For Delia it was guavas. For Mr Skillet it would be the walnut woman

Today we attempt to conclude our new romantic cookery thriller, `Delia's Just Desserts'. The story so far is that Toby Skillet has volunteered to rescue the ailing rum butter industry by going to Delia Smith and imploring her to turn rum butter into a fashionable ingredient. He sets off on a mission made all the harder by the fact that he does not know her address. Now read on!

We will pass over the two long years in which Toby Skillet sought Delia Smith's private address and finally bought it from an embittered ex-research assistant on the Delia Smith programme. Suffice it to say that after many days' hard travelling from the Lake District, home of the mighty rum butter empire, Toby Skillet arrived in East Anglia with Delia Smith's address still scribbled on his shirt cuff.

He stayed overnight in Stowmarket, sleeping in the precious shirt for fear of losing the priceless address and the next day he set out on the last stage. After several hours of getting lost in the countryside (he was used to the Lake District, where roads are strictly rationed out in a meagre way instead of being lavished on a countryside which didn't seem to need all those little lanes) he finally came to the right village and was directed to the right house by a friendly villager. He turned a corner and ...

Good Heavens Above! What was this? A line of people stretched back from Delia Smith's front door, right through the garden and into the road. There must have been fifty of these people. They were stationary, motionless, unmoving. Yes, and immobile, too. Toby Skillet went and stood behind the last one and said in his ear: "What is this queue for? What are they all waiting for?"

"We have all come to see Delia Smith," said the man mournfully.

"What for?" said Toby Skillet, jovially. "Crave entrance to her kitchen? Get her autograph? Sign your books? Seek advice on mayonnaise that keeps curdling or pastry that won't flake properly? See if she's got any left- over cranberries she doesn't need

"No," said the man, even more mournfully. "We have come to persuade her to adopt our particular foodstuff as the fashionable ingredient of next year."

Toby Skillet fell silent. It had never occurred to him that anyone else would have the same idea as he had had.

"Take me," said the man. "I have come on behalf of pineapple rings. I do not believe that Delia Smith will ever bless pineapple rings. I told them all at Pineapple Ring House - do not send me, for she will not bless pineapple rings. But they would not listen. They said - it is worth trying. And so I have been waiting here for three days."

"I have come on behalf of sesame seeds," said the man in front of him. "I think Delia quite likes sesame seeds. She has once or twice mentioned them in recipes. But not enough to lift the sesame seed trade from the doldrums."

"I have come on behalf of crystallised angelica," said another man, "and quite frankly, I do not care whether Delia Smith plugs crystallised angelica or not, because in three days' time I retire from the job because I am over sixty, and after that, bugger crystallised angelica."

Just at that moment a man emerged from Delia Smith's house and addressed the waiting hordes through a megaphone.

"Thank you all very much for coming to see Delia," he intoned. "She will see as many of you as possible today, but right now she is finishing a test cooking of guava fruit crumble."

As he finished, a man halfway along the queue sprang out on to the lawn and did half a dozen handsprings, then ran screaming out of the garden.

"Has he gone mad?" inquired Toby.

"No," said one of his new friends. "That's the man from Guava Fruit Towers. He has gone back to London to claim success. He's home and dry, now."

Toby Skillet began to realise the enormity of his task. He had thought that finding Delia Smith's house would be the hard bit. He now saw that the hard bit was only just beginning. Little could he foretell that in the months to come he would meet and fall in love with the woman from Pickled Walnut World, who had come to convert Delia to pickled walnuts, that he would invent a recipe for bread and rum butter pudding, the secret of which Delia herself would beseech him to reveal, that he would open a small restaurant which Craig Brown himself would bless with his presence, though not with a good review ...

The sex 'n' cookery novel `Delia's Just Desserts' will soon be in good bookshops everywhere.

Comments