Delia Smith has been named Britain's most popular cook - and the volumes of her food-stained books prove it.
Delia says she loves signing battered copies of her books
The top-selling Suffolk cookery writer has been dubbed the country's favourite because of the amount her books appear to be used in kitchens.
A survey for BBC Good Food magazine asked readers to count how many splashes and thumbprints marked their cookbooks as a key test of popularity.
The responses proved Delia's were the most stained.
Readers were asked to select their five most used cookery books, estimate how many recipes they had made more than once from each, and to count the number of pages marked by stains and smears while the recipe was being followed.
They were also asked to nominate the book they would keep if they were allowed only one.
Delia - who is donating her own stained copy of The Complete Cookery Course to the British Library for their archive - said: "I'm delighted to hear my books
are so well used.
"I love it at signings when people pull out their old battered copies, often
with the covers hanging off.
"In fact, my own copies of my books are in a similar dog-eared state as I can never remember where a particular recipe is and have to keep thumbing through to find the one I want.
"That's one reason why I have launched The Delia Collection - so I can find my own favourites more easily."
The survey, returned by 141 readers, revealed the director of Norwich City Football Club is way ahead of the competition from other celebrity cooks,
including Naked Chef Jamie Oliver and domestic goddess Nigella Lawson.
In the category of most used, 18% were by Delia, readers between them staining
355 pages of her most popular book Delia Smith's Cookery Course.
Jamie Oliver, who lives in Essex, was the next on the list, with 7% of the most used books and 99
They were followed in the popularity stakes by the Good Housekeeping brand,
The Dairy Book of Home Cookery, Mary Berry, Ainsley Harriott, Gary Rhodes,
Nigella Lawson, Good Food and Rick Stein.
In the survey, 31% chose a Delia book as the one they would keep if they were
allowed only one.
So far in her career, her fans have snapped up a total of 16 million copies of