Cover Stories: Marguerite Patten; Lucy Eyre; classic stories of evolution

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The Independent Culture

Gordon and Nigella and Gary and Jamie long ago eclipsed Delia, who these days spends much of her time cheering on her beloved Canaries from the directors' box at Norwich. All of them owe a debt to a woman who was cooking up a storm long before they were born: Marguerite Patten, who celebrated her 90th birthday last week and, with it, a back-catalogue of about 170 cookery books. Her 1960 opus, Cookery in Colour, was a culinary milestone and has sold two million copies. Still working, Patten admires Oliver's stand on school dinners and thinks Ramsay's food "delicious". She gives nul points for his language, however. Let's hope someone baked her a large birthday cake.

* Bloomsbury is, naturally, the publisher of choice for Lucy Eyre, daughter of Sir Richard, whose first novel, which was unveiled at Frankfurt, it has bought. Called - whimsically or pretentiously, depending on your point of view - If Minds Had Toes, it tells the story of Lila Frost, secretary to Socrates. Both, of course, are dead, living in "the World of Ideas", the philosopher's version of the afterlife, where Socrates has been president for 2,100 years. Soon, he's making a bet with Wittgenstein that he can take any normal being and make them love philosophy. Bloomsbury assures us that it is written "with great verve and exuberance" and is "hugely entertaining and engaging" in the vein of Sophie's World. The author is currently living in Ethiopia. Which is also somehow not surprising. Ealing just wouldn't cut the mustard.

* Penguin Press paid a lot of dosh for another book with a wacky title, though it's possible to see how this one works. Your Inner Fish: A Journey Through the 3.5 Billion-Year History of Your Body is being written by Neil Shubin, a professor at the University of Chicago and a former student of the late Stephen Jay Gould. Essentially, Shubin explains why we look the way we do, and the book tells the classic stories of evolution from the perspective of the human body. "An entire branch of the tree of life" is, apparently, "embedded deep within us".

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