Caring mothers don't use Oxo

Why pretend? They didn't like it. For every spoonful of stew they had six of ketchup

NO, I did not watch Delia Smith's much debated cookery show How to Boil an Egg. Because, like Gary Rhodes, I found it offensive and an insult to my intelligence, simply because I already know how to boil eggs. Indeed, of my many and varied culinary talents, egg-boiling is probably my most accomplished, followed closely by toad-holing, apple- crumbling and porridge.

This is a pity, because I cannot honestly remember when I was last called upon to make any of them.

"Who's for a boiled egg then?" I call enthusiastically at breakfast, setting dappled china, home-made Seville orange marmalade, ditto damson jelly, and gleaming porridge bowls on to starched gingham.

"No thanks, Mum, no time, got to rush," they say, and tip half a kilo of chocolate-coated cereal into a paper bag to eat on the bus.

"Never mind, I'll give them something nourishing for supper," I think, taking off my Delia-Smith-Loves-Sainsbury's apron, and bustle down the road to the butcher.

Yes, we still have an old-fashioned butcher round the corner, with sawdust on the floor (the rest is in his head) who, just as Delia says, can be relied upon to recommend the best cuts of the day.

"No, I won't have the prime fillet at pounds 18 a pound. I was thinking more in terms of stew - neck of lamb, perhaps, or shin of beef?" The butcher's incredulous expression suggests that my request was for a whole sheep's head or a fardel of tripe. People's tastes have become more sophisticated, more Continental these days, he explains. I spend all afternoon lovingly preparing Lancashire hot-pot. Of course I've made my own stock; caring mothers don't use Oxo. Besides, basic stock is one of Delia's golden rules. ("It's so easy, just takes a little more time, that's all.") The pudding is home-made apple crumble served not with custard (too many E-numbers) or with double cream (too much cholesterol). "Half-fat creme fraiche is the obvious answer," I remember Delia telling us once, but by the time I got down to Sainsbury's, it had run out.

Five o'clock: "What's for supper Mum? Wicked smell - I'm starving." "Lancashire hot-pot and apple crumble". Why pretend? They didn't like it. For every spoonful of stew they had six of ketchup. Apart from everything else, it just wasn't cost-effective.

To hell with basic cooking, what my family and - from, what I gather - most of my friend's families want to eat is pizza, curry, Chinese and burgers, preferably delivered to the door in polystyrene cartons which they can rip open and watch in front of the television. So what's the solution? Do I go on cooking good, wholesome, nutritious, basic food, or do I throw in the towel and let them eat junk?

The answer probably is to force them to watch Delia Smith, so that they can appreciate for themselves all the benefits that good, basic cooking can afford; not just now but later, when they've gone to university and have to cook for themselves.

No, that's no good either. Their older brother has just gone to university, to his own flat, with just a tin-opener. Before he left I taught him how to boil an egg, just like Delia. He took to it like a duck to water. Last time he rang I asked how the cooking was getting on.

"I bet you're making perfect boiled eggs," I said. There was just one problem, he said: they only had a microwave oven.

Far be it from me to disparage Delia, whose every last stick of parsley garnish I follow slavishly, but boiled eggs may not have been the happiest choice to start with in terms of basic cookery, for the simple reason that nobody eats them any more. Come on, be honest. When did you last sit down at the breakfast table, crack open a speckled brown, size one, free-range classic, peer critically at the comparative textures of yolk and white, murmur "just perfect", and set about your business with salt cellar and soldiers? Last week, last month, last year?

Blame Edwina Curry, blame all those gut-wrenching documentaries about battery hens and salmonella, but the sad fact is that the boiled egg is disappearing down the same culinary cul-de-sac as calves' foot jelly and tapioca. I refer, of course, to the perfect, three-minute soft-boiled breakfast egg, the one Delia so artfully demonstrated and which caused such a furore, not the bullet-hard variety you pack into sandwiches.

She's right, of course. Apart from myself, I know very few people who can boil a perfect egg. My late uncle, Sidney Bevington, always ordered six boiled eggs for breakfast when he stayed at hotels. Only that way, he explained, tapping his way through them like a man playing the xylophone, could you be sure of getting one that was exactly right. Sensible chap.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions