There’s a line in one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs where he asks his lover: “Can you cook and sew, make flowers grow?” I’m afraid I wouldn’t pass the Dylan test because, while my garden and allotment are flourishing and I can run up a child’s pinafore, I cannot cook for toffee.
I’m the type of person Delia Smith was thinking of when she this week lamented the decline of home cooking. I think I am lacking a gene that means when I look at a fridge full of ingredients, I am filled with despair.
I have never needed to know my way around a kitchen, because I’ve always lived with brilliant cooks. It must be a subconscious survival instinct. My dad did all the cooking when I was growing up. Then, when I was at university, my flatmate loved being creative with food, and made me dinner every night. She then trained as a chef, and I don’t think I cooked for the five years we lived together. When she moved in with her boyfriend, now husband, my diet changed for the worse. At their wedding, I told my friend’s mother how I missed her daughter’s home cooking. “Maybe you should’ve married her instead,” she replied drily.
There were some intervening years of living alone (a lot of takeaways and eating out), before meeting my partner, whose cooking is better than that of many professional chefs. Once, after managing to follow a delicious recipe for sausages, squash and goat’s cheese, my daughter asked: “Did Daddy make this?”
Delia is right. Some cookery programmes – MasterChef, for example – are intimidating for people like me. It would be great to see more TV chefs do traditional home cooking. The Great British Bake-Off has triggered a renewed interest in baking, so perhaps we need a similar competition for everyday meals.
Our ability to cook well is dwindling – the result of our increasing reliance on cheap convenience food, combined with a lack of time to follow recipes using fresh ingredients. I think Delia needs to come out of retirement and teach us how to do it all over again.
From kids’ TV to kilts’ TV
The hour between 8am and 9am is usually chaos in our house. This is when CBeebies comes into its own to “babysit” my two-year-old daughter. The last thing she watches before leaving for nursery used to be her favourite programme, ZingZillas, but it’s recently been replaced by a programme called Me Too!, which has mainly Scottish actors.
It was made seven years ago, yet is on during this peak-time “rush hour”. Which leaves me wondering – could CBeebies be involved in the “soft-power” culture wars waged by the Better Together campaign to stop Scotland’s independence?
Jane Merrick is Political Editor of ‘The Independent on Sunday’