from my dad. I'm the kind of person who gets overwhelmed by things and he would always say to me, "One thing at a time".

I still use that to this day. If I'm working on a book and I think, "Oh my gosh, I've got too much going on today", I'll just tell myself to take one thing at a time.

Q The unlikely interest or hobby that you love?

A I love a bit of DIY - I'm not afraid to get a hammer out.

I'm obsessed with interior design as well. I'm always on Pinterest. I just enjoy channelling all my creative energy into transforming a room.

We've just renovated a Victorian terrace which hadn't been touched from I'd say the Forties or Fifties.

They'd ripped out so many original features, which is really heartbreaking.

However, we have tried to restore what was here.

Close

Aine Carlin in a Free People fashion campaign. Pic credit Frances Davison.

Aine Carlin in a Free People fashion campaign. Pic credit Frances Davison.

Aine Carlin in a Free People fashion campaign. Pic credit Frances Davison.

But yeah, I love DIY and just getting stuck in.

My husband calls me "bear claws" because I get my gloves on and go for it.

The first day we bought the house actually, I ripped up all the carpets because I couldn't even stand having those carpets,.

Lo and behold, we had these amazing floorboards underneath.

Q The happiest moment of your life?

A I just have so many fond memories of growing up in Derry when we were a foursome - me, Mairead, my mum and my dad. I just remember feeling really safe and content.

Q And the saddest of your life?

A When my dad passed away in 2016. He had brain cancer - it was stage four, so it was quite aggressive. He was told he had about six months to live, but he soldiered on for two years. He even came over to Cornwall.

He had surgery that left him partially paralysed on one side, but even that wouldn't stop him. He said, "I'm going on my holiday to Cornwall", and we had an absolute blast.

Close

Devoted daughter: Aine with dad Hugo

Devoted daughter: Aine with dad Hugo

Devoted daughter: Aine with dad Hugo

My dad was one of those people that for the last few years of his life all I can remember him doing was laughing. That was just his mindset.

He came out of brain surgery and we were brought into see him. When he was wheeled in, we said, "Oh dad, how are you?" and he just started singing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. And I thought, "That is so dad".

Q The poem that touches your heart?

A Remember by Christina Rossetti. I used to have it pinned on my bedroom wall back at home in Derry. I pinned it there after my friend Aoife passed away, so it's always been quite special to me.

Q The one event that made a difference in your life?

A Moving to London. I probably wouldn't be where I am in life if I hadn't moved. I wouldn't have the career that I have and I wouldn't have met my husband - I met him in Camden Town while on a girls' night out with my friend.

Q What's the ambition that keeps driving you onwards?

A To keep creating. I still don't feel like I've reached my creative potential.

Q What's the philosophy you live by?

A Always be kind.

Q How do you want to be remembered?

That I was damn good company.

Cook Share Eat Vegan by Aine Carlin, photography by Danielle Wood, is published by Octopus, priced £20

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph