I'm addicted to buying cookbooks online – as well as MasterChef, naturally

It's about this time of year that I find myself buying cheap cook books. They're only a penny plus the £2.40 postage, but sure it's a good deal even if you never cook anything. I rarely do

Tough cookies – Tom Kitchin, John Torode aand Gregg Wallace of MasterChef

WHAT is it about the idea of a bargain that has me click click clicking online? I've a trigger happy finger and a love of a bargain.

It's about this time of year that I find myself buying cheap cook books. They're only a penny plus the £2.40 postage, but sure it's a good deal even if you never cook anything. I rarely do. It's just, as a dear friend who loves yoga but would not hang out too often in dog head down, says, it's just that I love the idea of it.

And cook books have the best pictures.

“Poor postman,” sigh the men in this house, as they lug in yet another penny wonder of a big old doorstopper of a book that has circumnavigated the globe to our door.

“Maybe it only cost you £2.41 but it's costing the postman his back and his right shoulder by the looks of it,” they sigh.

Still, I'm hooked. At the moment, it's soup season. Don't let the sudden bright spell fool you – this is Ireland; it won't last.

My books are big thick old ex-library volumes with turned-down corners that whiff of hushed rooms, disapproving librarians in horn-rimmed glasses and old dusty shelves. But the soup is warm and filling. I'm doing the front crawl in bowls of carrot and coriander and chunky Mexican corn chowder.

It's probably the current impossible diet – amazing what a day in the Royal getting a tube stuck up your artery and a front seat view of your very own heart – can do for you.

All is well, but I'd rather not repeat.

So now I'm obsessed with food and Masterchef. It's an addiction.

Having sat down to a large battered cod freshly hooked out of the freezer and a few oven chips – we're so healthy we don't deep fry – we turn on the telly, put our feet up and watch other people do real cooking.

Cooking, they say on Masterchef, doesn't get tougher. Well, that's Gregg's line.

Oh, those early knock-out weeks – the tension, the disasters, the fools who try chocolate fondant pudding – it never works – those collapsing pannacottas and that weird black seaweed bread.

Forget Line of Duty, this is true nail-biting tension. It is that moment when Tom Kitchin comes in and the would-be chefs go all wide eyed and whisper and blush and say “ I have all his books at home.”

And I eye the small curly-headed fella standing with Gregg and John on the TV and I turn to my other half and say: “Who is Tom Kitchin... but if he's a chef, it's kind of a good name in the great tradition of Happy Families and Mr Bun the Baker.”

It reminds me of trekking down a long corridor in a huge hospital (is there a theme there) past the renal department – the consultant in charge had his name on the door: He was – rather appropriately for a bladder and kidneys man – Mr P Leek.

Tom Kitchin has high standards for his kitchen. Oh the tension of it all. The competitors were shaking like a set of just-set blancmanges. Who sinned with custard ravioli, who made mushroom jelly, who put the kidneys in the curry?

Who shall do the walk of shame from the Masterchef kitchen to the locker room? How heartbroken can you get over a pudding?

Masterchef is high brow. There are 22-year-olds producing Picasso-type masterpieces on a plate. This has led to moments of hilarity in our house and various sniggers at the state of our in-house catering culinary expertise – no hopes of haute cuisine in sausage supper land.

And when I've had my fix of food critics and restaurateurs and fancy quince and quail, I pick up the Guardian and fall upon a story about lunch shaming in the US. Children who cannot afford to pay can be stigmatised – made to clean up the canteen tables in front of other pupils to pay off their 'food debt', according to the paper.

There are reports of a child whose arm was stamped with “I need lunch money” in Alabama – and stories of canteens urged to throw out the meals of those unable to pay.

Good to know that New Mexico has outlawed so-called lunch shaming. And sad to think that while some of us pay dear for a dinner, there are children wiping up their classmates' slops in lieu of their dinner money.


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