The Delicious Miss Dahl is a new cookery show on BBC2 (Tuesdays 8.30pm), presented by former supermodel, Sophie Dahl (who is also, incidently, the granddaughter of childrens author Roald Dahl). Given my love of food is only equalled by my love of all things literary, I was hugely excited about this new show.
Since the publication of Sophie Dahl’s cookbook Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights, inevitable comparisons have been drawn between the author and the other queen of sensuously edible creations, Nigella Lawson. Indeed, there are many similarities. Both women are in possession of a famous last name, both come from privileged backgrounds and are perfectly enunciated. Both have strong connections to the literary world, but perhaps more importantly, both women adopt a playful, sensual, almost naughty approach to food.
Indeed, it seems like the newcomer has gone out of her way to add fuel to the debate. The first episode of The Delicious Miss Dahl is devoted to selfish, self-indulgent food. Sophie is at pains to demonstrate how much she loves to eat, reveling in her own greediness. This is indisputably Nigella’s domain, and it is a brave woman who tries to elbow in on the original Domestic Goddess’s territory.
Ms Lawson has successfully carved a niche for herself in the mostly male dominated arena of celebrity chefs. In fact, her appeal is based on the fact that she is the antithesis of the Michelin-starred macho men – she is not a trained chef, simply a passionate home cook. Despite her pedigree, she appeals to the everywoman. She struggles with her weight, but cares more about the enjoyment of food, than the calorie content. Despite Sophie’s claims that “in her time she has been as round as Rubens and a little slip of a creature”, the viewer remains slightly suspicious that a former supermodel with a beautiful figure can really dive head-first into a gooey chocolate and cherry concoction, without worrying about adding inches to her hips. One comes away wondering whether Miss Dahl will spend a week on the treadmill following her day of selfish indulgence.
The question must surely be, is there room enough for two domestic goddesses in the already overcrowded world of TV cooks? Watching Sophie flutter around her pretty, pastel kitchen, in a cloud of icing sugar, one cannot deny that Miss Dahl has a certain charm. She has an authentic likeability, but the everywoman she is not. Her musings, literary quotes, and childhood anecdotes are intended to pull the reader into Sophie’s lovely world. But, in reality, they only serve to alienate her viewers by highlighting her privileged upbringing and superior education.
Maybe, in the end, it will all come down to the food. Whether Sophie can imitate La Lawson’s success may very well depend on her recipes. If last nights offerings of Omelette Arnold Bennett, Bruschetta and Baked Halibut were anything to judge by, Nigella needn’t be considering retirement just yet.