Last week, cooking legend Delia Smith made some rather bold claims in the Radio Times; suggesting that people can't cook anymore and that TV shows such as MasterChef are intimidating, rather than inspirational. As an amateur home cook, food lover and cookery show watcher, I beg to differ - and here's why:
Delia said: "You can't just open a book, go into a kitchen; you've got to have some lessons". Cooking is a skill and, to some extent, I agree that lessons can be beneficial in developing new skills. However at its heart, cooking is all about discovery and exploration; it involves experimenting with different ingredients, smashing things and adding heat. And how can that be taught in such a way that conveys the excitement that comes with mastering a soufflé for the very first time, or matching two different ingredients to develop a mouth-watering new dish?
Granted, you need a little kitchen confidence to get started with those culinary discoveries - and perhaps basic cookery lessons are the right way to go about that for some people. However, cooking is not for robots; some of the very best dishes I've tasted have been made so delicious because of the chef's personality that was injected into them.
Equally, there are tons of kitchen gadgets out there that need to be mastered to make kitchen life easier and I concede that lessons are fantastic for that. In fact, my local Steamer Trading Cookshop hosts regular demonstrations and events to help customers master culinary technology, the latest being a 'chopping techniques' workshop that demonstrated how to use Wüsthof knives to their full potential. It's funny then, that Delia also claimed that 'kitchen equipment shops are in decline' - Steamer Trading is an independent, family-run chain that will be opening its 30th branch in Glasgow this summer, such is the demand for quality kitchen equipment in the UK!
Delia also said: "People are afraid to cook". It's probably fair to say that if you asked me to whip up a gourmet feast in half an hour, I might be just a little terrified. But that's where expectations come in; thankfully, no one I regularly dine with would ever expect me to create something as tricky as a beef wellington. I stick to dishes that I'm comfortable with; homemade curries and pasta sauces, which are delicious but less fear-inducing.
Of course I'd never make it onto a show as challenging as Masterchef but, even then, how can Delia say that such shows instil fear rather than inspiration? I might play it safe in the kitchen, but that's not to say that I don't like a little experiment - just from watching the latest series, I've learnt about skordalia (that's a Greek version of garlic mash, if you were wondering) and I fully intend to have a go at making it soon! Equally, the pigeon wellington that John Torode whipped up would have once made me grimace, but it looked so delicious on the show that next time I see pigeon on a restaurant menu I'm going to order it.
I love MasterChef, I love food and I love cooking. In fact, I believe that John Torode and Greg Wallace (love them or hate them) do a pretty good job of inspiring Brits to experiment in the kitchen and restaurants, and give us the confidence to do so. Delia got it all wrong!