Saturday 16 February 2008

Delia: Who's Being Cheated?

You have to laugh! Delia's gone ahead and done it - launched her new 'Delia Cheats' initiative, the advance publicity for which was what prompted my 'Dishing Delia' post of a couple of weeks ago....and, quite frankly, now I can see it for what it is I can only find it funny.

The poor woman was hauled into the studio to do an interview about it all for The Today Programme, this morning, and even though the interviewer treated her gently, she ended up somewhat mauled and took refuge in claiming to be merely a poor, simple cook who couldn't possibly be expected to have opinions about things like organic food or global warming, or complicated stuff like that. It was all rather inarticulate blah, frankly, that left one feeling that she hadn't been briefed very well by her own PR people, and towards the end she even appeared to be taking on Mother Teresa's mantle, and claiming a mission in life to feed the disadvantaged poor .......or something along those lines. If you want to hear it for yourself, it's available online to listen to at The Delia Interview.

Anyway, in an idle moment later in the day I felt prompted to go and have a look at what this new dawn in cooking actually comprised, and I had a look on the web at the list of things which are now part of the 'Delia Cheats' cooking revolution. Or do I mean revelation? I was left feeling confused on two counts: firstly, because it was difficult to see how you could think of things like Soy Sauce, or Potted Shrimps, or Lentils as 'shortcuts' in any way. Shortcuts to what? I mean....they're not 'shortcuts', they just are what they are. And, in fact, I would have said that soy sauce is a staple ingredient in any decently stocked pantry, rather than any kind of 'cheat'; and the same could be said for a whole host of other items in the list. And secondly, it was difficult to understand the list in the light of what Mother Delia had said in her interview - it hardly sat well with the concept of assisting the disadvantaged poor, who's budget seems unlikely to stretch to organic chocolate, ready rolled pastry, and coconut milk! Comparing the interview with the website left me wondering whether Delia had actually even read the book that she'd put her name to!

But then, of course, light dawned. This isn't anything to do with cooking, or with helping the disadvantaged
poor, or with educating people who can't cook. It's just a sales promotion for a collection of a whole lot of branded goods. No more, no less. No different from Valentina Harris putting her face on the side of packs of Ratafia biscuits, or Gordon Ramsay's features adorning the windows of the Threshers off-licences. Except that in their enthusiasm for giving the initiative as much welly as they can, Delia's marketing people have got a little carried away in this instance, and are presenting it as a whole new way of cooking. Whoops........

No wonder Delia sounded embarrassed and inarticulate when forced to try and explain it all.

It's an unfortunate choice of name, too. Because, of course, 'to cheat' is a transitive takes an object. 'Cheating' isn't a victimless process; if you're cheating, you're cheating somebody. So, who exactly is it that's being cheated, here? Not the manufacturers or the retailers or the publisher, that's for sure; arguably, the people in front of whom the food is being placed, presumably on the mendacious basis that it's all been home-cooked; but actually, I think it's most probably the poor innocents who've been fooled by the marketing blurb, and have actually bought the book and the ingredients it promotes.

What was that lovely line from the late Linda Smith, in describing Feng Shui? " The ancient Chinese art of parting simpletons from their money". Seems to me like Delia's just continuing with an age-old process.......

Tonight's Dinner:

Tart Shells, filled with Chicken Livers and Mushrooms, in a Cream, Ginger & Sherry Sauce.

Risotto with Spinach, Asparagus and Polpette.

Mango Souffle Glacé with fresh Raspberries.


Anonymous said...

Well said! She makes me shout at the TV if I ever see her. Ah, dear Linda Smith, much missed. Surely St. Delia doesn't need anymore money, so it must be the people who depend on her. Well, they won't be getting any of my money!

Anonymous said...

If you look at the book properly you'll also notice the only mention of 'Delia' is on the front-cover, and that's just her first name as part of the title. She's clearly had very little part at all in this and I'm amazed more people have not picked up on the fact.