Anyone who watches a lot of TV cookery programmes will not be very surprised by the latest research published in the British Medical Journal. It finds that recipes by celebrity chefs are "less healthy" than ready meals, with "significantly more" fat, saturated fat, energy and protein, and less fibre per portion. Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs! So, the half kilo of butter that goes into everything on Saturday Kitchen doesn't have fewer calories, just because it is lobbed in by someone with a Michelin star?
I'm glad of the rare reprieve for ready meals, which are perfectly fine to eat once in a while - just as long as you don't have anything else salty for the rest of the month. They're also very handy for people who work for a living. Even more handy than "super easy" recipes extolled by TV chefs which turn out to be mostly made out of ready meals but somehow take half an hour and use every utensil in the kitchen.
However, the information that food cooked at home (spag bol) is not necessarily better for you than food bought in a shop (an apple) should not come as a surprise: even the chefs admit it. Take Lorraine Pascale, the gorgeous former model-turned-TV-pâtissière, who acknowledged on Woman's Hour in October that "my everyday diet is not what's on the show". As she whipped up a chocolate mousse live on air, she confessed: "When I'm testing recipes, I do probably put on about a stone." Even Nigella admitted, on the same programme, 11 days ago, that although she is more often filmed tucking into tubs of lard in her silky pyjamas, she also sometimes just eats an avocado for tea.
Chefs would argue that the recipes on their programmes are not for every day, and that everything in moderation is fine. I'd accept this, if they occasionally showed us meals for all the other days, or even included them in their bestselling books — but most of them don't.
To their credit, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has brought out a meat-free series and book, and Jamie Oliver now offers calorie-controlled "15_minute meals". (My problem with Jamie is that, the quicker his meals become, the more mess he makes. I have nothing to learn from a man who clearly doesn't do his own washing up.) But chefs who don't know any healthy recipes are just lazy. Anyone, Nigella, can make something tasty using chocolate and butter, or meat and cheese. Show us how to cook healthy, tasty food — and wash up your own blender — and then maybe I'll be impressed.
A new study by the National Literacy Trust has found that one in three dads are never seen reading by their children, and that the same number never encourage their children to read. At the same time, parents often complain that they find it difficult to inspire their children to read. Boys, they say, are especially reluctant. Could there possibly be a link?
Have you ever approached a stranger in the street and told them to "cheer up love, it might never happen"? Did it work? Of course not. But it happens a lot, if you have one of those faces that doesn't naturally sit in a chirpy grin. And if you weren't fed up already, nothing is more likely to make you so. That's why I feel sorry for Victoria Beckham, who has been in trouble again for not looking cheerful enough in photos. Maybe she is laughing inside, but her face at rest just doesn't show it. Yet she can't go through life concentrating on smiling, just in case someone takes a photograph. Only Kate Middleton can do that.