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Delia backlash

01 April 2008


Millions of women have grown up with Delia Smith as their Queen of Cooking. I am sure many British women were given one of Delia's cookbooks by their mothers when they moved out to live on their own. Delia's recipes are safe, easy and very very tasty. She was once described by fellow-chef Anthony Worral Thompson as The Volvo of the kitchen: Reliable, nothing fancy but it just works. I couldn't agree more.

For years I have been getting frustrated with those chefs who cook the most elaborate food on the TV and then tell you that it is easy to do at home if you only try hard enough. I usually end up with my kitchen in a mess and a dish that looks nothing like the picture. Dishes that should take only 20 minutes take entire days to prepare; I am sure you know what I am talking about.

So when I heard about Delia's new book, "How to cheat at cooking" I wanted to buy it. Delia has realised that you can make nice dishes by using ready made ingredients. She calls it cheating, I call it common sense. Finally a chef who understands the constraints of modern living; someone who does not make me feel guilty for using ready made pasta instead of making my own.

But now, something has gone wrong. Delia has a new book out and the BBC has given her the opportunity to maximise commercial gain from this by giving her a new TV show. The show is a big disappointment. Delia is not giving us a break because she understands us. She is cheating at cooking because she thinks we are all stupid and lazy. And, probably, because she is out of money (presumably her toy Norwich City FC is losing money hand over fist...).

Her recipes are boring and the ingredients she uses extortionately expensive. Supermarkets are now selling stuff with stickers that proudly say: This is a Delia Cheat product. And of course they happily double the price in the process, making the food much more expensive than it would have been if fresh ingredients were used. So, the people who are most likely to struggle with preparing fresh, healthy meals (those with little money), will not be helped by this book at all.

The backlash has well and truly started:

Delia's How to Cheat at Marketing - The Guardian
Delia's Cheat recipes: The True Cost - The Daily Record
Demonising St Delia - Daily Mail

But maybe the book is just not aimed at me and I should not complain about a book that may actually be very popular with its target audience. Maybe Delia has taught me how to cook properly and now the student no longer needs the master.

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