Christmas is coming (I write this review in November) and the cooks are getting fat, please buy a copy of their latest load of ... recipes. There are, I suppose, three contenders - Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, and Delia. Well, sorry Jamie. And I could lust after Nigella ... excuse me while I just take a moment. But Delia! You'd come home to Delia, wouldn't you? I mean, with Delia, it goes way beyond lust! She's already taught half the British Isles how to boil an egg and butter toast; some of us even treasure a video clip in which she instructs on the roasting of the perfect duck. (Pause for a moment while I launch into a Homer Simpson moment ... Mmmmmm, duck.)
Can you guess I'm a fan? How could I be critical of this latest helping? Well, I can. It's not for everyone. Nigella might offer you the perfect recipes for that next, important dinner party, Jamie might give you enough hints to show off in front of the girl next floor, but this time, Delia isn't going to seduce you with magnificent cookery. "Delia's Kitchen Garden" is all about green fingers, not green salads.
The book is an attempt to introduce you to the joys of gardening, not just as an excuse for annoying the neighbours or growing regiments of flowers, but as an adventure in growing your own food. Given the BBC's success in delivering gardening and cooking programmes to a couch-bound public, it was inevitable this would happen. The notion is that you should be able to reach out your back door, harvest your own new potatoes, asparagus, strawberries, or peas, and whip up a mouth-watering Delia meal. Last time I looked out my back door there was half an acre of nettles ... but I'd bet Delia could suggest a dozen ways to cook them!
This book is a beginner's guide to growing your own food. This is laudable. The advice is basic without being patronising. Given the dissatisfaction many of us feel with the plastic quality of much packaged food in the supermarkets, to experience even an occasional mouthful of food you have sown, nurtured and raised all by yourself ... well, that really is exciting. I hope the book actually does have an impact. It is not difficult to grow your own food - you don't have to plough a field, you can grow some chillies on a window sill, raise courgettes or beans in even a tight little back yard.
I repeat, a laudable exercise, combining advice on growing the food with Delia's encouragement on how best to cook it. There is no taste quite like that of your own freshly picked produce, and there are few cooks offering better advice than Delia on how best to emphasise the flavours. This is the sort of book you buy as a project - as motivation to do something different in the next year. Growing food, raising something from seed is therapeutic. Even if you decide not to buy the book ... do try growing something. The results, I promise, will amaze you.