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The Delia effect - 21 things we never knew about Delia Smith

PUBLISHED: 11:50 09 November 2019 | UPDATED: 17:23 09 November 2019

Delia Smith with artist Marc Quinn, who made a sculpture of the TV chef out of chocolate.  Picture: PA/ Stefan Rousseau

Delia Smith with artist Marc Quinn, who made a sculpture of the TV chef out of chocolate. Picture: PA/ Stefan Rousseau

Delia Smith is celebrating 50 years as a cookery writer in 2019. But how much do you know about the Queen of Cooks?

Delia Smith in the kitchen at Carrow road  with youngsters  taking part in a University of the First Age summer school.


Picture: ARCHANTDelia Smith in the kitchen at Carrow road with youngsters taking part in a University of the First Age summer school. Picture: ARCHANT

She's a national icon and known as Britain's favourite cook, with her books having sold more than 21 million copies. Delia Ann Smith, now 78, was born on June 18, 1941 in Woking, Surrey.

But she has lived in Suffolk for most of her life and is one of the celebrities most closely linked with East Anglia. Of course, she is famously passionate about football as well as cookery, and she and her husband, Michael Wynn Jones, are the Norwich City majority shareholders. Here are 21 facts about her amazing career.

1 A young Delia made the cake on the cover of classic 1969 Rolling Stones album Let It Bleed, covered in piped cream and glace cherries. She was asked to make a "gaudy" cake for a photo shoot and didn't know it was for the album cover. Later she was sent a signed and framed copy of the album.

2 She also has a Beatles link. Artist Sir Peter Blake included Delia as a British cultural icon when he created a new version of his artwork for the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 2012.

Delia Smith talks to the media at the launch of the Stowmarket Foodbank at Stowmarket Town Council Offices, Milton Road South, Stowmarket. Picture: ARCHANTDelia Smith talks to the media at the launch of the Stowmarket Foodbank at Stowmarket Town Council Offices, Milton Road South, Stowmarket. Picture: ARCHANT

3 Delia left school in Surrey at 16 without passing a single O-level, and started out as a trainee hairdresser, later becoming a shop assistant.

4 She also worked at a travel agency, and once modelled swimwear. While being interviewed by Graham Norton, she revealed that she was asked to model for a swimsuit campaign, together with other staff, while working at the travel agent's.

5 Delia took her first cookery-related job aged 21, when she started to work at a small French restaurant in Paddington, London, washing up and working as a waitress before starting to help in the kitchen.

6 Delia's first name was included in the Collins English Dictionary in 2001 - defined as "the recipes or style of cooking of British cookery writer Delia Smith." Examples given in the dictionary included "doing a Delia" and "a Delia dish".

TV celebrity chef Delia Smith  after she received her Commander of the British Empire Medal (CBE) from the Prince of Wales at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on November 20, 2009. Picture: Katie Collins/PA WireTV celebrity chef Delia Smith after she received her Commander of the British Empire Medal (CBE) from the Prince of Wales at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on November 20, 2009. Picture: Katie Collins/PA Wire

7 She was the resident cook on BBC Look East in the 1970s, and published a 32-page collection of Country Recipes featured on the show in 1975. However, her very first TV show was Family Fare in 1973.

8 Delia appears as a fish pie, based on one of her famous recipes. in an advert made by Coca Cola this year to celebrate Norwich City's promotion, where she shouts her famous phrase: "Come on guys, let's be avin' you". The rally cry was made famous when she grabbed the mic at half-time as Norwich City played Manchester City at Carrow Road in 2005.

9 She baked a limited-edition rainbow laces cake in November 2018 to support LGBT+ inclusivity within football, The cake, which featured seven individual rainbow-coloured layers of sponge, was based on one of her classic sponge cake recipes. The cake was commissioned by Norwich City's community partner Aviva to support Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign, and slices of cake were handed out to supporters before a Canaries match.

10 Her TV series in 1998, Delia's How to Cook, led to a 10% increase in sales of eggs - although she was criticised at the time by fellow TV chef Gary Rhodes for teaching people how to boil an egg in the show.

Prince of Wales talks to TV chef Delia Smith, before the Radio 4 Food Programme Awards ceremony at St James' Palace in London in 2000. Picture: PA Photo/Colin DaveyPrince of Wales talks to TV chef Delia Smith, before the Radio 4 Food Programme Awards ceremony at St James' Palace in London in 2000. Picture: PA Photo/Colin Davey

11 "The Delia Effect", caused when she mentioned an ingredient, is also credited with causing a national cranberry shortage in 1995. And she transformed the fortunes of a small Lancashire firm when she described their omelette pan as a "little gem", prompting sales to leap by thousands in the space of a few months.

12 When she fronted adverts for Waitrose in 2010 and promoted a rhubarb and ginger brûlée recipe, the Delia Effect struck again. British growers could not meet the spike in demand, and Waitrose was forced to import rhubarb from Germany. Her seafood risotto recipe, in another advert, caused sales of frozen fruits de mer to surge by 716%.

13 Delia became a CBE in the Queen's Birthday honours in 2009, and received the honour from Prince Charles at a Buckingham Palace investiture. Speaking afterwards, she said: "There are so many people who do so much, but to be picked out amongst them is a great honour. I think the main thing is what my husband said, he said it's sort of a tribute to home cooks all over Britain."

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14 Delia's TV career was recognised when Victoria Wood presented her with a BAFTA Special Award at a career retrospective tribute event in 2013. Andrew Newman, then chair of BAFTA's television committee, said: "Delia was the first TV cook to be recognised by her first name alone and her achievements have paved the way for today's cooking programmes and formats. It is unlikely that Jamie, Nigella, Gordon, The Hairy Bikers, and much-loved competitions such as The Great British Bake Off or Masterchef would have happened without her contribution,"

15 Delia contributed a recipe to Woodbridge School's recipe book East Coast Eats last year. It also featured recipes from restaurants, cafes and foodies across Suffolk. The book was part of the Young Enterprise Programme where Year 12 students set up and run their own business.

16 Her official Delia Online website includes more than 1,400 of her recipes to browse, put into categories, as well as a free online cookery course with a series of 60 videos on different techniques.

17 Delia Smith has received honorary degrees from the University of East Anglia and Nottingham University and Fellowships from St Mary's College, part of the University of Surrey, and John Moores University in Liverpool.

Sir Bobby's Breakthrough Auction and Ball at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds. 
Lady Elsie Robson and Delia Smith with organiser Gina Long. Picture: ANDY ABBOTTSir Bobby's Breakthrough Auction and Ball at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds. Lady Elsie Robson and Delia Smith with organiser Gina Long. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

18 She has published two books called How to Cheat at Cooking - her first-ever book in 1971, and an updated guide in 2008. Both showed how to reduce cooking time by using some off-the-shelf products.

19 Delia became a Roman Catholic at the age of 22, and, as well as her cookery books, she has written several spiritual books. These include A Feast for Lent and A Feast for Advent, which are both books of seasonal reflections, and A Journey into God, where she examines prayer and its role in spiritual experience.

20 She is strongly in favour of a second referendum on Brexit, and has three times sponsored coaches from East Anglia to join in marches calling for a final say on Brexit. Most recently, she paid for coaches from Bury St Edmunds and Norwich to the march in London in October.

21 Delia Smith became a patron of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, a charity which works to help find more effective ways to treat and diagnose cancer, in 2011. She said at the time: "Sir Bobby was a great friend and inspiration to me for many years, and it is a privilege to help continue the magnificent work he and Elsie started in any way I can."

Searching for liquid glucose - and answering exam questions about Delia

Delia Smith has many dedicated fans in the region who are willing to search for the ingredients she recommends.

Anna Tink said on Twitter: "I remember searching high and low for liquid glucose for Delia's chocolate torte. Boots the chemist saved the day, and the end result was well worth it. Thinking of making it again this Christmas..."

Another Twitter user, @Bottbooks in Felixstowe (Treasure Chest Books) is a fan of the same recipe, saying: "When the Christmas book came out in the late 1980s I wanted to make the chocolate truffle torte and had to visit lots of pharmacies to get liquid glucose. Now it's available in supermarkets (and I have since discovered you can substitute golden syrup anyway)!"

Jenny Gibbs wouldn't be without her Delia Smith books. She said: "I have Delia Smith's Cookery Course books, Part One and Part Two, which were first published in 1978 and 79, but I believe mine are the 1981 editions. They stand on a shelf in our kitchen today and I still regularly use them. There are photos of a extremely young-looking Delia on the back covers of each!"

Eleanor Ellis writes: "At school I had an economics teacher who was obsessed with Delia Smith. For two years, every economic theory or philosophy could and would be boiled down to an example that somehow involved Delia.

"He also happened to be the chief of the examination board responsible for our A-level papers. Sure enough, when we turned over the papers in June, the first question centred on the effect of scarcity on supply and demand of Little Gem(?) frying pans, created by a Delia Smith recipe."

And Andrew Donovan recalls a special night hosted by Delia. He said on Twitter: "I went to Norwich football ground, where she hosted a dinner for about 100 or so people. Menu approved by her. Great food, great host - she greeted everyone on arrival with a handshake. Great night, thanks, Delia."

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