Last Night’s TV – Delia Through the Decades

by Lynn Connolly

I’ve always loved Delia Smith; she used to feel rather like a benevolent big sister, and since time began, she hasn’t lied to me and promised that something I create from her recipe is going to be a stupendous thing that can do no wrong, as have some of her younger – and arguably, less likely to enjoy such TV longevity – rivals.

She’s never tried to get me to make something with an enormous French name for which I have to scour the Western hemisphere for the one main ingredient either. She just shows a body how to make a decent shepherd’s pie and a palatable pudding for afters.

And though her series a while back about cheating was greeted with horror by some TV critics, I nearly cried, I was so relieved. She made it ok for me to admit to giving my family stuff that’s pre-prepared and from the freezer. It felt like being let out of prison to me.

And I suspect it’s her always-average-Joe approach to making food that’s kept her in the biz for so long. She’s just normal and ordinary. She doesn’t have a catch-phrase, she doesn’t swear, she never over enthuses or glosses over the mess of it all; she just plods along, feeding the nation vicariously through our tellyboxes. And long may she reign.

I was a bit surprised though to see this homage to Delia that’s in no less than five parts. I mean, ordinarily, these sorts of shows are reserved for when the subject’s shuffled off the mortal coil surely? But I’m glad Delia’s being celebrated while she’s still very much alive and cooking.

And it was very pleasant to see a more rounded picture of Delia, as narrated by the ever affable and mellifluous Stephen Fry. I’d tune in to hear that man reading a shopping list, so pleasantly soporific is his voice.

He presided over the This Is Your Life sort of concept as we heard how Delia could’ve been a secretary if only she’d tried harder in school, according to her head-teacher at the time anyway. I bet she’s gutted that she didn’t make it… not.

Then it was onto her early career and amusing chunks of archive footage ensued, but one thing remained true throughout; Delia isn’t gimmicky. She’s just always, stoically been Delia. Now national treasure, then someone who was rather like a teacher herself and commanded some level of respect, but you felt you could have an after-class joke with her, as long as it wasn’t blue.

She’s the human and celebrity equivalent of a hot water bottle; not glamorous, not posh, not a multi-faceted thing – just there. Warm, reliable and kept under the sink until it’s needed. Not that Delia’s kept under the sink of course, but you get the gist.

When all these new whizz kids on the block have blasphemed and cooked up dormice and so on, and are long past their sell by dates, who can we turn to to show us how to brown mince? Delia, that’s who. And her Victoria sponge recipe is the only one that’s ever turned out well for me. And by ‘well’, I mean didn’t actually damage anyone.

So thank you Delia, you’re a genteel, kind lady who isn’t afraid to show the world her frozen waffles, and I applaud you for it.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.