British Icon of the Week: Mary Berry, the National Treasure Who Always Brings a Touch of Class
According to a very plausible rumor, The Great British Baking Show alum Mary Berry is about to be awarded a Damehood by Queen Elizabeth II. To commemorate her achievement just a touch early, here's a reminder of some of the impressive accomplishments and charming moments that have made Berry a true U.K. national treasure.
1. She learned her trade at the Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in Paris.
Berry's fellow alumni at the prestigious French gastronomic institution include Julia Child and Food Network's Giada De Laurentiis.
2. She's written more than 70 cookery books over the last 50 years.
Her first, The Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book, was published in 1970, and the most recent, Mary Berry's Simple Comforts, came out just last month!
3. In the U.K., she has her own range of salad dressings and sauces.
The range includes a classic Caesar dressing – yum!
4. She's a Patron of Child Bereavement U.K., a nonprofit which helps families to rebuild their lives after a child dies.
As the nonprofit notes on its website, Berry has a "personal affinity" with its work because her son William passed away in a car accident when he was 19. "When William died, there was little support available for bereaved families. Through my links with Child Bereavement U.K., I have met families who have received and benefited from their services. I think it’s a wonderful charity and I am delighted to be a Patron," Berry says on the website.
5. She made her TV debut in the late '70s on the London magazine show Afternoon Plus.
There's something comforting about watching back-in-the-day Mary Berry share her recipe for impeccable scones.
6. She was able to get away with all sorts of (lightly) salty innuendo on The Great British Baking Show.
Never forget the "soggy bottom."
7. Because she grew up during World War II, she really appreciates a sweet treat.
"Being wartime, I remember my mother saying that if you don’t take sugar in your tea, there will be enough for an occasional pudding and cake. So we all gave it up and every so often she’d bring out a nice cake or dessert," she told The Times of London last year. She also revealed that she's never ordered take-out in her life, though she has picked up ready meals from the British grocery store Marks & Spencer.
8. When The Great British Bake Off moved from the BBC to rival network Channel 4, she never contemplated going with it.
"Well, I avoided being asked. It was suggested what would happen if I did go to Channel 4; what I would get, the advantages," she told the Radio Times in 2017. "But I didn't ever have a meeting with them. I'd made up my mind. To me it's an honor to be on the BBC. I was brought up on it."
9. She enjoyed a night out at Ibiza super club Pacha at the age of 71.
Berry ended up partying in Pacha when she visited the Spanish Island for a wedding. “They stamp you as you go in, and you can see the steam coming out as you go up the steps. It was like a rabbit warren: lots of little rooms and in every room there was music, there were bars, there were strange drinks, there were people smoking or sitting on the floor,” she told The Telegraph in 2014. “There was every type of clothing you could imagine: miniskirts; some of them with hardly anything on. The noise was amazing and of course the boys couldn’t stand it. They went outside and waited for us on the stairs, and the girls all hung together inside. We didn’t want to miss a trick.”
10. She was once arrested at a U.S. airport because she had several bags of suspicious-looking powder in her luggage.
Berry shared the hilarious story during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show. And don't worry, she obviously wasn't trying to smuggle anything illegal into the country...
Are you a big fan of Mary Berry?