The Joys Of Modern Life: 73. Delia Smith

DELIA SMITH doesn't do pantomimes, she doesn't ride a motor cycle and she most definitely doesn't use excessive hair gel. What Delia does do, to the delight of anyone in possession of an oven, is write idiot- proof cookery books. Wasn't it she who explained precisely how to boil an egg?

The current crop of celebrity chefs, more publicity hungry than a Max Clifford client, might think our Delia is patronising. In fact, Gary Rhodes once said as much. But it's a great weight off our minds to know that precision timing can make the difference between being able to dip our bread soldiers - yummy - and having to carve up the yoke with a tea spoon - yuck.

So hurrah for St Delia. You won't find her playing the fool on kid's TV or mincing around like a high-cholesterol alcoholic bluestocking. All Delia needs to do to sell her books is to write another one. Her latest, How to Cook: Book Two, published this Thursday has record advanced orders of 850,000 copies. It is to the nation's credit that there will be 50,000 more copies of her product in circulation than Cliff Richard's appalling Millennium Prayer. If only she would release a single right now - it would be zoom straight to number one.

Last year, when one particular hair-gel smothered chef slated Delia's back-to-basics techniques as "offensive" and "insulting" - for his own ends, I might add, as he had a recipe book of his own to promote - Ms Smith refused to join the fray, remaining demurely silent in response. How refreshing. How Delia. Probably the best thing about Delia - apart from promoting English apples while also raising money for children and shifting 11 million BBC cookbooks over the past 20 years - is her ability to tap into the zeitgeist and make copper-bottomed suggestions on how to keep our peckers up.

For Delia is the lady who once said (vegetarians should look away now): "If you feel depressed or let down, if you are suffering from the pressures of life or simply having a grey day, my advice is to roast a chicken."

And you know, it really works.