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Delia Smith's second doubtful assertion - it just might be true for some people - is "One is Fun". Never worked for me. While I'm probably more efficient cooking by myself, the purpose is always to please a minimum of two people.
C/007

I like to think it's hereditary: my mother's father was a dab hand at solid English cooking, probably by force of circumstance given that his wife had been brought up to give orders to cooks rather than to cook herself, my father's mother produced meal after perfect meal from a cramped, old-fashioned kitchen in Denmark, and both of them were delighted with any chance to be hospitable. Cooking for visitors, even more than everyday cooking, is a chance to show affection and interest by offering people the results of your labours, showing them you think they are worth spending time on and making an effort for.

We like to invite friends round, cook a good meal between us and settle to a leisurely evening with relaxed conversation – though it's always a pleasure when the first forkful of casserole or the first spoonful of dessert reduces everyone to silence :-} There is a certain satisfaction in washing up the last teaspoon and wiping down the work-surfaces, but before that there's the fun of going to market and the especial pleasures of memory to savour.

Happily established in Belgium, we can start with the shopping: out to the market early on a Saturday morning, stalls almost overflowing with an abundance of prime ingredients. There is one stall that sells nothing but potatoes, usually four or five different varieties; another started out offering a dozen different sorts of mushroom, and has now extended its range a little by adding half a dozen different varieties of onion. The general fruit and vegetable stalls reflect the seasons, and apart perhaps from lemons it's rare to find any stall that only offers one sort of any fruit: whole litanies of apples and pears, palettes of plums or cherries …

Safely home and pottering constructively in the kitchen, it's time for pietas – remembering friends and family through their associations with utensils or recipes. By way of example, Chris gave me my apron, heavy cotton with one wide pocket; one of the oven-gloves was a reward (the system would take too long to explain here) for blood-doning in Belgium; my grandfather used the pressure-cooker for suet puddings or boiled salt beef; Fran and Derek gave us the measuring-spoons cheerfully disguised as ducks; a generous book-token from Andy brought us our copy of the complete Delia; my grandmother used the potato peeler (my peeler, that is; Chris being left-handed has his own), the zester and the heavy frying-pan; Fieke gave us the invaluable aluminium cleaver; Roger and Ann gave us the set of Sabatier knives.

In fact, I hadn't realised till I started this page just how impregnated with memories and reminders our kitchen is. And as for the results of all this activity, I think I can safely say they are generally approved.

Oh, and Delia's first disputable pronouncement? Well, in her Evening Standard cookery book she asserts that any left-over apple and almond pudding will keep overnight in the fridge. This is complete nonsense: it is so irresistibly delicious that there will never be any leftovers!