British cookery guru Delia Smith is about to launch herself on the French - and she's likely to be as welcome as a soggy chip in Le Procope.

Delia Smith is Britain’s most successful – or notorious, depending on your point of view – cookery writer, with some 14 million sales to her name. How to Cook has sold more than 2.7 million copies, and her first and best-known work, the Complete Cookery Course, is reckoned to be in just about every middle-class kitchen in the country.

Her stock-in-trade is no-nonsense cooking. How to Cook instructs the reader in the absolute basics – how to fry an egg is by no means the simplest recipe.

Now French publisher Hachette Pratique is launching La Cuisine Facile d’Aujourd’hui. Smith is credited only as ‘Delia’.

The French editor Brigitte Evano is sanguine. ‘People have lost the basic cooking skills and they don’t have enough time,’ she said. ‘People are afraid of cooking, and the traditional books make it sound so difficult.’

But even if the French are willing to learn the basics of cookery, it seems they will be unable to bear the idea of being taught by an Englishwoman.

Asked if she would buy it, 30-year-old Corinne Guibert from Nantes told decanter.com, ‘No way. I won’t buy it because of the reputation of English cuisine. I have been in England and have tried fish and chips and roast beef and I don’t like them at all. Maybe people will buy it but as soon as they realise it’s written by an Englishwoman they will ignore it.’

Another Frenchwoman, who is 55 and wishes to remain anonymous said, ‘I know how to cook already. I should be teaching the English how to cook.’

One thing is certain – if the book sells, there will be no containing the delight in Britain. As the Daily Telegraph asks ironically, ‘Une Anglaise, teaching the soi-disant world capital of gastronomy how to cook?’

picture ©BBC

Written by Adam Lechmere7 January 2002