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Róisín Ingle: Like a British politician, I have done a complete U-turn. Sorry, Queenie

I’m wearing my body warmer as I type. I’d treated the gift with disdain until I wore it one day and quickly felt both warmer and less sorry for myself

It is Food Month around these parts, in case you hadn’t noticed, so this week’s offering has a bit of a food theme.

As regular readers will be aware, it doesn’t need to be Food Month for me to go on about food. I changed actual lives and blew a few minds a while back when I wrote about the fact that boiled eggs do not need to be boiled but can be steamed to much better effect in just a couple of inches of water. I haven’t had an under- or overcooked egg since, and if you wisely followed my second-hand egg advice neither have you. I’m about to blow some minds again in this column with another serving of second-hand counsel, this time on making tomato soup. But first I need to talk about body warmers.

I was unkind about this item of clothing recently and teased my boyfriend’s mother Queenie about her body-warmer addiction. A couple of people emailed me afterwards to champion the item that’s also known as a gilet and question my antipathy towards this functional winter accessory. You might have noticed that body warmers of all shapes, sizes and colours seem to be everywhere these days. Or maybe I am noticing them more because of my strong feelings about them. I’ve seen at least two people tighten theirs around themselves and sniff “What has she got against them, anyway?” when I’ve walked into a room. I pretended not to hear, but it was awkward, as you can appreciate.

Then I went to visit my mother, Ann Ingle. As an aside, since she published her memoir Openhearted I feel I have to use her full name and not just refer to her as my mother. She is no longer “just” my mother. She has far outrun whatever Z-list notoriety I might have accrued after 20-odd years of writing about my life in these pages through various show-stealing media appearances about her acclaimed book, which, yes, would make an excellent Christmas present in case you were wondering.


I realised she’d eclipsed me after the third person in a row told me they saw my mother on Tommy Tiernan’s chatshow, raving about how wonderfully she performed. These people seemed oblivious to the fact that I was on the show with her, sitting right next to her in fact, talking away to Tommy Tiernan. But it seems my mother’s chat was vastly superior to mine, with the result that I was rendered superfluous, like so much chopped liver. I can’t even feel resentful. It’s proper order. She’s simply better than me. I’ve always said I want to be her when I grow up.

It was a grim and rainy Sunday when I went to visit her. I’d just been appraising and sitting on corner sofas in a succession of industrial estates in Dublin suburbs, so I wasn’t in the best form. She handed me a small khaki green package. Inside was a body warmer. It was the kind filled with a light down, and was longline, going past the knees. She was wearing an identical one herself.

“I just think you should try it,” she said unironically. “It’s very handy for throwing on over your pyjamas when you get up.”

I treated the body warmer with the disdain I felt it deserved until the next day, when I awoke to the awareness that I had finally succumbed to the cold that had afflicted my household. I liberated the body warmer from the small green package and put it on. I immediately felt – what’s the best word for it? – warmer. And also marginally less sorry for myself. I am wearing the body warmer as I type this. Like a British politician, I have now completely U-turned on the body-warmer thing and henceforth offer a nonapology to anyone who was offended by my comments but especially to Queenie.

And, finally, because it’s Food Month, and because every second person I speak to has a cold or a flu, I am going to bring you news about tomato soup, which for my money is the king of soups. I used to make a Jamie Oliver tomato-soup recipe that called for eight ingredients, including fresh and tinned tomatoes, carrots, basil and garlic. Now I think about it, that does seem like a lot of ingredients for such a humble dish.

I have since discovered it is possible to make a beautiful tomato soup with three ingredients, namely butter, tomatoes and onion. Here’s what you do: first melt about 60g of butter in a pan, then add half an onion that’s been chopped into four pieces, and a tin of tomatoes. Add some water to thin out the soup. Simmer for 45 minutes. Wazz (that’s a technical culinary term) with a blender, season as you like, and you’ll have the most gorgeous, surprisingly creamy (thank you, butter) tomato soup.

You don’t have to wear a body warmer while making this three-ingredient tomato soup, but I recommend doing so, because then you’ll be a bit more like Ann Ingle, acclaimed octogenarian memoirist and star of The Tommy Tiernan Show. The world would be a better, warmer, more open-hearted place if we were all a bit more Ann Ingle.