Sunday 23 September 2018

Susan Jane and Trevor's recipe for romance

The dynamic Trevor and Susan Jane White juggle books, food, history and children in their hectic schedules

Trevor and Susan Jane White met in 2008. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Trevor and Susan Jane White met in 2008. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Princess Diana famously complained that there were three people in her marriage, and food writer, Susan Jane White, has the same problem. The only difference is that in Susan Jane's case, her husband Trevor's fascination lies with a succession of long-dead Irishmen of great significance.

At the moment, the interloper is beloved former Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alfie Byrne, the subject of Trevor's new book, and before him it was Brendan Bracken and John Loder. "I'm very fortunate that Susan Jane puts up with my obsessions and is still talking to me," says Trevor, whose aim is to see Alfie reclaimed as a beloved national figure rather than merely a Dublin one. "I even wanted to name our son Brendan."

Laughter features highly in the interview with Trevor and Susan Jane. He's very witty, which was one of the things that first attracted her to him, and she is warm and mischievous. Even her cookbooks have slightly risque titles that belie how good and healthy they are, as regular readers of her column, Eats Shoots and Leaves, in this paper's LIFE magazine will know.

Her latest, The Virtuous Tart, covers deliciously healthy desserts and snacks. Her first, The Extra Virgin Kitchen, has just been published in the USA and Canada as Tasty. Naughty. Healthy. Nice. Its recipes are free from wheat, sugar and dairy, and though they sound virtuous, Trevor confirms they're "divine".

Prior to meeting Susan Jane, Trevor (45) was one of Ireland's most eligible bachelors and a staple of the social columns. He grew up in a Jewish family on Raglan Road as the middle child of Peter and Alicia's three sons, the other two being Tremain and Timothy. His parents formerly ran the French restaurant, White's on the Green. After training as an actor through the theatre studies course at Trinity College, Trevor became a food critic and launched The Dubliner magazine in 2001.

He met Susan Jane in 2008, when her model agent, Rebecca Morgan, asked him to give her advice about becoming a food writer. "This apparition appeared in the office on Wicklow Street and we went for a cup of tea," he recalls. "I very quickly realised that this was a very special woman - beautiful, dynamic, kind and smart with a fantastic energy."

Trevor invited Susan Jane to a Dubliner party that evening, and she was intrigued by him and wanted to get to know him better. The only problem was that she was living in Oxford. "We became addicted to one another in the early stages," she says. "I wasn't attracted to fake people or the hunga bunga alpha male, and Trevor was always unapologetically himself. Physically, I thought he was gorgeous and I loved his original sense of humour."

After a couple of dates, Trevor suggested that they go to Melbourne for a couple of months to see how they got on together. He had just sold the magazine and they had a ball. Susan Jane decided to move back to Dublin, principally because she knew that Trevor really wanted to live there. "He adores Dublin," she says. "It courses through his veins."

They had their eldest son Benjamin (7) in 2010 and were married in 2011, and their youngest son, Marty, is five. Trevor helped deliver him alongside midwife Philomena Canning as Susan Jane had home births on both boys. They laugh as they recall how Trevor half-killed himself blowing the birthing pool up himself by mouth, rather than with a pump. They adore their two boys, who are lively and curious.

As well as his literary career, Trevor and a friend set up a visitor greeter programme for Dublin called City of a Thousand Welcomes, and then created The Little Museum of Dublin, which tells the remarkable story of the Irish capital. The award-winning museum is a charity and was launched on Culture Night 2011 with Trevor as its director.

Life is hectic with books to write and a museum to run, and Trevor says the past year has been difficult. "We lost my little brother, Tim, to illness in June, and also a dear friend two months ago," he says, sadly. "When you're married to someone like Susan Jane, you realise how lucky you are to have such enormous compassion during tricky times."

Susan Jane (37) and her older brother Gordon grew up in Rathfarnham, where their parents were Olive, who taught her to cook, and the late Martin Murray. After her degree in business, economics and social studies at Trinity, she worked at UCD before moving to Oxford to pursue a postgrad in management studies. Her interest in healthy food developed when she became ill as a student, and saw immediate improvements when she switched to a whole food regime. It sparked a whole new way of living and career path. "The kitchen is like a culinary laboratory as Susan Jane is constantly trying out new recipes," says Trevor, her willing guinea pig. "Her food has no right to be that delicious as it's so super healthy. When she started off, her interests seemed niche, but now they are hugely fashionable and she has been at the vanguard of the appreciation of whole foods in this country. I have enormous admiration for her because she has very strong views and is one of the most principled people I've ever met. There are still occasions where I feel all too human in her presence." Trevor's new book, 'Alfie, The Life and Times of Alfie Byrne', is out now (€25.00) See books, pages 16-17

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