I have more cookery books than you could, rather foolishly, shake a batter-coated spatula at.
But the one grease-smeared, dog-eared tome I go back to time and time again is my trusty Delia.
My mother bought it for my 18th birthday and while Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course is nowhere near as inspirational and adventurous as some of my newer cookbooks – which range from Hairy Bikers doing this and that, a few enthusiastic Jamies and complex culinary guides to Spain, France and the Far East, it is the one I always turn to for the simple, painstakingly-explained basic recipes that work perfectly every single time.
But the fact that at 71 she’s hanging up her pinny and “running out of steam”, as she calls it, for fronting TV shows (she makes herself sound like a passsst-it pressure cooker) does not deflate me. Truth be told, she’s best out of it.
Before you go thinking I’m being ageist, I happen to believe Mary Berry, some seven years Delia’s senior, is telly gold. With her twinkly, periwinkle eyes, a smile as wide as a Dentifix ad and a lovely way with earnest amateurs, she charms right through the screen into your living room.
But Delia is too serious about skills and too thorough and professional to compete with the sort of shows she has recently taking a paring knife to; contests like Masterchef, which intimidates rather than inspires” viewers.
After 30 years of cooking for TV she’s turned down a request from the BBC to return and thank heavens. No doubt they would have wanted her to do it their way – chuck a competition into the recipe, all the while driving round France on a unicycle.
We’ve all got used to the battle of the frying pans and rissoles at dawn, but stooping so low would sully the patron saint of the kitchen.