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Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Delia Smith has bowed out of television cookery shows claiming to be “reciped out” and unwilling to present the lifestyle-driven programmes that today’s armchair amateur chefs appear to clamour for.
The Queen of Cuisine has boiled her last egg on the box.
From now on, she will be appearing on a laptop near you in a series of online tutorials you can follow in your kitchen if your children haven’t stolen the laptop to Skype 17-year-old boys or play Minecraft on.
To mark the demise of Delia on the small screen, I thought I’d take a moment to praise her for keeping it real for those of us to whom cooking is merely something we have to do to keep our children alive: I refer to her seminal series, How to Cheat at Cooking.
Widely (sauce)panned by critics, Delia’s 2008 series saw her demonstrating how to make a variety of dishes using pre-prepared ingredients and reading how to use them from the back of packets: in my book, this is aspirational cuisine. Not only can I buy pre-prepared ingredients, I can also read. Giles Coren, restaurant critic for the Times, suggested one of the recipes was like having a pig urinate “in your throat”, Rose Prince said using frozen mashed potato was “verging on immoral” and even the Now magazine TV critic declared she was “disappointed” with Delia.
Nailing my green and yellow colours to the mast, I thought How to Cheat at Cooking was a triumph, not least because Delia outed the mash that dare not speak its name: Frozen Aunt Bessie’s.
I have toiled over a pan of potatoes for my mash-loving son only for him to plaintively ask for mash made “by Aunt Bessie” instead. He can take or leave her toad-in-the-hole and roast potatoes, but when it comes to her mash, he’s a disciple. In fact, his only gripe is that Bessie doesn’t send him a voucher to spend on Amazon.co.uk every Christmas like all his other aunties do.
While I’d rather floss my teeth with a soldering iron than eat Delia’s lazy summer soup made from Knorr stock powder, pre-chopped onion, a bag of spinach and rocket, more frozen mash and ice-cubes or, come to think of it, the chocolate cupcakes made from Carnation condensed milk and more frozen mash, at least one television chef is telling it how it is.
When Delia illustrated, on primetime television, how to cook McCain Spicy Wedges, I almost wept with relief. She does it EXACTLY the way I do: by tipping them out of a bag, on to a baking tray and placing them in the oven, having first made sure that the oven is switched on.
The very last thing I want to do after forcing my family out of the door in the morning following brisk arguments about suitable lengths of skirt, hair-brushing, PE bags, the absence of Peperamis from lunchboxes and lost library books, after a full day at work and then another set of arguments about why so-and-so can’t come for a sleepover, why we can’t order Chinese every single night, what the point of homework is, who gets the remote control and so on and so on, is to cook a meal from scratch.
If I could serve the Spicy Wedges straight from the freezer and in their bag so I didn’t even have to wash up, that’d be ideal.
Delia made it acceptable for us to worship our inner slattern and for that I am eternally grateful. I am, of course, ignoring the rest of her entire body of work that encouraged us all to cook from scratch – it’s a writer’s prerogative (I use this excuse at least twice a day, more if deadlines are looming).