With Mary Berry's nose, you don't need "sell by" labels.

Charlie Heller
October 09, 2017

At 82 years old, Mary Berry has managed to become, among other things, celebrity chef, bestselling author, and Great British Bake Off judge, but one thing she's never been is a reader of food sell-by dates. That's because, as she said at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday, she doesn't need to.

Instead, she says, she can tell by smell, a talent she credits to her mother, Margaret Berry, who taught her about cooking growing up. "I don't do sell-by dates," Berry said, "but I have to confess if there is a pot of cream I just lift the lid and smell it, [and] if it's all right, I have it."

While she adds that "you do have to be careful if it is meat and keep within the dates," Berry may have the right idea, since confusing food labeling is a big factor in why billions of pounds of perfectly good food are wasted annually.  Berry's mother certainly knew what she was doing at least, as the elder Berry lived to age 105.

Fortunately for those who haven't been taught in-person by Berry matriarchs, Berry also used the festival to announce her upcoming new BBC show, Classic, which will premiere next year. She says the cooking show will feature dishes that can be "assembled quickly" with "not too many ingredients" so that they're both easy to make and delicious, but she hopes are recipes "you can say 'oooh and arrrrgh' about" (which are positive noises).

And yes, she did talk Great British Bake Off, which she declined to follow from the BBC to Channel 4 after serving as a judge for seven years. She told the crowd that the decision wasn't hard and that had she been able to choose her replacement, she would have chosen her actual replacement, Prue Leith. While she has watched some of the new season, she says, "I don't have quite the same interest because I am not seeing what we are all up to," though as ever, "the stars of the show are the bakers." Mary, don't sell yourself short!