Dec 122008
Delia Smith

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“Oh no, that programme’s terrible,” uttered one of the twins as we settled down in front of the fire for an evening of family telly. On screen, Rachel Allen, doyenne of Irish culinary television, was strutting her Nigela-esque stuff, showing the nation how to blind bake the quintessentially perfect pastry case.

Curious, I asked what my daughter found so bad about the programme. “Well, it makes you so hungry,” came the reply. I guess you can’t argue with that; the new series is all about baking.

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and baking, it has to be said, is very close to my heart. Eating it that is, not actually doing it. I’m lucky, because I happen to be married to an excellent baker, and it’s winter. Winter means the oven on the range is always hot, and there’s usually something yummy on offer in the kitchen.

So you’d think Rachel Allen’s new series would appeal to me… and it does on one level. It’s a good, wholesome programme that we can enjoy at a decent hour with the children, and yes, some of the recipes look mouthwatering. Television that passes on practical information, and real skills that you can use is to be applauded.

But there’s another aspect to the programme that tarnishes its superficial appeal. It’s a problem that afflicts many such programmes – Nigela Lawson’s are a prime example, as was the last series of iconic celebrity cook Delia Smith, and in other genres things like “Location, location, location”. It’s the gradual erosion of content to make way for the presenters’ expanding egos.

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