A few years ago a taxi driver said to me “You that food lady then?” Flattered at being recognised, I was about to say Yes, when he followed up with “That team of yours, Norwich, they’re really rubbish, they are.”
Well, being mistaken for Delia is fine by me. I’m a great fan.
"Are you interested in cooking, then?” I ask.
"Yes, I love it. Just love it.”
“Great” says I. “What do you like to cook?”
“Oh I don’t cook! But I watch all the cookery programs: Nigella, Hell’s Kitchen, Ready steady…”
That little conversation confirmed what I’ve long suspected. Cooking is now a spectator sport. When you say “I love football” it doesn’t often mean you love playing it any more than “I love racing” means you ride in races. “I love cooking” now means we like watching other people cooking amazing food while we sit on the sofa and eat Pringles out of the packet. Sad.
Well, I love cooking, the doing of it. And even though I’ve given up writing cookbooks in order to conserve my writing energies for novels, I still like experimenting and trying stuff and eating things I’ve never eaten before.
And of course I’m seriously greedy. I will go to the grave wishing I was a stone lighter (right now I wish I was a stone and a half lighter). But I simply refuse to eat salad without dressing, or strawberries without cream, or boiled eggs without toast soldiers. I once wrote a Diet series for the Sunday Times. It worked fine – dozens of readers told me how much weight they’d lost. But I couldn’t follow it! It had portions for men and portions for women and I was fine on the men’s allowance.
One way and another, my whole grown-up life has been about food. I’ve variously been a restaurateur, caterer, food teacher, food writer, telly cook, even a radio cook (I started my media career talking cooking on the Today Programme when Jack de Manio presented it – now that dates me, does it not?). All my novels have meals in them, and a lot of cooking goes on. Most of the characters are cooks, caterers, chefs, restaurateurs or farmers. Food of Love is a trilogy of novels covering the lives and loves of a family through three generations, and the background to it all is the change in farming, food and cooking since World War II.