All the ingredients for a best-seller

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The Independent Online
Have you ever felt you could write a cookery book? At least, have you ever felt that the way you cook was at least as good as the way they cook in cookery books? Or to put it another way, did you ever feel that if Delia Smith can be a millionaire you could at least be a hundredaire? Have you noticed that nobody knows the difference between "cookery book" and "cook book"?

Do you sometimes feel that, given guidance through the thickets of cookery writing, you could end up famous enough and rich enough to leave your husband and have a good time at last?

Fear not!

Today we have an expert to guide you through these problem areas!

Yes, Crispin Foliat is here to answer all your questions about that vital question: "How do I get to write a cookery best-seller and the quicker the better?"

Crispin Foliat writes: No problem. First of all, you get a good name...

What's a good name?

Crispin Foliat writes: A good name, for a cookery writer, is one that half suggests some exotic dish and half suggests an exquisite rural village. Crispin Foliat, for instance. In my case, I sound halfway between Chilton Foliat and crispy seaweed.

Hmm. Any other examples?

Crispin Foliat writes: Yes. Glynn Christian. Gary Rhodes. Andre Simon. Rick Stein. Robert Carrier...

Oh, come on! They don't sound remotely like an English village OR an exotic dish!

Crispin Foliat writes: I didn't say an English village. I said like a village. It could be a French village. Andre Simon sounds like a French place name. Boulestin did, too. So does Carrier. Mark you, the fashion for having cookery writers who sounded like French people has gone long ago, which shows that we have finally grown up, but it could always come back. Do you remember the name of Justin de Blank?

No. Village somewhere in Holland, is it?

Crispin Foliat writes: You're getting the idea.

What idea? Anyway, Delia Smith doesn't sound like any place I have ever heard of!

Crispin Foliat writes: How about Ladysmith...? Rick Stein is an interesting name because he sounds more like a drink. Stein is a German beer mug, and Rick has overtones not only of Rick's Bar, but of rickey, that half- forgotten cocktail. You've heard of gin rickeys?

Yes, but look, I think we're missing the point here. I want to know how to write a best-selling cook book, and my name is really quite irrelevant. Just get on with it, would you?

Crispin Foliat writes: Very good, very good! I think you may have the necessary touchiness.

What necessary touchiness?

Crispin Foliat writes: To be a television superchef. Everyone has to have a gimmick to be a TV superchef. It could be touchiness. It could just be something you held in your hand. Ken Hom had his wok. Keith Floyd had a glass of red wine. But whatever it is, you have to have your TV series before you sell really serious quantities of books.

Sometimes you have a TV series with no book, which is a tragedy...

I am sorry. I don't quite understand that.

Crispin Foliat writes: Try to keep up, dear. What I mean is that sometimes you see a TV series go out which is done in the style of a cookery programme but which they forgot to turn into one. That thing with John Thaw in France...

`A Year in Provence?'

Crispin Foliat writes: Was it only a year? My goodness, it seemed more like a Lifetime in Provence ... Well, anyway, the reason that the programme failed so badly was that nobody spotted that it was really a cookery programme crying out for a few dishes and a whole book - if John Thaw had done a little recipe every five minutes after his shopping and visits to local eateries, it would have been great. Well, not great, but it would have sold a million.

So, choose a good name. Get a TV series. Any other advice on writing a cook book?

Crispin Foliat writes: No. That should do it.