The witchcraft of delia has somehow kept her on our screens for forty years, says Mark Lewis
“If I’d have been born in Medieval times I would have been burned at the stake without any doubt,” says Delia. And who can question our black-toothed, first Millennial, fanatical ancestors? If anyone in Britain is a friend of the broomstick it’s Delia Smith.
But her mysterious abilities blind us to her otherwise fantastical banality. In Delia Through the Decades (Monday, BBC2, 8.30pm) she has even persuaded TV to make a retromentary about her life as it weaves from the rations of the fifties through the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties, and ever forwards towards contemporary Britain. In five parts!
Fuck! We’re only a fifth of the way towards reliving that time she got smashed at a Norwich City game and made a massive fucking arse of herself. And still we watch. Because despite the interminably chirpy Stephen Fry voiceover, who gives us our meaningless 12-minute commentary on twenty years of post war Britain with that air of almost-ironic sincerity which has infected our TV screens as disasterously as AIDS. And, despite having to learn about her former career as a swimwear model, as if our evolutionary urge for lust is useful when its object doesn’t even have any sex organs. And despite even having to endure the gratuitous views of Delia’s home and her vast husband, there is just something about Delia. She’s disgusting but utterly compelling like biting your own toenails.
How else to explain that following the cookery interludes between the dull-as-Delia commentaries on her show, the only thing preventing you from cooking up your own lemon soufflé omelette flambé is the absence in your kitchen of lemon, eggs, a whisk or a saucepan?