Britain's Delia Smith on food, critics and sugar

Tue Jan 13, 2009 9:00am EST
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By Eleanor McCausland

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Delia Smith is one of Britain's best-loved cookery writers, a firm believer in bringing the nation back to basics through teaching classic cooking techniques. Her influence and popularity has led to 'The Delia effect', a phenomenon now enshrined in the English dictionary after her use of eggs led to a 10 percent rise of egg sales in Britain. After leaving school at 16, she worked as a dishwasher in a London restaurant and soon progressed to helping the chef. This sparked an interest in food that Smith nurtured by studying its history in the British Museum, before becoming a food writer for the Daily Mirror. Her idea for a televised cookery course began a successful career in television, accompanied by a series of popular recipe books. She has recently re-released her 1970s classic, 'Frugal Food' in light of the current economic climate.

Q: Did you dream of cooking as a career?

A: No, I didn't. It happened when I started going out to restaurants in the 60s: the whole idea of eating out and learning about cooking was suddenly something I wanted to do. Initially learning to cook was to get me through life, not a career.

Q: What prompted you to begin your television career?

A: I'd have people come up to me and say, 'Oh, I really enjoyed your column yesterday', and I'd ask 'Did you make the recipe?' They'd say 'Oh, no, I can't cook'. I realized there was still a long way to go in teaching people to cook. At that time, people had to go to evening schools to learn to cook. I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful if they could learn in their own homes?

Q: How do you feel about cooking on television?

A: I'm quite happy because it's just a couple of cameramen who are there. What I can't do is cook before a live audience. I did it once, and it was a disaster.

Q: Do you believe cooking is an art form?   Continued...