The Resident catches up with Putney resident Miriam González Durántez – lawyer, mother, and wife of former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg – to find out how she is funding a global feminist campaign with her new cookbook…
Words: Madeleine Howell
Putney resident Miriam González Durántez has a number of strings to her bow besides that of being Nick Clegg’s wife. The 48-year-old is a partner at international law firm Dechert LLP, where she is co-chair of the International Trade and Government Regulation practice. Notoriously during the 2010 election campaign, she continued to work full-time in her previous role with DLA Piper rather than hit the campaign trail with her husband and brief the media with her outfit choices.
Never content with being seen merely as a political spouse, and now that the Coalition government is becoming a distant memory, Durántez’s devotion to the world of work, her family life and her feminist ideals are continuing to gain pace and garner attention. For several years, she has led Inspiring Women, a UK-wide campaign to inspire girls with female role models and career advice in schools.
‘It’s a simple concept,’ she says. ‘It’s about bringing women from all walks of life into schools to talk about their lives and careers. It’s to show girls the enormous diversity of role models, and all the different paths they can take in life.’
With 26,000 members in the UK already, now the campaign is going global, re-branded as Inspiring Girls – and she’s funding the project herself in part with the proceeds of her new cookbook, Made in Spain. Launching in Serbia in November and then in countries including Italy, Spain, and Zambia, Durántez hopes to take on the universal problem of a ‘lack of self-confidence’ in women and girls.
It’s something that she admits to experiencing herself. Speaking at the Wimbledon BookFest last month, she revealed that even now she is nervous when speaking in public in a language that is not her mother tongue.
So, why is it so important to her personally to encourage other women into the world of work? ‘I believe that hard work will get you there. I’m acutely aware that I can have the life I have because many women from previous generations made an effort, sometimes a monumental one, so that I could have the freedoms I enjoy today,’ she explains.
I think it is the duty of all women of my generation to eradicate sexism once and for all. We simply owe it to the girls
‘I think it is the duty of all women of my generation to eradicate once and for all the remaining sexism that still exists in our society. We simply owe it to the girls. I had been running a food blog with my children for years when somebody suggested that I put some of the recipes in a book. I’ve been financing the transition myself – so I thought the book would be a good way to gather funds to finance the campaign.’
Durántez was born in Olmedo in Spain, and the Spanish culture of food and family is something she tries to pass on to her three sons, Alberto, Antonio and Miguel.
‘I come from a culture that is focused on food,’ she explains. ‘My family is an international one. My children feel both British and Spanish, and they support both Arsenal and Barcelona. I don’t see any contradictions in that. Rather the opposite – I believe in internationalism, openness, engagement and embracing change.’
Made in Spain is more than just a recipe book. It also includes honest anecdotes, stories and her signature ‘salty, not sweet’ sense of humour. She admits that her love of food gave her a sense of normality during the stresses of trying to protect her family and their privacy during the Coalition years. It shines through in her passion for simple, classic Spanish recipes with lots of olive oil, bay leaves and garlic.
‘Food is something that gets you through things. It doesn’t matter if it’s an elaborate meal – it’s that magic moment,’ she says.
Durántez has candidly revealed that she refused to dine at Chequers or host the former Chancellor George Osborne at her home. But on a more positive note, she tells me that the person she would most like to cook for is the ‘remarkable’ Sonia Ghandi, President of the Indian National Congress party, while her top four dinner party guests would be her three best friends and her husband.
Role models are important to her because ‘it’s easier to dream of something when you have seen it.’
Durántez has candidly revealed that she refused to dine at Chequers or host the former Chancellor George Osborne at her home
Other women she looks up to include Anna Lindh, a Swedish Social Democratic politician who was killed in 2003 while serving as Foreign Minister, Catherine Day (former Secretary-General of the European Commission) and many others without public exposure. Cooking and running have helped her to cope with the challenges and pressures of political and public life, as well as trying to maintain perspective.
‘There have been so many challenging moments, but nothing compares to having to deal with an illness or a death in the family. It still amazes me how easily we forget what is truly important in life,’ she reflects.
Her favourite dish to cook at home is chicken with apple, her grandmother’s recipe. You’ll also find her letting off steam at Rock’s Lane sports club, running along the river, or dining out with the kids at family favourites Al Forno and Wahaca in Wimbledon.
The next tasks on her list include advising clients post-Brexit, ensuring the success of the Inspiring Girls campaign globally, and writing a book about Spanish liberalism. What an inspiration.
See inspiring-girls.com. MADE IN SPAIN is out now (£25, Hodder)