So, the headline above might be slightly hyperbolic, but the sentiment I’m trying to convey is very real and serious. Last night, UK TV cooking legend, Delia Smith’s new show Delia premiered on BBC2 and instead of garnering the rave reviews virtually every one of her previous series have, this one has been roundly panned, and foodies across the UK are outraged at what they see as Delia’s complete volte face.
You see, for years Delia has been at the forefront of those encouraging us to return to fresh, seasonally-available foods, locally-grown in traditional ways and prepared using time-honored British techniques and recipes – something many of us started to believe, and a mantra that johnny-cum-latelys like serial-lisper Jamie Oliver have made a career out of parroting. But, in her new show, it seems that she is advocating the use of ready-prepared, dried or frozen ingredients to make dishes that are barely cooked, take no time to make and, frankly, sound horrendous. After having built her career by encouraging, nay teaching, a nation to cook properly and traditionally with real ingredients, she’s throwing all that away and encouraging us to cook as little as possible and make meals from foods full of preservatives, artificial colorings and flavorings. Delia had always said that the actual cooking could be as pleasurable as the eating, but now she’s saying it’s just a waste of time. Why, Delia? Why?
The equivalent, for US readers, would be if Julia Child had suddenly decided to advocate making frozen dinners or meals out of a can. Regular readers will know that we’re typically very disparaging about TV cooks who encourage us to cook in this way – Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee, in particular – and in this instance we’re going to have to agree (without having seen the show, admittedly) that (assuming the reports are true) Delia has made a serious mis-step here. Let’s hope that the cooking-haters out there (e.g. the Rachel Ray/Sandra Lee lovers) don’t win on UK TV as they have on the Food Network.
It’s a philosophical issue: either you look at food as fuel, and therefore eating and cooking as necessary evils to be completed as quickly as possible and with the minimum of effort, or you look at food as an opportunity to make a necessity enjoyable and relaxing, and therefore eating and cooking as a “way of bringing pleasure to everyday life,” to quote Delia. Surely those who are on TV trying to get people excited about food should be in the latter camp, rather than encouraging us to rush through to the end of the meal so we can get on with our busy lives? What do you think?
Update – Friday, March 14
Unsurprisingly, Delia’s new half-baked styles are causing quite a stir in the UK right now, with some commenters praising her for having taken the snobbery out of cooking, and others saying that she might have removed the snobbery, but she’s replaced it with ready-made ingredients that make her meals taste like a dog’s dick. Today’s The Guardian, in the interests of fair and balanced journalism, with the help of five prominent UK food critics, did a taste test of five of Delia’s new recipes prepared by skilled Italian chef and London restaurateur Aldo Zili. Read their thoughts here – it’s not only quite amusing, but kind of alarming too.
CHECK OUT AN OLDER POST ABOUT A BRITISH FAVE OF MINE (WHICH USES FRESH INGREDIENTS!):