Mary King is something of a national hero. An equestrian of more than 30 years, she has represented Great Britain at six Olympics since 1992, winning two silver and one bronze medal in the team eventing.
She was the British Open Champion in 1990, 1991 and 1996 and won the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials in 1992 and 2000 and the Burghley Horse Trials in 1996. Most recently, Mary won team silver on Imperial Cavalier in the three-day eventing at last year’s memorable London Games.
But Mary – whose home and equestrian centre is in Devon, a short hack from the coast – is also a busy working mother, who faces familiar challenges when it comes to feeding husband David and children Freddie, 14, and Emily, 17, on a daily basis.
“We always eat together,” she says, “except during the competition season, when Emily and I are away. Then, on a Saturday night, we often do our own thing. But during the week, if we’re not competing, we will always sit together and have supper. I think it’s really important.”
Mary’s husband is a cattle farmer and livestock trader, so the family often has beef. “There is a lot of beef in our freezer,” Mary laughs. “We have a lovely butcher, who is a great friend – Chris McCabe in Totnes.”
While Mary does most of the cooking when she’s at home, Emily, herself a successful equestrian, and Freddie, who is still at school, will often pitch in to help.
“If I’m around, I am chief cook,” Mary says. “The children can cook – they learned at school – but on a day-to-day basis I do most of it. They could both cook if they were deserted. Freddie would probably just put a pizza in the AGA, but Emily would probably do pasta on the top.
“David is very good at fending for himself and I’ll often leave them a casserole or some bolognaise so they can just cook a bit of spaghetti and do a salad. If I’m too busy to think about that, David will quite happily cook himself a steak, but he wouldn’t be very fancy with his cooking.”
Like many families, there isn’t the time or inclination to sit at the table for three formal courses, so the Kings tend to stand around with some nibbles, while food is still being prepared, before sitting down to the main course.
On the menu tonight are bread sticks with dips, posh steak and chips with a bulgar wheat salad and roasted vegetables, and delicious plum tarts to finish.