Tasteful Delia dishes up a literary feast

MARIANNE MACDONALD

Media Correspondent

Question: When does TV cookery become art? Answer: When it is the work of Delia Smith, according to the Times Literary Supplement.

The edict is issued in this week's edition, with the centre pages devoted to a deconstruction of modern cookery writing by Eric Griffiths, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. But while the don compares the motherly writing of Delia Smith's Winter Collection to the Queen, he dismisses Sophie Grigson, author and presenter of Sophie's Meat Course, as a "younger Royal", similar to the Duchess of York.

"Delia and her cooking transcend sensuous immediacy as do marble goddesses," Dr Griffiths writes in an analysis which will shock those who thought her recipes fairly straightforward.

"Poised like a dancer on point above a melody which she commands, Delia Smith's favourite verb is 'pop': 'just pop it in the oven'. Her world is non-stick, biddable . . . She measuredly 'places' and 'puts' things - in a bowl, over heat."

Delia's work "expresses itself best in her over-arching and point-instant grasp of time", the English literature lecturer says.

"Demonstrating her recipe for Hung Shao Pork, she says 'and then' 17 times in the few minutes she needs to show us how ... She continues to mark time, like a piano teacher, quite as firmly in her books.

"Her recipes do not just begin, they tell you they are at the beginning: 'Begin by cutting the pumpkin in half'. She stays with you all the way, ticking off the instructions - 'First of all . . . When . . . Now . . . Next . . . Then . . . Next . . . Now . . . Then . . . Now . . .' until we arrive together at a 'Finally' (from the recipe for Italian Stuffed Aubergines). No other cookery writer so resembles a guardian angel, beating its wings over you at every step."

By contrast, the more radical Sophie, daughter of the cookery writer, Jane Grigson, is roasted for her hurried style, "fuzzed" geography and "poor" knowledge of history.

"According to Sophie's Meat Course, what you do is 'throw them [chops] under the grill with nothing more than a light brushing of olive oil' or 'throw together yoghurt and mint sauce' or, thanking God, realise that 'it tastes even better when a few mushrooms are thrown in', Mr Griffiths observes. "As befits a younger royal, Sophie Grigson makes confessions aplenty. She gets things off her chest: 'to be honest, I'm not a great gravy fan', 'to be honest, I prefer to bake them slowly in the oven'."

But it is her attitude which really lets her down, Dr Griffiths concludes. "You might find a dish needed only to be 'zipped into the oven shortly before supper'. This is Duchess of York stuff ('pongy', 'doddle', 'whizzo') in contrast to the regal self- control, the dowdy reticence, of Delia Smith."

Pasta notes ... how the two cooks compare in the helpings of words and food

DELIA

Appearance

Housewifely, reassuring, dowdy. Determinedly untrendy. Reminiscent of your best friend's mum at school

Best known book

Delia Smith's Winter Collection - heavily discounted over Christmas, it became a runaway bestseller. Every dinner party has one

Most unlikely recipe

Four-nut chocolate brownies? Delia is not one for trendy combinations

TV style

Dogged and slightly breathless; not a natural, hence the awkward pauses and the air of general discomfort

Prose style

Deeply practical, relentlessly optimistic, evokes joints sizzling in the oven, puddings steaming merrily on the stove, bread baking cheerily, and so on

Favourite recipe

Roast duck with sour cherry sauce (the first thing she learned to cook while washing up in a restaurant) crepes suzettes - blame her for bringing them back into fashion

Favourite words

"Absolutely", "superb", "pop", "practical", "pretty", "no fuss", "delightful"

Most likely to say

Cranberries

Least likely to say

God, let's just go to MacDonalds

SOPHIE

Spiky feminist who spends a lot at the hairdresser, good line in Bet Lynch earrings, may have been a punk when about 15

Eat Your Greens: just as Delia spends a lot of time on the nice BBC, Sophie's natural home is Channel 4 where she presented Eat Your Greens and Grow Your Greens and, most recently, Sophie's Meat Course

Esfinaj-en-Aloo (spinach with prunes)

Intense and enthusiastic, hoovers up her offerings, happily tears carcasses from limb to limb and gets down to it with sweetbreads

Emphasis on saving money; businesslike; happy to warn you if a particular dish (artichokes, for example) will make you fart

Swiss chard with olives au gratin

"Earthy"; "substantial", "olive oil", "whizz"; "tricksy", "zip", "doddle"

But they're really good for you!

But I don't like carrots

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

£40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis