Legendary chef Delia Smith cooks up some thoughts on spirituality

“I still have a great joy of living,” she says. “If everyone did what I do, they would all be the same.

“If you keep yourself busy, that’s much better for you than thinking, ‘I’m going to put my feet up and watch the 6 p.m. news every day’.”

Long before Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver rose to fame, Delia was TV’s cook of choice, teaching people practical, easy-to-follow skills on all aspects of cooking, from how to make toast to arranging delicious Christmas dishes and even cheating in the kitchen.

Her ability to increase sales of the products she recommended became known as the “Delia Effect”. Supermarkets ran out of cranberries in 1995 when she used them in her winter collection. Delia’s 1998 TV series How to Cook led to a 10% increase in egg sales.

Smith’s mantra was that anyone could do it, as budding cooks followed his easy-to-follow, reliable recipes. When serving an appetizing dish to their guests, the dinner hosts would confidently announce, “It’s a Delia.”

Away from the kitchen, Smith still cheers on her team every week at Norwich City (she is a joint majority shareholder in the club with her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones), never misses a game and her famous “Let’s Be ‘Avin’ You” The Cry rallying on the pitch to supporters in 2005 remains one of the Premier League’s most memorable rants. His current goal is to prevent his team from being relegated.

To stay fit and healthy, she regularly cycles around the meadow which overlooks their home in Suffolk and only has one main meal a day.

Now Smith has a new book on spirituality, You Matter: The Human Solution.

Although she’s sold more than 21 million cookbooks, she was turned down by six publishers before she landed a book deal – but she’s been following spirituality for years.

“It’s a lifetime of thinking and being fascinated by the subject. It took me five years to write it, but all I can say is what the lockdown has done, it’s is that it’s all over. The Covid pandemic has become very relevant to that.”

While there is plenty of information from philosophers, as well as a nod to cultural figures such as Jimmy McGovern and Paul Simon, at the heart of the book is the need for us to come together in community and caring for our spiritual selves to help overcome life’s many difficulties. problems. It examines consciousness, reflection and the building of a global community. It is a timely message.

“People say to me, ‘You can’t bring the world together because you’ll never get Russia, you’ll never get China or North Korea.’ planes [effective] world politics and world leadership, they could not refuse.

“I’m an 80-year-old woman and I can’t do it, but hopefully some of the seeds I sow here will reach the younger generations because the younger generations can do something about it and they are already doing it.

“If you look at Myanmar, Belarus, Hong Kong, there have been huge waves of young people saying ‘We don’t want to live like this, we don’t want dictators’.”

She notes the need for quiet time, the peaceful silence needed to calm fears and reassurance and personally gets up early to have an hour of quiet time each day.

“It’s pretty mundane in a way because that’s all it takes for human beings to get in touch with the deepest part of themselves by having stillness and silence in their lives. It’s not meditation because you’re never going to clear your mind. It’s just giving yourself time to think. We have to get away from the noise.

She also explores the importance of not wasting time, reconnecting with a disconnected world, and finding hope in humanity to help secure our destiny.

There’s still time to cook, as she’s involved with the football club’s catering, recipe website and online cooking school. Her husband cooks at home when she works.

Does he follow his recipes? “He’s supposed to,” she laughs.

While her cookbooks are passed down from generation to generation, Smith’s dependable mantra lives on.

She says she doesn’t miss cooking on TV and rarely watches cooking shows, but remains an educational influence through her online cooking school.

“A 12-year-old can learn to make an omelet on the bus to school if it’s on their phone. People are now giving my book, the cooking lesson to their kids when they go to school. university, so there’s a new batch of people using it,” she says.

But she doesn’t follow cooking shows on TV these days and doesn’t have much to say about them.

“Cooking shows are 10 a penny,” she observes. “I always find that young people don’t know how to cook. Sometimes if they watch certain programs, it gives the impression that no one can do it anyway.”

Being prepared to fail is one of the topics she explores in the book, and it’s something she has experienced first-hand. As a child, she failed 11-plus and left school without an O-level, and when her career in television and books was launched, there were times when she also had to face her fears. .

She remembers being at a Boots book signing in Leeds when literally no one bought her book, although every now and then someone asked her if she knew where the corn dressings were.

“I still laugh when I remember the time a bookstore hired for me the same bodyguard they used to protect Gordon Ramsay, only to have the poor guy watch me sign copies for six people and a dog. !” she writes.

Today, she reflects, “We could teach kids from an early age that it’s okay to fail, but instead we push them to say they have to get as many qualifications and be the best. possible. Obviously do your best, but it doesn’t matter if you fail. We should teach children to grow up without being afraid of what they can or cannot do.

She remains optimistic that humanity will succeed in the end, despite war, climate change and all the worries of the world.

While her immediate thoughts focus on spirituality, there are still times when she happily reminisces about the legacy of her culinary success.

“There’s always a hangover. If I go to an away game, a few young guys will come up to me and say, ‘My mum loves you’.

“But I’m so grateful that I don’t have to get up in the morning and do a half-hour TV show. It was hard, hard work.”

You Matter: The Human Solution by Delia Smith is published by Mensch Publishing, priced at £25 hardcover, £14.99 paperback.

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