The Delicious Miss Dahl
Sophie Dahl says that she has always been interested in food, "primarily because I've always been interested in eating it". Hmm. Doth the lady protest too much? Eating is, I think, central to the whole food experience, just as illness is central to the hospital experience and, er, death to the crematorium experience. Personally, I've yet to meet anyone who would claim an interest in food, but not in eating it.
Even Michelin-starred chefs, who are too busy to eat during the day, scoff down a staff meal once the last diner has gone home. The only possible exception to this rule - I'm really racking my brains now - might be the chief executive of some seriously grim fast-food chain. I guess such a person is interested in food in a strictly technical sense; they care about shelf life, profit margins, all that. But if they were truly interested in it, they wouldn't palm off such insultingly dangerous rubbish on their customers, would they?
Anyway, back to Sophie: model, writer and now food lover. Apparently, Sophie loves plain, simple food, which is just as well because, on the evidence of the first part of her new TV series, The Delicious Miss Dahl, she is more of an assembler than a cook. I'm not sure you can call crème fraîche with a few herbs in it a sauce; and I'm not sure, either, that you can call a pile of sliced courgettes and fennel a recipe.
Then again, perhaps some viewers will not notice these things. I didn't, after a while. I was too mesmerised by a) the delicious Miss Dahl's
engagement ring, whose stones are the size of toasted hazelnuts and b) by the total gorgeousness of her kitchen. It's not actually her kitchen. Like Nigella, who prefers not to disturb her husband Mr Saatchi with the TV cameras, Dahl is a kitchen cuckoo (she is renting from a photographer, according to the news-papers).
But still, it's distracting, the way the camera lingers on its counter surfaces, which are carefully strewn with the kind of shabby-chic objects - tiny teacups, silk flowers, enamelled ladles - you can pick up in a second-hand shop in Barnard Castle for a fiver, and in an antiques shop in Chelsea for about 20 times that. Sophie loves an object. Tiring of the kitchen (or perhaps she'd just run out of recipes), she headed out to the shops in search of a few special ingredients - the theme of the first show was "selfishness", which translated into cooking for oneself alone - and, perhaps, a special objet to mark this special day.
In the sepia gloom of a shop whose address I simply have to know, Sophie bought an art-deco cocktail shaker, which she later used to make a "dirty" martini (the dirtiness came from a dash of brine in which olives had been stored). She is a lovely thing, I must admit: sweet of voice, bright of eye, and trailing her exquisite taste the way other girls can only trail Fracas. But I was struck by how we never saw her actually eating anything she'd made - a daring nibble of a sweet-potato chip was about as far as she went on that score - and it was weird that we heard her declaiming John Dryden ("Happy the Man") when the book in her hands was Excellent Women by Barbara Pym.
I can see why a model might want to suggest that she has a brain. But it is important to match quotation with book jacket at these times, otherwise people will only think the worst. Also, when making a cookery show, it's wise not to squeal too loudly at the tiniest cloud of icing sugar, however crazily unexpected it might be.
With all this in mind, will I tune in next week? You bet I will. For one thing, there is all that lifestyle to envy. I mean, Dahl's new husband, the diminutive jazz musician Jamie Cullum, might jump out of her (vintage) bread bin at any moment. Plus, there is the sport of waiting for her to eat a whole plate, or even half a plate, of something - a sight that would breathe a bit of much-needed truth into her vaunted maxim that cheese is infinitely more happy-making than a pedicure.