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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Thank heavens for Delia

It's five years since Delia Smith had a TV show or new cookery book out. Now she's back with her "How to Cheat at Cooking" and apparently the chattering classes are in a furore. Not only has she included tips on using pre-made items like M&S casserole mixes (the horror!) but on Radio 4 she said she wasn't part of the organic lobby and believed that cheap chicken provides a good source of protein for poor families.

Hear hear!

It's all very well for Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to get tearful over chickens, and I do agree that the chattering classes (myself included) should spend more on free-range organic birds. But only if you can afford it. The problem with free-range organic birds is that they are tiny. I often spend around £10 at Sainsburys on a bird which scarcely feeds three for lunch, let alone provide anything for meals afterwards. So I'm not surprised that people still buy the battery chickens. OK, they're fattened up with water and we know what terrible lives they lead, but people on very low incomes still need to eat.

It's a misnomer that it costs a lot to eat well. If you ate a lot of pulses and vegetables you could eat fairly cheaply and nutritiously. But most people haven't got a clue, and the TV chefs are partly to blame. When did a TV chef consciously give us cheap, nourishing and healthy meals to make? They're either exhorting us to cook above our skill level (tuille baskets / spun sugar / reductions) or they're using upmarket ingredients like venison, wild boar and so on. Fine for the chattering classes and their bijoux dinner parties, but not so good for Kerry Katona and her gang who stuff themselves with pre-packaged E numbers from Iceland.

At least Delia Smith is recognising this and encouraging busy people to cook from scratch while cutting a few corners. Hurrah for her. I wish her recipes were a little healthier, but maybe that's step two.

Nigella of course had her "Express" book and show which sold much the same premise, but Nigella's short cuts are all about buying niceties from the Italian deli. A lot of her shortcuts can be bought at the gourmet aisle in Sainsburys and some can't (Italian deli). Delia's short cuts seem to be mainly from Marks & Spencer but at least the store is accessible (if maybe over priced for many).


lucylastic said...

On the whole, I completely agree that TV chefs often use expensive ingredients and techniques - but there are programmes that cater for the quick and easy - but stiff fresh and to a budget. The BBC's Ready Steady Cook works to 'bags' of food at £5.00, £7.50 & £10.00 - all of which are turned into enough for 4 at least - and assume only minimal storecupboard ingredients. I think Delia's problem will be maintaining credibility when suggesting that ready made mash and a tin of lamb mince will suffice as a Shepherd's Pie!! Lucy

Gail said...

Funnily enough I thought of Ready Steady Cook after I wrote the piece and agree with you Lucy that it is a more grounded and realistic cookery show. The timing of it means that a lot of people never get to see it though.

Bill 'Bread' Blunt said...

Another thought-provoking post, Gail.

A change in circumstances forced me to radically re-appraise what I was eating. I haven't had a ready-meal in months (OK - the odd pizza, maybe!)and have started to relish putting together meals on a budget from scratch.

Can't resist my main expensive luxury now and again, though - home made pesto. It's SO expensive to make, but I rationalise things by thinking of all the money I've saved on other meals to justify it.

I'm sure the blessed Delia's latest wheeze is linked into some marketing campaign somewhere or other. Simply reducing meat to two or three times a week creates a huge saving in a family's budget.

Anyway, you can join Crofty and I's 'Better Bread Bloggers' campaign if you want!