black and white portrait of woman
Theodora FitzGibbon’s autobiographies are reproduced to inspire a new generation
Many are familiar with the name Theodora FitzGibbon, not least from her Irish Times cookery column, which ran for over 20 years. She was also IMAGE Magazine’s food columnist since our first issue, back in 1975, until the end of 1987. But she lived a life that no one today could possibly replicate, or even make up. As a young woman, just before the Second World War, she jaunted to Paris and mixed with creatives like Picasso, Salvador Dal? and Jean Cocteau. She worked as an actress in the theatre, and in a film, and modelled for couturier Robert Traquair in London. And she wrote amazing stories, both fictional and autobiographical, which inspired all who read them, including the beloved Maeve Binchy, who wrote, ?Theodora FitzGibbon was the most extraordinary woman. If you read her autobiography, you realise how many lives she led. And in fact how many people she was all rolled into one.? Theodora authored more than 30 books, most about food, with one novel that was made into a successful BBC TV play, and two volumes of autobiography. Her food columns were full of wit and colour and became essential reading for any foodie in the 1970s and 80s.
FitzGibbon was born in London in 1916 and educated in England and France. She loved Paris and would save her money to make the trip over there whenever she could and once there, began her life of making great friendships with creative people. She escaped wartime Paris by bicycle and boat to live in Chelsea during the Blitz and became friends with the likes of Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Soviet spy Donald Maclean. Much later she would become friends with Henry Moore and Dylan Thomas. She received cookery lessons from the former Queen Natalie of Serbia and travelled widely with her father, through Europe, the Middle East and India. A woman who sought adventure wherever she went, she at many times in her life forewent security in favour of inspiration and truly lived life to the fullest.
In 1944, she married Irish-American writer Constantine FitzGibbon and divorced him 15 stormy years later. And in 1960, she married Irish documentary filmmaker George Morrison and lived with him in Dalkey until her death in 1991. It was in there that she penned her food columns as well as her many books, including the encyclopaedic The Food of the Western World, which took her 15 years to complete and covered some 34 countries and 32 languages.
Theodora’s two-volume autobiography has now been lovingly reproduced by Gill & Macmillan so that the next generation can know just how amazing this woman was. After reading the first chapter, I couldn’t put it down. It feels like a work of fiction – the tales so illustrative, so descriptive, and so unbelievable. Here’s to many more incredible women being remembered in similar ways for years and years to come.
A Taste of Love by Theodora FitzGibbon (Gill & Macmillan, €16.99) is out April 3.
Meg Walker is Deputy Editor of IMAGE @image_magazine