Emma Cowing: Recipe for disaster as Pippa replaces Delia

The April edition of Waitrose Kitchen, featuring Pippa Middleton on the cover
The April edition of Waitrose Kitchen, featuring Pippa Middleton on the cover
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IS PIPPA Middleton still around? The answer, I’m afraid, is yes.

After the chorus of sniggers that greeted the publication of her first book, Celebrate, in which she advised those making Easter bonnets to do so by tying a ribbon round a hat and those wanting to stop cakes from going stale to put them in a tin, you might have thought she’d slink off for a bit. Go on holiday to some remote Caribbean island for a while. Keep her head down. Change her hair colour and get one of those plastic false nose and glasses sets. Anything, frankly, to stop the derision.

But no. Ms Middleton, it seems, is not done with the spotlight. How else to explain why she has been snapped up by Waitrose to pen a cookery column for its magazine? It will be called, somewhat hilariously, “Pippa’s Friday Night Feasts”. Given that she’s thin as a rake and spends half her life out on the tiles, I would imagine Pippa’s Friday Night Feasts consist of little more than a glass of Veuve Clicquot and an energy bar, but I’m sure Waitrose knows what it is doing.

Or maybe not. Because what is perhaps most ridiculous about this development is that Middleton will be a replacement for Delia Smith, who was dropped by the supermarket chain last year. Pippa Middleton? Replacing Delia Smith? It’s like asking Aled Jones to take over from Pope Benedict XVI.

Delia has sold more than 21 million cookery books and has the sort of selling power that companies would kill for. She has gravitas. People trust her and what she stands for. My God, they’ll even listen dutifully when she tells people how to boil an egg. She might not be the trendiest of the TV cooks these days, but she is still, I would have thought, an advertiser’s dream. Pippa on the other hand, has a cookery book that bombed, a famous sister and a marginally more famous posterior. She embodies the sort of flighty, a la mode celebrity that is as insubstantial as her recipe for ice cream sandcastle cake (“buy a tub of vanilla ice cream”).

I have no problem with the fact that Middleton is a young, single woman who goes out partying, does a fiendish amount of exercise and is often seen in glamorous corners of the world in the company of Very Rich Men. That is all fine by me and very much her prerogative. But what I do have an issue with is her attempt to tell the rest of us what constitutes domestic life when she has no discernible credibility for doing so.

What to cook for children, how to host a bonfire night or indeed how to lay on the perfect Burns Supper (her extensive experience in this area being confined to the fact that she went to university in Edinburgh) are not things I want to be lectured on by Pippa Middleton. It just doesn’t wash. So when she is replacing Delia Smith, the godmother of sensible home cooking, she can’t really expect us to do anything other than snigger even more loudly.

This notion that we must stick celebrities in front of things in order for people to buy them is not new. It’s just that these days it seems so endemic, I fear we may need to start working on a vaccination for it. Recent advertising campaigns confirm the extent of the virus. We have Brad Pitt advertising women’s perfume, waffling on about how “wherever I go, there you are, my luck, my fate, my fortune”. My God. Then there is Eva Longoria, who can currently be seen writhing around a sleek apartment in a slinky dress to advertise … Sheba cat food. Presumably, the most glamorous of the tinned animal by-products eaten by household pets.

Far too many companies these days seem to think that their product is somehow not valid unless they have shoehorned in a celebrity to promote it, endorse it or write about it. That, in order to keep up with their rivals, they must have the latest, most irrelevant airhead along for the ride, as if that will somehow give it gravitas.

The truth is, gravitas has to be earned. It doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere, telling us how to cook haggis (“follow the packet instructions”), because its sister married the heir to the throne. Its the sort of thing that takes years of slaving over a hot egg in a flowery dress, climbing your way up the ladder and putting in years of hard and often thankless work.

Pippa Middleton clearly doesn’t realise this. I wonder, however, with such a flimsy celebrity now beaming out from its mag, how long it will take Waitrose to discover that it might not have got this one right.